The sybaritic lifestyles of the rich and powerful helped bring ancient Rome to its knees. Nowadays, luxury is a little less dangerously unbridled in the Eternal City, but there are many hotels offering sufficiently splendid décor and enough luxe pampering to make visitors feel that a little of the spirit of the Ancients lives on. Some of Rome’s top hotels rub up against magnificent Roman ruins, others occupy the former dwellings of great aristocratic families, still others are the domain of more recent fashion royalty. All offer exceptional levels of comfort.
Lifestyle Suites' architect-owner has let his imagination run riot in this glitzy makeover of a 15th-century palazzo overlooking glorious Piazza Navona. Though the décor may swerve close to kitsch, the attention to detail and concern for comfort make it surprisingly intimate. The five-person 'Lifestyle Team' bend over backwards to make sure your stay is perfect: they’ll make pre-visit enquiries into dietary requirements and special interests, arrange your transfers, dispense information and make bookings in such a truly friendly (and well-informed) way that you’ll feel Rome holds no secrets.
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Villa Spalletti Trivelli
Imagine having your very own stately home in Rome – a place with opulent interiors of such historic significance that they are listed by the Italian heritage ministry. But if the museum-like reception rooms downstairs can inspire a certain don’t-touch awe, the 12 first-floor bedrooms are warm and welcoming with their rich fabrics, pastel-hued walls and bedcovers, Fiandra linen sheets and alpaca or cashmere throws. There’s also a library, opulent communal rooms, a small formal garden and a spa (which includes a wonderful Turkish bath) to unwind in after a hard day’s sightseeing.
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Residenza Napoleone III
Some hotels model themselves on stately homes or aristocratic townhouses; Residenza Napoleone III – named for the emperor who once stayed here – is the real thing. The Old Master paintings you see on the walls, the busts of Roman emperors that line the grand entrance staircase, the heirloom antiques that decorate the place – all these things have been in the Ruspoli family for generations. But this is no draughty castle – it feels warm despite the grand setting. Though you’re left to enjoy your suite of rooms without maids meddling and butlers bustling, a charming fixer is there to help out.
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J.K. Place Roma
One of Italy’s classiest townhouse hotels, J.K. Place has been much imitated, but few of the copies match the warm, suave, elegant original. The design – a discreet, quietly opulent Dolce Vita retro look – is as impressive in the bedrooms as it is in the downstairs areas. The ground floor feels a little like a contemporary gentleman's club – especially the chic little lounge/library, while the 23 double rooms and seven suites feature palisander-lined dressing vestibules, bathrooms in grey and white marble, simple rosewood four-poster beds, and main bedrooms in soft dove grey or a more challenging petrol green.
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You’re a Roman count with a townhouse overlooking the Colosseum; you have a penchant for stylish contemporary design which retains some flavour of the classical beauty and elegance that surrounds your 18th-century abode. At the same time, you want to impress your guests with the flourish of a rooftop restaurant that is among the most romantic in Rome. Palazzo Manfredi is the result – and although the exuberance of designer Giorgia Dennerlein in mixing styles and periods is sometimes a little dizzying, it makes for an undeniably romantic ambience.
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Hotel de Russie
Frequented by fashion and film people, affluent tourists and style-conscious business travellers, the hotel is the entirely refurbished avatar of an earlier establishment popular with artists like Picasso and Jean Cocteau. Service is top-notch, and it can be safely said the the De Russie boasts some of the best-informed concierges in the capital, as well as a small but rather lovely spa with six treatment rooms, and even a Massimo Serini hair salon. Guests can also go for the hotel's Avenue of Style programme, which offers bespoke experiences in the nearby boutiques of fashion and lifestyle brands, from Armani to Zegna.
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This 14-suite bolthole, a short sashay away from the Spanish Steps, is one of the city’s most stylish options, lent panache by Michele Bonan’s tasteful contemporary-retro design scheme. The vibe is suave and very exclusive, and the hotel’s team are second to none – they are even given a monthly budget to check out restaurants, tour guides and attractions incognito. There’s no restaurant, but there is a roof terrace with some of the most panoramic views in Rome, where aperitifs can be enjoyed of an evening, and where you can choose to have breakfast served if you don’t want it in your room.
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The Hassler, one of Rome’s most prestigious hotels, has the body of a grand dame – complete with Michelin-starred dining, superlative style and enviable real estate atop the Spanish Steps. Its heart, however, is that of a family-run inn, free of pretense and suffused with a disarmingly personal warmth. This hotel has been a favourite of celebrities and royalty for more than a century, and the staff provide a level of personalised service befitting their clientele. Amenities include the in-house Rossano Ferretti Hair Salon, the small Amorvero spa and fitness room, and a 24-hour concierge service led by the inimitable Daniele, for whom no request is too large or too small.
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La Scelta di Goethe
Old worldly elegance, brown leather chesterfields, 17th-century art in gilded frames, antiques and a working fireplace set the mood at La Scelta. There is an inviting library, with a delightful mix of Italian architecture books and works by Goethe and Dante, as well as a writing bureau by the window, evoking the days of the Grand Tour. In the bedrooms you'll find silk bedspreads handmade in Florence, bathrobes by Frette, fresh flowers, and organic soaps, bath products and room sprays by the legendary Florentine store Antica Farmacia Santa Maria Novella.
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The St. Regis Rome
Putting the 'grand' in grand dame, the landmark St. Regis has been one of Rome's flagship luxury hotels since hotelier César Ritz welcomed the first illustrious guests in 1894. The flawless hospitality makes it a favourite among celebrities and heads of state to this day. The heart of the hotel is its vast lobby, which incorporates the bar, bistro-style restaurant, and exquisite sapphire-blue library. Across the lobby's opulent mosaic-and-gold-leaf rotonda, the historic Ritz ballroom is the oldest in Rome and its Spinetti frescoes are protected by the Culture Ministry.
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The classily opulent Eden sets the bar for high-end luxury in Rome. It was once the most understated of Rome’s luxe hospitality palaces, although that’s no longer quite true – there’s plenty of gold and marble on view now, but the design by French architects Bruno Moinard and Claire Betaille is never less than tasteful. Guests are only a cough or a raised eyebrow away from ultra-solicitous service. Facilities include a spa with treatments by Sonya Dakar and Officina Profumo – Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella, its playfully decadent design nodding at the thermal baths of Ancient Rome.
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Fendi Private Suites
From the razor-cut travertine vestibule to the current season-clad concierge team, the distinctive Fendi design acumen looms large here. Each suite is a celebration of the fashion brand's aesthetic, with rich colours and crisp lines. Walls are inset with Karl Lagerfeld’s black and white photos of Rome’s fountains, the large beds are covered in Makò cotton sheets, and there are wood-lacquered desks, rounded leather sofas in cool greys and jewel-toned velvet chairs. The team seems to live by the words “everything is possible”, from arranging personal trainers and make-up artists to private dinners and exclusive tour experiences.
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Contributions by Nicola Ferlei Brown and Rebecca Winke