One of my favorite pastimes is imagining the perfect spot for an affair in Rome. And I think I’ve found it at Hotel Vilòn,just off the via del Corso.
The Eternal City is a bustling blend of history, culture, and vibrant personalities, where keeping an affair a secret can turn into a chaotic nightmare. Romans like like to say they can trace their lineage back at least seven generations, so six degrees of separation take on a logarithmic scale, where nothing goes unnoticed, and everyone knows everyone else. It’s hard to hide an affair.
At least, that’s what I used to believe, until I wandered into Palazzo Borghese,a vast urban villa estate that once housed papal families and Paulina Borghese, Napoleon Bonaparte’s sister, and now the beautiful estate is home to Hotel Vilon.
Its discreet location on via dell’Arancio, a quiet street free of noise, nestled in the palazzo with courtyard with statues of ancient gods, 96 granite columns, a nympheum, and a beautiful garden with three allegorical fountains, make it the best kept secret in the city.
Hotel Vìlon Style
Sultry, from the minute you walk across the harlequin-tiled marble entrance floor. Rich hues, lavish marbles and woods, and lots of well-chosen contemporary and photography. The 18 guest rooms and suites chill down with neutral hues, mahogany floorboards, and accents of dark blues and violets. The vibe is intimate and private, and overall style is that very chic Italian best friend you’ve always dreamed of.
Ask for a room with garden-facing terraces. Yes, the signature suites are fabulous, but book me a Vilòn Charming room looking onto the Borghese Palace’s private garden, and I’m happy. My favorite amenity by far are the plush bath robes — by far, the most comfortable of any Rome hotel — and the octane blue slippers. And I should mention that the all-white marble bathrooms are divine.
On Site is a gorgeous lounge bar and restaurant Adelaide, and the hidden open-air atrium lounge. I could hang out in Vilòn’s salotto every single afternoon. The lounge feels like a fabulous film still, and no wonder: Set designer Paolo Bonfini created the ambience with rich colors, patterns, and prints, playing off that gorgeous octane blue.
I could hang out in Vilòn’s salotto every single afternoon. The lounge feels like a fabulous film still, and no wonder: Set designer Paolo Bonfini created the ambience with rich colors, patterns, and prints, playing off that gorgeous octane blue.
Photographer Massimo Listri hand-selected all the artwork and included his monumental photos from the Uffizi museum, and architect Giampiero Panepinto added the whimsical design pieces. Oh, wait, did I mention the cocktails are incredible? I am still waiting for the Adelaide restaurant to up its game.
FYI There are only drawbacks no onsite parking and no spa/gym. But honestly, you’re in Rome. Just walk.
The Campo Marzio neighborhood is my favorite in Rome. It is home to everything that defines the Eternal City like the monumental Mausoleum of Augustus and Ara Pacis, a 1st-century temple in an ultra-mod Richard Meier-designed glass box, the fabulous Piazza San Lorenzo in Lucina grea for coffee, ice cream, and people-watching. My picks? Caffe Ciampini for coffee and La Matricianella for lunch.
You know it’s also the shopping district. Via del Corso is the teen beat, and nearby Piazza di Spagna and Via del Babuino are for big spenders. Check out the streets around Largo Goldoni and via del Fontanella Borghese.
Rome is a city of contradictions, both lively and chaotic, requiring a few hours of relaxation, such as a leisurely lunch in a charming piazza, each day. The high tourist season begins a few weeks before Easter and continues through July. Once the heat sets in, Romans tend to vacate the city (and after the July sales, which usually start around July 5th). August is the hottest month of the year, and the city is mostly empty of residents. I recommend visiting in late October-November or early February when the crowds have dissipated, and the weather is pleasant.
Although Rome is a great city for walking, the ATAC public transport system offers an extensive network of buses, trams, and metro for more intrepid urban explorers. A tip to remember: purchase your tickets in advance from small tobacco stores known as tabacchaio, and validate them as soon as you enter the metro or board the bus. THough I’ve heard you can pay with credit card on board!
A version of this article originally appeared in Fathom, October 2018.