I know this is a cliché of epic proportions, but I’d always imagined that my formative experience of the Italian capital would be as romantic as Audrey Hepburn’s in Roman Holiday: wandering around in awe of the architecture, eating delicate little cones of gelato and intermittently clinging on to Gregory Peck’s waist for dear life. And to my own surprise, this swift stay in the Italian capital didn’t disappoint.
Okay, so, there were a few minor differences. Besides the fact I’m not (technically) a princess or head over heels for a questionable reporter, first and foremost I managed to secure a far better place to rest my curls than Peck’s rickety single bed. Instead, I checked in for a taste of mid-century modern Rome at The Hoxton hotel on the Largo Benedetto Marcello, where the buzz of the city quickly melted away. Yes, the hub has everything you could ask for from the hotel group’s 10th stylish venture — super-king size beds, retro Murano light shades, parquet flooring and fun, statement headboards — but what truly stands out are the facilities.
All day café and bar Cugino proved the perfect spot for a post-flight espresso to take the edge off in-flight G&Ts, while the mid-afternoon maritozzi, bursting with cream, somehow squeezed into a part of my stomach that I didn’t know existed. At Beverly, Cali-inspired tacos and ceviche on the sun-drenched terrace cut through the carb-heavy meals gobbled in town (more on those later), while the bar’s eccentric cocktails were anything but boring — the tropical Lilikoi, served from a fabulous flamingo mug, was a favourite, obviously.
Cycling through verdant Villa Borghese to visit the Contemporary Cluster art gallery, Spanish Steps, Pantheon and Trevi Fountain on a green hotel bike was a highlight, though hopping aboard Scooterama founder Annie Ojile’s vivid red Vespa really made my Roman holiday. Equal parts joyride, history lesson and food excursion, we sped around the city eating slabs of pizza with locals at Casa Manco in Mercato di Testaccio, discussing the Aurelian Walls and circling the Colosseum before toasting yet more cones of heavenly gelato at Otaleg.
Two days within those walls mercifully meant I could gobble just as many servings of Rome’s prized pasta dish: cacio e pepe. The first, as part of a delightful local tasting menu eaten on the cobbles outside Rimessa Roscioli and the second at Da Danilo, a hobbit hole lined with photos of celebrity fans, where staff twirled silken strands in a larger-than-life wheel of pecorino.
And here’s a nugget for you: it turns out that navigating the Roman Forum and the arches of the Colosseum can bestow one with a gladiator mentality, because I somehow found the strength to indulge further. Slices at Sant’Isidoro Pizza & Bolle, followed by pistachio gelato at Gelateria Dei Gracchi, espresso at Rome’s oldest bar, Caffè Greco, and many unidentified alcoholic orange spritzes ensued. Apparently they did have to roll me, comatose, off the plane. I’d still jet back in a heartbeat.
Rooms at The Hoxton Rome from £134 per night (thehoxton.com)