Seated comfortably sipping cappuccino in a lavish ambience admiring a priceless range of historic artwork is a rare treat – one that is enjoyed courtesy of the Waldorf Astoria at the Rome Cavalieri.
The five-star hotel’s sumptuous, marble-floored lobby embraces many of the exquisite items from the hotel’s impressive collection of around 1,000 artistic artifacts, making it seem like an alternative Villa Borghese.
Among the 17th and 18th century paintings are a triptych by Giambattista Tiepolo, as well as works by Abraham Brueghel and Giuseppe Bazzani; giant wall Beauvais tapestries from 1725 featuring historic Chinese themes; ornate sculptures; statues holding glittering candelabra aloft; and antique timepieces such as a gorgeous gold-leaf and lacquered wooden grandfather clock. Furnishings throughout the hotel comprise Louis XV and First Empire including a richly decorated 18th century baroque commode believed to have belonged to the King of Poland. There are also original Karl Lagerfeld sofas and works by Andy Warhol and Robert Indiana.
Originally designed mainly by prominent architect, Ugo Luccichenti, marble – as befitting the image of Rome – is everywhere, in vases, benches and tables and in diverse shades and colors. While indulging mind and body in the hotel’s impressive 2,500 sqm spa, I spied a tantalizing bowl of peaches and stretched out my hand for one only to find – such is the high level of artistry – that they were shaped from marble.
The 370-room and suite Rome Cavalieri, a member of the 30-strong Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts group, is located atop the hill of Monte Mario off Via Francigena, a former pilgrim’s route from Canterbury in England. It is in tribute to these pilgrims and the Crusaders who protected them that it was named ‘Cavalieri’ (meaning ‘knight’).
Set in a 15-acre private park, five kilometers from downtown Rome, a winding road takes you up and away from chaotic traffic into the hills, to the place Conrad Hilton felt was the perfect location for a city break. While removed from Rome, the hotel offers free shuttle service throughout the day. Many rooms offer panoramic views over the Eternal City far below. It is also pet friendly with a special doggy menu.
Upon entering, one’s imagination is enlivened by the utter elegance and spaciousness of the lobby, at the end of which stands a curved bar decorated by a pair of intriguing busts, miniature marble obelisks and shapely vases. Soft, kale-green leather armchairs provide comfortable seating.
In the center, a sensuous, brass-handled staircase winds its way downward to spacious function rooms, the largest of which caters for over 2,000 people, and to the L’Uliveto restaurant where breakfast and dinner are served, with views to an outdoor swimming pool.
Dinner at L’Uliveto is an authentic Italian feast. Try starting with traditional Roman delights such as local artichoke ‘Carpaccio’ with pecorino cheese flakes or Roman vegetable soup with cannolicchi pasta; continue with home-made ‘pappardelle’ pasta with wild boar or bucatini pasta ‘Amatriciana’ style; then move slowly towards a main of fried ‘paranza’ squids and prawns with Amalfi lemon zest and homemade mayo or smoked wild boar ‘Salmi’ style with polenta. Then sit back and relax with a potent amaro or a cool limoncello.
A second restaurant, roof terrace La Pergola, under the direction of chef Heinz Beck, places the hotel in the unique position of being the only one in Italy to boast a Michelin-rated three-star restaurant.
Guests staying in suites at Rome Cavalieri enjoy access to the Imperial Club, offering VIP check-in, complimentary breakfast, afternoon tea and all-day drinks. Sports-minded guests are well serviced with three outdoor swimming pools, one exclusively for children; a glass-domed indoor pool featuring a cascading waterfall; hydro-massage pool; a Japanese stone walk; two floodlit Davis Cup red clay tennis courts and an 800-meter fitness trail inside the hotel’s grounds.
The spa is a mecca to bodily pleasure. I enjoyed an intensive muscle de-stress massage with a focus on my chakras, creating powerful energy flows. Other options are La Prairie facials, Ayurvedic and aromatherapy treatments, a 4-hands massage, shiatsu and lympho-drainage. Within the ten-treatment room complex, there is even the possibility for a romantic, couples’ massage on soft beds of sand.
Ornate design is not restricted to interiors. Around the hotel are verdant gardens adorned with varied flora and creative outdoor decorations, including magical unicorns and the dramatic ornamental interpretation of a pride of lions on the prowl, an entirely lifelike setting in which the animals seem to be running from the cover of a copse of nearby umbrella pines.
Occupying a king imperial suite such as 811 which we did, offers not only generous space, floor-to-ceiling windows and a large terrace, but also mesmerizing views over the city. Gazing down over Rome from such a height with the changes of light at different times of day makes for unforgettable visual memories.
Designed in bright shades yellow and gold, offset by a vivid blue carpet, our suite was airy, with fresh roses in a vase adding a lovely hint of Nature. Framed engravings of statues representing zodiac signs adorned the walls. Our bathroom was particularly striking, a space designed completely with mirrors and marble, mainly white blended with beautiful blue stripes through it, matching the plush carpet in the bedroom.
Such is the hotel’s attention to detail, its pillow menu features such esoteric choices as millet husks and silicic acid, buckwheat, shredded coconut fiber, pure merino wool and spelt chaff, then you know you’re in an exceptional place.
With such abundance of luxury and a tranquil, hill-top location, it’s little wonder Rome Cavalieri has attracted the attention of celebrities over the decades since it first opened in 1963, including Fred Astaire, John Travolta, Julia Roberts, George Clooney and Marcello Mastroianni.
No doubt it will attract yours also.