A four-story palazzo at the corner of Via Bocca di Leone and the storied Via Condotti, above the Ferragamo flagship store. Portrait Suites is part of the Lungarno Hotels group, owned by the Ferragamo family.
A smiling concierge posted at the discreet street-level entrance whisks guests up to a second-floor reception lounge, where an equally amiable duty manager checks them in. Refreshments are proffered while documents are processed; an Italian couple on their second stay laughed incredulously when the concierge greeted them by name and added, “Cappuccino for you, sir, and a chilled apple juice for you, madam, if I remember correctly?” The interiors, by house designer Michele Bönan, are chic and sexy in extremis: heathered ice-blue flannel chairs and headboards echo the silver-blue silk curtains, lined in a vermilion satin printed with the Ferragamo logo. Walls are black-stained French oak; framed photos and sketches from the Ferragamos’ private collection line the staircase. The roof terrace is all teak furniture and Zen-style potted grasses—a perfect foil for the dizzying Baroque splendor it overlooks. (It’s also the only public space in the hotel for lolling about; there’s no lobby or lounge, and breakfast is served in-suite.)
All 14 have walk-in closets and fully stocked kitchenettes (espresso machines; bone china; Boffi fridges packed with milk, juice, Sicilian cookies, and wine). In the bathrooms, mirror-lined swing doors separate the toilet and bidet from the sink and shower area; slate-gray pure marble floors invite barefoot traipsing. A standard double somehow has space for a small sitting area, a three-way standing mirror, a little desk, and a 42-inch wall-hung plasma TV.
The room’s stock starts to slide after the third or fourth time one has rolled into the crack between two twin mattresses masquerading as a king-size bed. It’s 2007; surely these are available in Italy by now?
Six-star turndown service, with classical music on the Tivoli sound system, his-and-hers slippers, a cashmere blanket laid at the end of the bed, a breakfast menu next to the phone, and a plate of biscotti from Moriondo & Gariglio. And the staff: knowledgeable, fast, and friendly without being overfamiliar or obsequious.
23 Via Bocca di Leone; 39-06/6938-0742; www.lungarnohotels.com; doubles from $490.
The Inn at the Roman Forum
You'll find this ivy-draped building in the crook of a tiny lane between the busy Via Nazionale and the Forum.
The 12-room hotel’s considerable charms reveal themselves slowly over the course of a visit. The cramped reception area doesn’t dazzle at first, but a peek into the cavernous, 2,000-year-old crypt on which the 17th-century building stands (accessed via a glass door behind the concierge desk) does. A marble staircase spirals up four floors to what was once the attic and is now a cozy lounge-breakfast room made elegant with black-and-gold-striped wallpaper, terrazzo floors, and leather- and suede-upholstered chairs and sofas grouped into intimate sitting areas.
Even classic doubles are spacious by Roman standards. The interiors are fitfully, rather than uniformly, tasteful—certain lampshades resemble English ladies’ hats, and some of the beds are festooned a little too enthusiastically with swaths of metallic silk. But the building’s bones are flawless: high coffered ceilings in the doubles, pitched oak timber ones in the two top-floor garden suites, and richly patinated terra-cotta flooring throughout. Bathrooms feature raincan showerheads nine inches in diameter, massive granite basin sinks, and jewel-toned Etro toiletries. Closets are stocked with hair dryers, curling irons, and straighteners—in extravagant contrast to the absence of a full-length mirror anywhere, an oversight that needs immediate correcting. Every room has a wall-mounted flat-screen TV (the new standard, it seems).
It’s such a great little place—a pity it’s almost impossible to find. Say “Via degli Ibernesi” to your cab driver and you’re met with a blank stare and a shrug. During our stay, one couple was left on the Via Nazionale, walking up and down with their bags, searching for the hotel for half an hour. Some printable directions on the Web site would be welcome—or, considering the circumstances, a decrease in the $70 airport-transfer rate.
The miniscule shady walled garden on the top floor is perfect for afternoon reading or Negroni-sipping. The intimate terrace, with its warm pink walls visible beneath trellises of jasmine, gives on to a view of the top reaches of the imperial Forum, the 19th-century Vittorio Emanuele monument, and a vast sky dotted with kiting seagulls.
30 Via degli Ibernesi; 39-06/6919-0970; www.theinnattheromanforum.com; doubles from $470.
Villa Spalletti Trivelli
An early-20th-century villa with Neoclassical overtones on a side street on patrician Quirinal Hill. A small brass plaque and bell, and the subtle glow of a recent $4 million-plus restoration, are all that distinguish this house from the others around it. First Impressions There’s the involuntary urge to straighten one’s shirt, smooth one’s hair, and generally make oneself a bit more presentable. The villa is the former private home of the Spalletti-Trivelli family, titled since 1667, and many of its appointments and furnishings—from the library (a collection protected by the Ministry of National Heritage) to the colored Piranesi print in the stairwell (circa 1765, very rare)—were once their property. Oak and walnut floors, bookshelves, and moldings gleam with good care; 15-foot tapestries are suspended on butter-yellow walls; overstuffed chenille sofas are arranged in twos in the echoey sitting rooms. Signed photos show various Spalletti-Trivellis attending weddings and coronations and tennis parties. Even the andirons look like a Sotheby’s auction lot. The family coat of arms is everywhere—on the silverware and the Richard Ginori breakfast china, on the towels and the correspondence paper, on the enormous medallion attached to each room key. All of this, plus a gracious and capable staff, makes good on the hotel’s proclaimed mandate: affording guests the opportunity to experience what home life for a Roman nobleman was like (apparently, very hushed).
Big—a double is about 17 feet square, with a foyer and a large closet, and suites are the size of a proper one-bedroom apartment. The rooms on the top floor interconnect and can be booked as a single private unit. The interiors are refined (if not particularly adventurous), with color-coordinated damasks on the beds and armchairs and fine wood tables (some antique, some reproduction) mixed with Lucite ones. The winning touches: exquisite bed linens (making the bed has been elevated to an art here); monumental framed antique maps and prints (each room has at least one); and state-of- the-art marble bathrooms that look as if they were designed according to guidelines submitted by the Association of Persnickety American Travelers.
The glaring overhead lighting in the rooms doesn’t aid the cause of creating ambience. And breakfast is surprisingly uneven: 12 gorgeous homemade jams, organic yogurt from Calabria in tiny jars—and bad, Tang-y canned orange juice, with a rather meager side of strawberries.
The beautiful, fully stocked, totally complimentary bars and fridges in each room. And the undeniable exclusivity of the experience; whether or not it’s your thing (or your price point), the Villa Spalletti Trivelli is unique in the Eternal City.
4 Via Piacenza; 39-06/4890-7934; www.villaspalletti.it; doubles from $1,069.