Housed in a historical 18th-century palazzo atop Rome's Spanish Steps, the property has sweeping views of the Eternal City, and its enviable setting is almost a destination in itself.
The contemporary decor, classical influences and an inner courtyard surrounded by the magic of Rome's Centro Storico make it easy to see why the €800-a-night hotel ($799) is on the radar of well-heeled holidaymakers visiting the Italian capital.
Looming over Piazza di Spagna and its Spanish Steps, Rocco Forte's Hotel De La Ville ticks all the right boxes when it comes to location. Despite the property's bustling address, our arrival is entirely relaxed. Friendly door attendants are quick to take our luggage and show us inside the lobby where we're instantly drawn to the playful, contemporary level of luxury. Formalities are courteous and swift and, before long, we have an artfully printed key card in hand and are ascending a cheerily colourful lift to our room.
Hotel De La Ville is on Via Sistina, a road that was originally conceived by Pope Sixtus V to unite Rome's Trinita dei Monti with the basilica of Santa Croce in Gerusalemme, one of the Seven Pilgrim Churches in Rome. Formerly home to several prominent artists, including Thomas Cole and Giovanni Battista Piranesi, several buildings on the street feature plaques commemorating their illustrious former residents.
It's also perfectly placed for sightseeing. Descend the famed Roman staircase and you’ll find yourself in the heart of Via Condotti, the luxury shopping district where Louis Vuitton, Chanel and Salvatore Ferragamo boutiques jostle for pavement position with historic buildings and old churches. The Trevi Fountain and Pantheon are near by, while the Borghese Gardens and Villa Medici, plus Via Vento — perhaps Rome's most expensive street — are all within walking distance.
The safety measures
In line with Italy’s current Covid-19 regulations, other than wearing a face mask in our Uber en route to the hotel, there is nothing of note. Masks in Italy are mandatory on trains, buses, ships and local and regional public transport until at least September 30.
There are 104 elegant rooms and suites, and we’re in a junior suite, which encompasses a generous 48 square metres, on the fourth floor. Entering via a heavy red door is akin to stepping inside a vault and the artful interiors awaiting are perhaps as precious as anything you might find inside such a crypt.
Duck-egg walls and wooden parquet floors pair effortlessly with velvet teal and olive furnishings, while a monochromatic bathroom with chrome details offers double sinks, a huge bathtub and a glass-walled shower cubicle filled with Irene Forte amenities — the hotel’s own wellness brand, which is headed by the daughter of owner and hotel mogul Sir Rocco Forte.
Every detail has been thought of and then delivered in the hotel’s interpretation of laid-back luxury. With decor inspired by the era of the Grand Tour, expect details such as handmade wallpaper, splendidly stocked bookshelves, marble busts, rich Italian fabrics and historic tapestries. It's opulent without being ostentatious.
A favourite with well-heeled guests and celebrity visitors, Hotel De La Ville oozes understated sophistication. We’re told we are checking in just a few days after Brad Pitt checked out, and staff tell us that several members of the British royal family, political figures and countless other household names have spent the night here.
Stepping into Julep Bar on the lobby level feels as if you’re visiting a sophisticated friend at their plush home in the heart of Rome, with sunshine-yellow walls, geometric rugs, chandelier lighting and ornate sofas, plus endless artwork, photographs and artefacts. Up on the roof is The Cielo Bar, one of Rome’s highest rooftop lounges, which comes with unbeatable views over the spires and rooftops below. Sunsets here are epic.
Cielo serves a Mediterranean-inspired menu and a gourmet selection of local, seasonal produce, but our dining experience centres around breakfast, which is served in Mosaico, the all-day dining restaurant.
Under the guidance of Michelin-decorated Italian chef Fulvio Pierangelini, this welcoming spot offers a memorable Italian breakfast with an extensive buffet catering for everyone.
We dine outside in the Roman courtyard, where striped parasols sit beside white tableclothed tables. With everything from healthy seeds, nuts and granola to home-made pies and tarts on the menu, every single morsel we sample is delicious. A la carte orders are also available with pancakes, eggs and more made fresh, and requests for coffees with non-dairy milk are happily obliged, something you can often be hard pressed to find in Rome’s coffee houses.
Warm, welcoming and friendly without being over the top. Staff are knowledgeable when asked a question but don’t pounce on guests, leaving travellers to wander and unwind in peace. An incident where water begins pouring into our bathroom ceiling in the middle of the night is promptly resolved, and when our Uber to the airport cancels last minute, the doormen at Hotel De La Ville summon a replacement taxi rapidamente.
Highs and lows
Highs include the second-to-none location and masterfully designed suites. The views from the balconies on the upper floors and Cielo Bar are also spectacular, affording guests an exclusive panoramic vista of the Rome with famed landmarks in every direction.
The low was being scolded by the restaurant supervisor on duty as we tried to go to breakfast 10 minutes before service officially started, after being invited by reception staff to do so. While she later rescinded and explained the chef was not quite ready for guests, the incident was so at odds with the rest of our stay, that it stuck in our minds.
The insider tip
The Sicilian-inspired Irene Forte spa is a haven of respite and the thermal area is complimentary for guests, you just need to make a reservation. With an ice fountain, Mediterranean salt room, Kneipp Therapy foot baths and one of the best thought-out relaxation zones we've experienced, it's not to be missed.
For a sophisticated stay (with a price tag to match) that doesn’t take itself too seriously and offers an unbeatable abode in the heart of the Eternal City, you’ll struggle to find better.
The bottom line
Prices start at €806 on a room-only basis, in low season. Check-in is at 3pm, and check-out is by noon. www.roccofortehotels.com
This review was conducted at the invitation of the hotel during the global coronavirus pandemic. It reflects hotel standards during this time, services may change in the future.