We had only just arrived in Rome from Florence, found our way to Starwood Hotels’ stunning St Regis Rome and begun to explore our suite. There was an interesting mix of antique and modern in the room, with a large wooden desk and sideboard in the living area, alongside a comfortable, gold coloured sofa and armchair. A bottle of franciacorta was chilling in a bucket on the coffee table.
The doorbell rang.
With sky high ceilings, our junior suite had a great feeling of space and opulence and one could see Bernini’s beautiful church of St. Maria della Vittoria on Via XX Settembre from both the living area and the bedroom, a glimpse of Rome’s historical architecture. In the bedroom, there is a unique fresco over the twin beds and a huge amount of storage. Parting the slatted blinds in the bathroom reveals a great view of the Fontana delle Naiadi and the Piazza della Repubblica, where we had moments earlier navigated through the streams of circling traffic.
The doorbell rang again.
Charlotte was freshening up after our train journey, so I opened the door. A very well dressed gentleman with a warm smile stretched out his hand and introduced himself as Giovanni. I immediately thought he was the General Manager, perhaps someone in the communications department, who wished to give us a tour. I explained that Charlotte was in the bathroom and waited for him to suggest that we arrange a later time for the tour. Giovanni expressed his pleasure in welcoming us to the hotel and asked if we needed any help unpacking our bags. We stood for a split second in silence, just long enough for me to realise that perhaps I had misunderstood.
As it turned out, Giovanni was our butler. All the suites at St Regis Rome have access to the butler service, which has been available at the hotel for over one hundred years and seeks to meet every possible wish of the guests at any time of the day or night. Being unused to being waited on, we politely declined help with our bags and instead took advantage of the offer of afternoon tea and miniature pastries, which arrived within minutes.
Fully immersed in the five star experience, I took a bath before dinner, in the luxuriously appointed marble bathroom. After arriving by train from Florence, it was a delight to recline in the bubbles with a glass of franciacorta, making generous use of the extensive range of toiletries from Laboratoire Remède (including firming moisture lotion and cleansing soufflé), and prepare for dinner in a completely relaxed state.
We dined at Vivendo, the hotel’s fine dining restaurant on the ground floor. I started with salt cod tempura, a traditional Roman dish, and Charlotte had an enormous piece of foie gras that she described as ‘goose butter’. Our first course consisted of cheese and pepper maccheroncini for me, sprinkled with crunchy, spicy breadcrumbs, and an excellent Berlucci flavoured risotto for Charlotte, with pistachios and an unusual lemongrass scent. We both plumped for veal for the meat course, a fillet with a tangy, peppery sauce and an escalope with mushroom flan, both juicy, flavoursome and perfectly cooked. The highlights were definitely the desserts, which we shared. The mint flavoured crème bruleé was unexpectedly and ingeniously paired with Prosecco flavoured icecream and the Gianduja chocolate mousse was utterly divine with zabaione. Overall, the food was very good and the service from restaurant manager Michele was faultless, but after a long day we were very happy to finish our dinner and head up to our wonderful suite.
In the morning, we headed down to the enormous red and gold lobby and enjoyed some excellent coffee with our buffet breakfast. A chef was on hand to prepare eggs to order, but we were keen to get our first view of Rome in daylight. All of Rome’s iconic sights are within easy reach of the city centre. It is very easy to navigate by public transport, if you wish, or taxis can be easily arranged by the hotel. You should be prepared to do some walking though, once you reach these ancient structures, the first thing you will notice is the size.
We made our way at once to the Colosseum, taking our time to wander around and read from the displays about the lives of the ancient Romans. Both being keen on history, we are both familiar with the way the Colosseum was used, but actually standing within its walls and being reminded that thousands of animals (not to mention the people) were killed in a single day during the Colosseum’s opening celebrations. If you wish to see lots of sights in Rome, it’s worth getting a Roma Pass, that offers discounts on museums and galleries, with one historical site and one gallery included, as well as free public transport.
Behind the Colosseum is the Palatine Hill, the most central of Rome’s seven hills, upon which stand ruins of the residences of Roman emperors from the Flavian dynasty, amongst other towering, crumbling structures. This is where we first came to understand the enormous distances involved; walking from one side of the hill to the other takes longer than expected, and of course you must divert from the straight path to take in some of the incredible views over the city. On the far side of Palatine Hill, we passed across the legendary Circo Massimo where chariots were raced and which is, certainly in winter, a rather huge and desolate field of gravel.
We took a long walk back to the St Regis Rome, passing Tiber Island and heading north again past the imposing Il Vittoriano, a massive white monument built to honour the first King of a unified Italy. By this time, our feet were aching and we were speechless with happiness when, on our return to the St Regis Rome, we were able to simply call our butler and ask for some much needed refreshment to be brought to the room. Over the two days of our stay, these complimentary afternoon treats were lovely to come ‘home’ to after a busy day sightseeing. There are many luxury hotels in Rome but the service at the St Regis Rome is second to none. With this incredible city on your doorstep and the cheerful Giovanni at your service, I really cannot think of anywhere better to stay.
St Regis Rome
Via Vittorio Emanuele Orlando, 3