What is it? One of the Roman hotel scene's grand dames, the Waldorf Astoria property is perched atop a hill and boasts spectacular views, a priceless art collection and top-notch facilities.
What makes this luxury hotel different? Housed in a striking 1960s building, its interiors, magnificent spiralling chandelier and circular staircase were designed by international starchitects Pier Luigi Nervi and Franco Albini. The 1,100-piece strong art collection has to be seen to be believed - a Tiepolo triptych sets the tone in the main lobby and rubs shoulders with other centuries-old paintings and sculptures that would surely otherwise be in the Louvre or Hermitage. The penthouse suite boasts four original Andy Warhols (as well as some rather fabulously kitsch sofas that once adorned Karl Lagerfeld's Parisian home) while the Napoleon suite is chocka with original 19th-century Empire prints and antiques, including French emperor Napoleon III's desk.
The art and architecture sound appealing, but what about the food? Dinner at the hotel's three-starred La Pergola will seriously flex your credit card but is worth a trip to Rome in itself. Tasting menus deliver small portions of seriously inventive fish and meat dishes (such as king prawns in tempura served on a fried calamari purée, or chef Heinz Beck's signature fagottelli pasta pockets filled with carbonara sauce). The grand dessert includes soufflés and mousses, petits fours, tiramisu cupcakes and mini strawberry and chocolate gelato cones. A bucket list meal if ever there was one. Mouthwatering Mediterranean cuisine and gigantic pizzas are Uliveto's thing and there are two other restaurants besides (one summer only).
What else can I do? The management is celebrating the hotel's 50th anniversary this year and has put together a series of special packages. Click & Go sounds particularly intriguing - participating couples are transformed into starlets from the film La Dolce Vita and chauffeured around Rome, being snapped in various noteworthy spots by an experienced paparazzo photographer. The hotel's Grand Spa is one of the biggest in Italy and is equipped with a gym, three outdoor pools, an indoor pool (with a lit fireplace in winter - nice touch), two tennis courts and an 800-metre trail that runs through the acres of lush landscaped grounds. The recently renovated treatment rooms are oases of zen-like sophistication - and a refuge from the mock-Roman decor that spoils many of the common areas.
Who does the hotel suit best? With 345 rooms this place is big. Families, couples and business people are all catered to in different ways. An in-house wedding planner and a crack team of local hairdressers, make-up artists and personal shoppers to the stars can make you look and feel like a diva if you are about to be hitched (or even if you aren't). And although business facilities don't usually get this author very excited, the hi-tech conference centre here offers a whopping 8,700 square metres of meeting and event space. The Salone dei Cavalieri ballroom measures 1,600 square metres and has 17th-century Leyniers tapestries on the walls.
It all sounds very lavish. Are there any cons? Many of the rooms look on to a radio tower or apartment blocks so ask for accommodation with a view of the city. At these prices use of pool and internet should be included, but aren't. The location is somewhat out of the way, just north of the centre of Rome, which means you can't just step out of your room for an evening gelato. The journey into town, however, takes only 10 minutes by car (less to the Vatican) and taxis are always available outside the entrance.
How much will this slice of La Dolce Vita cost me? Rooms start at € 240 (HK$2,435). The largest suite in the hotel, the 246 sq metre Petronius, has a rack rate of € 7,270 a night. The nine-course menu at La Pergola costs € 210 without wine or beverages. Click & Go … It's The Dolce Vita! is available for €895 on top of room rate. For further details, visit www.romecavalieri.com.
Appeared in South China Morning Post (Post Magazine), 8 September 2013