If Rome is living history, there is no better way to understand than to actually live in Rome, whether for a few days, years or lifetime. I’ve chosen the latter, and every day I still find surprisingly different ways of seeing the Eternal City, whether on the hunt for art- ancient or otherwise, or where I lay my head. A few months back, I was invited to get out of my comfort zone and experience what it would be like to be a Roman nobile with a weekend stay at Costaguti Experience in the historic Palazzo Costaguti, what Renaissance artist and art historian Giorgio Vasari considered one of the best palaces in Rome.
Built in the early 16th century and acquired by the aristocratic Costaguti family in 1578, Palazzo Costaguti was a hub for the Baroque era’s most famous artists who were tasked with creating frescoes through the residence. Nicolas Poussin, Cavalier d’Arpino and the Zuccari Brothers all spent time lavishing decorating the ceilings with scenes of putti, Aneid and the months of the year. Today, the Marchese occupies the buildings private apartments, but the piano nobile (main floor) is open to guests as the ultra-luxe Costaguti experience- a five-bedroom apartment with full-time concierge service.
Let’s be clear: the apartment is beautiful and tastefully styled to celebrate both its Baroque history and its contemporary incarnation. The 50-square-meter salon is the jewel of the Costaguti family for its a richly detailed original wood ceiling and design border a fresco panel series of the Allegory of the Months and the Virtues painted by the Zuccari brothers, and it was our main hangout where we hosted two dinner parties, a lovely wine and cheese tasting organized by Costaguti and Beppe e Suoi Formaggi, one of the city’s preeminent cheese makers, and just hung out watching Netflix. When we needed to walk around, we played pool under my favorite painting, Cavalier d’Arpino’s Aneid.
Deciding where to sleep would have been a challenge if we weren’t the bosses. On the first level, there are three rooms, two with wooden ceilings (at 30ft, matching the salon), and we chose the main bedroom with personal hammam. Room 2 was its next door with super king bed and smaller day bay. Room 3 was charming (read: intimately tiny) with its Poussin putti fresco ceiling, and en suite bathroom, perfect for a godmother or best friend. Bedrooms 4 and 5 were a short staircase to a mezzanine level where were eye-to-eye with gilded arch molding, an experience that prior to this weekend I have only had from far below. Bedroom 4 was sultry, nestled in those gorgeous golden arches with a open marble bath area and hidden waterfall shower. Bedroom 5 is the least interesting, a tastefully simple niche with two twin beds and view of inner courtyard.
Cleaning staff arrived promptly to our designated time each morning, and our kitchen was stocked daily with neighborhood and Roman favorites including Sant’Eustachio coffee and freshly made pastries from Caffe Roscioli. There were so many more goodies that I don’t remember, but I do fondly recall Grazia, our concierge, who was available at all times for all of our questions and incredibly polite when we accidentally shorted the electricity. Note: when staying in a Roman apartment, always discuss the limits of electrical usage and fuse box location.
Location: Historic Center, well positioned to public transportation and taxis, as well as easy to walk to all major monuments. Palazzo Costaguti is my “almost home” landmark, a great shortcut through Piazza Mattei, the borderline between the Campitelli neighborhood and Rome’s Ghetto. While most are taking photos of the Fontana delle Tartarughe, Giacomo della Porta’s and Taddeo Landini’s unmissable turtle fountain, I always stop to look at the monument front entrance with Costaguti written on the lintel, and I think of Tom Ripley, envious friend from Anthony Minghella’s The Talented Mr. Ripley, who lived Palazzo Costaguti when he took on Dickie Greenleaf’s identity in Rome.