Reviewed for The Telegraph: Hotel Raphael,
Expert Rating: 9/10
It’s all about the rooftop. With a 360-degree, eye-level view of the domes, bell towers and rooftops in Rome’s historic centre, the Hotel Raphael has long been the city’s most coveted spot for a sunset cocktail. Though the hotel likes to maintain ties to tradition with its refined style, an award-winning architect recently took over its executive suites to add a contemporary spin on luxury.
Hotel Raphael is, in my opinion, one of the best-located hotels in Rome, if not the best. It is in a charming square behind Piazza Navona, which means it is quick to enter as well as escape the Rome chaos. Hundreds of the city’s eateries vie for table time in the surrounding, so it is easy to find a bite, though you will have to look harder for a great restaurant.
Once upon a time, Italy’s ill-fated Prime Minister Bettino Craxi called a cosy top-floor apartment at Hotel Raphael home, thanks to its luxe design and perfect location, in terms of the Senate and Parliament buildings. A few years later, Craxi was all but forgotten when award-winning starchitect Richard Meier overhauled two of its floors in minimalist luxe. And thus you have the dual nature of the Hotel Raphael — contemporary yet old-school, private yet super-star, emphasised in the ground-floor art collection which shows off Mirò, Morandi, and De Chirico paintings, ceramics by Picasso, Roman antiquities and Mayan artifacts.
Hotel Raphael’s coup de foudre is its rooftop terrace, La Terrazza, where you sit shoulder-to-shoulder with all of the city’s domes and campaniles from nearby Church of Santa Maria della Pace (and its Bramante-designed cloister) to Michelangelo’s cupola. For the day’s exercise, the small Pantheon fitness centre is outfitted with ever-popular Technogym equipment, whereas the ground-level library is fully stocked with art books and novels for a more mental work-out. Like all five-star hotels, the hotel has a full-loaded concierge staff, each with an answer to any and every question, as well an arsenal of suggestions for what to do in Rome and how. Parking is available in a nearby garage.
Traditional or contemporary? All 65 rooms and suites are bright, with light wood, soft umber, tasteful decorations and a splash of colour, but whereas the Classic Rooms are decorated with Renaissance-inspired tapestries and columns, wooden furniture and velvet curtains, the Richard Meier Executive Suites are minimalist harmonies of glass and wood panelling, black leather sofas and Carrera marble bathrooms. If you desire a piazza view, ask in advance as some rooms face the former architecture of the neighborhood’s 15th-century alleys. However, those looking for a bit of privacy should request the Richard Meier Executive Suite with the Terrace, primarily because the nook terrace is all yours.
Food & drink: 9/10
Though the rooftop is best known as a great aperitivo spot, the hotel’s La Madre Terra takes residence during warm weather months. The menu is a sanctuary for anyone with a food intolerance: the Mediterranean cuisine is entirely interpreted in vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free recipes. Though most would agree that a Bellini on the terrace is the perfect way to celebrate the sunset, keep you eyes on the wine list – Hotel Bramante stocks a very full wine cellar of Italian, European and off-continent labels.
Value for money: 10/10
Double superior rooms from £170 in low season; rising to £232 in high. Breakfast included. Free Wi-Fi.
Access for guests with disabilities? Yes.
Family-friendly? Yes. Concierge will organise customised children’s tour itinerary, and babysitting services are available upon request.