“Rome is built on layers, and the more you dig, the more you find out,” my so-called sustainability curator at Six Senses Rome, Federico Catalioto, says as we make our way through the Baroque nave of San Marcello al Corso.
It’s home to the miracle crucifix, which survived a devastating fire in 1519 that burned everything, including the church, to the ground.
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Next we descend the dimly lit staircase to the remains of Rome’s oldest known baptism sanctuary dating back to the 4th century. San Marcello shares this basement with a former 15th-century palazzo now occupied by Six Senses.
The hotel opened this spring after a three-year urban regeneration project that not only restored the church’s grand facade, but two 600-year-old columns that now stand in the hotel lobby. Although it’s California modern, the 96-key urban-eco retreat incorporates reverential nods to Roman architecture, from the Cocciopesto in the guest rooms to a traditional Roman bathhouse and tepidarium on the ground floor.
“We’ve created a sustainable oasis in the center of Rome, and through this restoration, we’re creating an emotional connection to the building and to one of the world’s most historic cities in the process,” said Catalioto, who arranges behind the scenes tours for guests.
Urban restoration projects are behind the openings of several big-brand luxury hotels in the city, including InterContinental Rome Ambasciatori Palace and Anantara Palazzo Naiadi Rome Hotel. The latter is on the site of the ancient Baths of Diocletian, whose original foundations, pools, and mosaics are still on display through the ground floor of the palatial new hotel.
“The rise in Rome’s luxury hotels has been many years in the making,” Director of Communications for Hotel Eden Fabiola Balduzzi tells me over a ricotta stuffed zucchini flowers and turmeric Cacio e Pepe on the hotel’s rooftop Il Giardino Ristorante.
Dating back to 1889, Eden has been the hotel of choice for visiting starlets (Ingrid Bergman and her husband, film director Roberto Rossellini, famously took up a residency in the Aurora suite), royals, and dignitaries whose photos line the hallway of the hotel leading to the restaurant. A gem in The Dorchester Collection, Eden was among the first major luxury brands to undergo renovations and now shines as one the city’s finest examples of what hoteliers are now calling “the new Rome.”
“Post-pandemic, we have seen Rome changing and evolving into a more attractive international destination,” Balduzzi says.
Crediting a variety of large-scale musical acts (Guns and Roses was in town the weekend I was there) to hosting the prestigious Ryder Cup in September, the 2025 Jubilee, as well as the possibility of hosting the World Expo in 2030, Balduzzi says the future of Rome is providing authentic experiences that will keep travelers coming back. Recently, Eden launched a new experience that takes guests from the hotel to Italy’s Lazio region by yacht, helicopter, or Ferrari F8 Tributo Spider to explore a different side of the region.
Along Via del Corso, the new Bulgari Hotel Roma is yet another example of a new hotel pushing Rome toward a more experiential future. Opened in June, it’s already abuzz with travelers and trendy locals enjoying aperitifs beneath the porticoes on the ground floor of Il Caffé.
Overlooking the Mausoleum of Augustus, the building dates back to the 1930s, and from hand-made mosaic rosettes in the bathrooms right down to the Bulgari-pattered tapestries and hand-made Murano crystals and lamps is the definition of Italianate glamour. Inspired by the patterns of the historic Terme di Caracalla Bath, the real pièce de résistance can be found in the subterranean Bulgari Spa, which has marble columns and stained-glass windows that are as close to heaven on earth as hotel spas come.
The Rome Edition also reinvents a midcentury building, this time a 1940s bank. Today, this sexy Ian Schrager-boutique has plant-filled courtyards, a striking marble staircase, and a modern emerald-and-cream-colored lobby.
“The eyes of the world are on Rome,” Catalioto says in Six Senses’ light-filled café-bar BIVIUM. “BIVIUM, means crossroads. It’s the perfect analogy for what’s happening in this city right now.”
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