The stark modular facade of the hotel isn’t quite what I was expecting, but after stepping into the grand lobby I quickly forget the exterior as I’m escorted past an 18th-century Venetian masterpiece and beyond a gilded cabinet previously belonging to the King of Poland. A private check-in area ensures formalities are taken care of efficiently while I sip on a refreshment.
Perched atop the hill of Monte Mario, the Rome Cavalieri is along the Via Francigena, once one of Europe's most important pilgrim routes. Looking down on the Eternal City, the views are some of the best you'll find in Rome. You can pick out the city's most famed landmarks, including the Colosseum and the glistening St Peter's Basilica dome. Nearby is the Roman Observatory and Villa Miani, a neoclassical mansion used for Italian high-society weddings and host of the annual Rome Film Festival. The downside to this exclusive location is that it is a 30-minute drive from the heart of the city. There is a free hourly shuttle service, though.
Since its opening in 1963, the hotel has welcomed many celebrities, including Fred Astaire, Marcello Mastroianni and Julia Roberts. Day to day, it’s a mix of well-heeled US and Arab tourists along with a few moneyed locals who make use of the fitness facilities and one of the city’s only outdoor pools. Travelling art aficionados delight at the private collection throughout the property, while foodies flock to the top floor to dine in Rome’s first (and only) three-star Michelin restaurant, La Pergola.
There are 370 rooms, including the Planetarium suite with its rooftop whirlpool, and the penthouse featuring Warhol art. I'm in an Imperial room, which means I can use the Imperial Club Lounge. With a heavy carpet of royal blue and gold, there's a noticeable sense of regality thanks to the polished marble slabs, thick golden drapes, fruit bowls piled strikingly high and an emperor-sized feather bed, which was just a little too soft for my liking. The room's most spectacular feature is the vast mirrored balcony, a picture-perfect spot to watch the first light shine on the city below.
Faultless – there when you need it but never obtrusive. Concierge staff can advise on everything from morning walking trails to the most picturesque spots for sunset. The only exception is at the Cavalieri Grand Spa Club, where the La Prairie therapist is slightly curt.
I’d hoped to get a taste of Heinz Beck’s Michelin-starred fare, but La Pergola was booked out a month ahead of my visit, so I dined at the garden-side L’Uliveto instead. Offering classic dishes that use seasonal and local ingredients, we tried the buffalo Caprese burrata (€19, Dh81]), followed by home-made linguini with Venus clams (€26), fried paranza with squid and prawns (€36) and classic tiramisu to wrap things up. Authentic and full of flavour, even my Roman dinner partner is impressed. The next morning, I take breakfast on L’Uliveto’s terrace, overlooking the pool and am gratified by the roasted Italian coffee and the extensive buffet spread that caters well for vegetarian, gluten-free, and organic diets.
Discovering more slices of art and history as I wander through the hotel, from original costumes off the set of a 1978 performance of Giselle to 18th-century masterpieces by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo.
Missing out on the city’s only three-Michelin starred restaurant was disappointing. My advice: book your table when you book your flights.
The perfect Roman holiday spot if you're looking for old-fashioned grandiose style.
The bottom line
An Alcove Suite at Rome Cavalieri (www.romecavalieri.com) starts from Dh3,306, including taxes.