Destination: Italy: Rome
Vibe: Contemporary, good value, centrally located
At a Glance: With its prime location on the Via Babuino, boutique hotel Babuino 181 offers contemporary décor and good value in the heart of Rome.
Review: This intimate boutique property (brainchild of Alberto Moncada who also owns Margutta 54) offers a contemporary escape that immediately transforms travelers into locals. The entrance of Babuino 181, for instance, is barely marked: a sleek set of sliding glass doors lead from the shopping bustle of Via Babuino into a slender, quiet mansion whose spacious suites feel like well-designed, fashionable and utterly comfortable cocoons. The location itself cannot be beat: the historic Via del Babuino runs between Piazza di Spagna and Piazza di Popolo, and it abounds with chic boutiques and antiques shops.
The original three-story palazzo has just fourteen individually decorated suites, all of which come with king beds and an understated, modern design scheme with beautiful textiles, original works of art and all the high-tech amenities you’d expect (iPod dock, a massive flat-screen TV and Bose sound system). The 2012 addition of the annex across the street adds ten more suites in the same contemporary style, complete with the newest penthouse Suite offering its own rooftop terrace. Families should consider the Deluxe Suites, which can be easily connected to a Deluxe Room to create a small residence.
Babuino 181 is perfect for travelers and families who want a serene, contemporary space to return to at the end of a sightseeing-heavy day with good value in a fantastic location. However, the property can almost be a little too discreet – the door to the annex is barely marked and may be confusing for some guests. Visitors who want the privacy of a smaller property but also require sleek, top-notch decor should consider the Portrait Suites. Those who need a lot of hand-holding or appreciate more traditional décor, and amenities like a gym, spa and full-service restaurant should consider the Hotel de Russie just a block away.INDAGARE LOVES:
- The newly built annex across the street offering ten additional suites
- The discreet entrance off of busy Via Babuino where guests can escape after a long day of shopping
- The new Penthouse Suite with a private rooftop garden
This 17th-century palazzo near the Spanish Steps has long been the boutique choice of many sophisticated travelers. Once the guesthouse of an aristocratic Roman family, the building is still furnished with 19th-century antiques, which are starting to look more neglected than charming. But loyal guests think of their favorite rooms, such as those on the fifth floor, which have tiny terraces for breakfast alfresco, as their own pied-à-terre. Though slightly old-fashioned, for nostalgics, the place has a sense of history and authenticity. Serious shoppers stay here because of its proximity to Via Condotti, and its cozy restaurant draws a fashionable lunch crowd. Rooms from $395.
If this new boutique property can be called a “bed and breakfast,” then I am a convert. Centrally located near bustling and chic Via Condotti, it’s a little haven set in a private courtyard off Via Margutta. Lined with old ivy-covered stone buildings, the cobblestone cul-de-sac was once an artists’ colony where Cocteau, Fellini and Stravinsky found inspiration. With just four beautifully designed suites, Margutta 54 is the brainchild of Alberto Moncada whose noble connections include a cardinal (a family baldachin to receive the Pope attests to this) and whose family has long served as patrons of artists, from Caravaggio to Picasso. Moncada’s urbane, well-mannered upbringing is not only evident in his every gesture, but in the modern yet classic design of the rooms themselves—both in Margutta 54 and his other property, Via Mario de Fiori 37 (a third, Babuino 181, is slated to open early 2010 and will be the swankest and largest of the triplet).
I stayed in Suite Number 4, which came with two dressing rooms, a big limestone and marble bathroom, with a deep tub and separate shower and beautifully restored, 100-year-old oak-wood floors. The sheets were Frette, naturally, as Moncada’s business partner owns the Italian luxury linen brand. The suite’s living area consisted of an oversized daybed, accented by a few red and black cushions, comfortable brown leather arm chairs and black-and-white Italian photography. Part of Margutta’s charm is that it doesn’t feel like a hotel, as its small size and personable staff make it much more relaxing. Everyone I encountered was caring and helpful, and the head concierge formerly worked at the city’s Hotel de Russie. Rooms from $440.
Completely renovated in 2009 and reopened in early 2010, Palazzo Manfredi used to be known as Hotel Gladiatori, a fitting description of a property that occupies a 17th-century mansion literally built on top of the former changing rooms and living quarters of the gladiators. Across the street from the Colosseum, the hotel also has the city’s best views of the famous monument, especially at night when lights illuminate the structure. This Relais & Châteaux has sixteen rooms, all of which come with modern furnishings, warm color schemes and uber-cool light fixtures, as well as such high-tech details as Nespresso makers, Bose sound systems and iPod docking stations. The best have dead-center Colosseum views; the most romantic suite even has the vista from the deep soaking tub.
The small lobby lounge is groovy, with velvet chaises, Taschen books and original, contemporary art, and such services as the Lamborghini pick-up from the airport are available. Even if you are not staying here, a meal at Aroma restaurant is a must. Located on the roof terrace of the hotel, the restaurant is as close as you will get to private face-time with Rome’s most famous monument. At night, the terrace is one of the most difficult reservations to book and the romance factor is high.
Vibe: Intimate, design-oriented, sleek
At a Glance: Situated right off Via Condotti, Portrait Suites offers the comfort of a chic private home with the efficient, knowledgeable service of an impeccable concierge team.
Review: The Ferragamos venture into Rome to add to their stylish Lungarno Collection in Florence resulted in the gem that is the Portrait Suites. Staying in one of the fourteen suites is similar to renting a beautiful, luxurious private apartment. Guests step out of property’s discreet doorway onto Via Condotti full of high-end fashion and boutiques.
The intimate property welcomes guests in a small lounge on the second floor. Service is impeccable – the concierge team greets guests by name and each suite is stocked with an ipad with customized itineraries based on guest’s interests. There is incredible attention to detail in each suite (not surprising for a family known for its exemplary tailoring skills) including high ceilings, wood and leather detailing, soft fabrics of greys and pinks and yellows, enormous marble bathrooms, and display cases with facsimiles of the original Ferragamo heels from the 1800s. Oversized closets are large enough to house luggage and shopping finds, and the kitchenette with mini bar and dishwasher makes up for the lack of restaurant on property.
Guests can relax on the gorgeous rooftop terrace and serve themselves an aperatif from the honesty bar and watch the sun set over Rome’s picturesque rooftops. A bonus: the Penthouse Suite has a private sauna and exercise room. Repeat visitors and more independent travelers who would prefer a discreet, quiet retreat right off the high-end shopping street will appreciate the privacy and understated accessibility of the property. The rooms are sleek with sweeping high ceilings, evoking the design legacy of the Ferragamo family. However, those who require a buzzy lobby scene, restaurant, 24-hour room service and the gym and spa amenities of a full-service property should consider the nearby Hotel de Russie.
A few suites on the higher floors offer small terraces. Contact the bookings team to book your stay.INDAGARE LOVES:
- The rooftop terrace with wooden benches and loungers
- The kitchenette in each suite, complete with a stocked minibar and dishwasher
- The hallways lined with original receipts and drawings from Ferragamo’s private collection
Walking up to Villa Spalletti, the home of a Roman nobleman, you might wonder if you are at the right door. Nothing about it says “hotel.” Take, for instance, the gorgeous library where you can relax with a glass of wine before heading out for dinner. Floor-to-ceiling bookcases hold a well-edited selection of literature, photography and art books; the heavy silver frames on the nearby console display pictures of the family. Everything at Spalletti works to transform you from visitor to the house guest of a stylish local.
Interiors of the living spaces are tastefully lavish, with polished antiques, wood-paneled walls and high ceilings. The twelve suites are uncluttered and on the small side; all feature its own unique design and color scheme, with beautiful fabrics and original art adding touches of personality and color. Six of them look towards the nearby Quirinale park. The villa itself has a nice garden where guests can lounge post sightseeing.
There’s no room service or around-the-clock staff at Spalletti, making it a good fit for independent travelers who love the ambience of a private home. The location is fantastic: the sights, restaurants and shops of the historic center are all in walking distance.
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