The hottest hotel openings in the Eternal City
Walk around Rome these days and there is a palpable vibe of Something Interesting Happening. I felt it before (both pre and post lockdown) with the arrival of exciting art exhibitions and new ways of seeing old sites, and the opening of restaurants and boutiques, but this vibe is different. The centro storico has something going on, not just the constant flow of revenge travel. The Eternal City is changing mentalities and quite possibly the cityscape with a whole new galaxy of five star hotels in the historic center.
Bulgari, Six Senses, Rosewood, Four Seasons. These names are pretty familiar for most metropooli where business and pleasure is fine tuned. But not in Rome, at least until this year 2023 when no less than nine new hotels of opulent design, premium amenities, world-class service and top quality names have opened or are opening within the city center and just blocks from each other. Redefining luxury travel in Rome, they are also changing the landscape and vibe of the city. I’ve had a chance to visit several of them.
The arrival of Bulgari Rome in is a Big Deal and not just because the hometown luxury heritage brand was founded here in 1884. This is a huge hospitality move in the very center of the Eternal City, shifting the perspective on what luxury is in Rome while also tilting the landscape back to Campo Marzio, the center of the historic center.
Bulgari’s residence in Piazza Augusto Imperatore is hands down the most iconic address in the city. This is where Rome’s most beloved emperor chose to build his monumental tomb – the Mausoleo di Augusto. Nearly 2000 years later, Benito Mussolini brought in Vittorio Ballio Morpurgo to flank the square with Rationalist palaces, and a century later Richard Meier inaugurated the city’s only new Museo del Ara Pacis. Historically and architectonically, the piazza is a amazing.
Personally, I was thrilled when Bulgari took over the former INPS (Social Security) building, a sprawling travertine palazzo with incredible details including 20th century mosaics promoting workers’ rights. The renovations meant conservation of the palazzo and its details and converting the offices into 114 rooms and suites.
The rooms are spacious sand luminous, especially those facing the Piazza. Each room and suite is a symphony of contemporary design and gorgeous materials designs by ACPV Architects Antonio Citterio Patricia Viel who worked with Italian artisans and took inspiration from Ancient Rome.
The biggest and baddest room is the 3200-square-foot Bulgari Suite, with its 38,000 euro a night price tag. It is gorgeous, but most fabulous is the bathtub made from a single block of arabesque Corchia marble.
The Bulgari Spa is a 16,000-square-foot wellness oasis, of eight treatment rooms, fitness center, indoor swimming pool, hair salon et al. And the vibe is definitely roman with its marble columns, mosaic tiles. You’ll be channelling your inner Nero.
What I really think will be cause the shift for the historic center is the four food and drink areas. In decades past, this piazza was a favorite Roman hangout for Sunday brunch and aperitivi. Now, it is destined to be the coveted spot for Rome’s glitterati thanks to phenom chef Niko Romito. A Bulgari habituè, the Michelin-starred Romito has curated Il Ristorante Niko Romito, his eponymous rooftop restaurant, along with the Champagne Bar, Il Caffè and Bulgari Dolci. Move over, Hotel de’ Russie, Bulgari Roma is the Eternal City’s new “it” location.
InterContinental Rome Ambasciatori Palace
I have always loved Via Veneto, it’s Rome’s La Dolce Vita landmark street Via Veneto for its serpentine layout and beautiful buildings. And I’m always happy to see a centurion reclaim its territory like the Ambasciatori Palace.
Built in 1900, the neo-Renaissance palazzo built at the turn of the century was Rome’s favorite address for the glitterati, the literati, ambassadors and patricians. About three years ago, Ambasciatori shut for a top-to-bottom restoration and renovation, reopening this may.
Designed by IA Interior Architects, the hotel’s revamped 160 rooms and suites to revisit Grand Hotel style- a kind of neoclassical meets contemporary design with wonderfully wide and luminous spaces that are throwbacks to yesteryear luxury but feel entirely contemporary.
In a clever twist, the InterContinental has imported the beloved Italian restaurant Scarpetta from New York City, which makes me chuckle. But what really charms me is Charlie’s Rooftop bar, one of Rome’s most beautiful terraces with La Vita è Bella views.
The Rome EDITION
Before The Rome EDITION soft opened, I had a coffee with Frank Roberts, Edition’s Vice President of Brand Management where we talked about what it means to be in Rome and in particular, its hidden location above Piazza Barberini. We both came to the conclusion that Edition’s arrival in Rome is a game changer for the Piazza Barberini neighborhood. I’m looking forward to seeing if that happens.
At the edge of Via Veneto, EDITION is in the Barberini/Trevi neighborhood which gets a lot of traffic but not a lot of notice. What I like is that the hotel is 21st century glamour. Hotelier Ian Schrager’s partnership with Marriott spawned a new approach to luxury hospitality that emphasized casual elegance and authenticity. Its 93 rooms and suites are hip and styled for a younger clientele, and I like that. I also love the signature Punch Room cocktail bar and rooftop terrace (with tiny pool).
Six Senses Rome
My first idea when I walked into Six Senses Rome was that I need to applaud. Finally, a beautiful, top class hotel is located on the lower end of Via del Corso, an unbeatable location just a short walk from almost all of Rome’s most iconic sites, like the Trevi Fountain, Roman Forum, Pantheon and Colosseum.
The juggernaut resort spent several years and a huge investment in restoring the 18th century palazzo and its beautiful marble and travertine. Designer Patricia Urquiola embraced elements of the historic palazzo’s aesthetic, like the original marbles and ornamentations, while incorporating modern-day style, and worked with a local curator to bring in beautiful contemporary art by Italian artists. The luminous 96 rooms showcase Urquiola’s preternatural flair for combining color, materials and curves.
Six Senses is known for wellness, and as the Rome hotel is the very first urban property, I can pretty much say it’s an urban oasis with an incredible bi-level spa. The entrance level is devoted to wellness treatments (from facials and massages to sound baths), changing rooms and a very lovely buffet of healthy snacks.
The lower level has the Six Senses Alchemy Bar where you can make natural soaps and other fun things, relaxation rooms, and my favourites: hot, cold and tepid Roman baths, saunas, hammam and chromatherapy showers.snacks.
What I love about Six Senses are its location, design of the rooms (I suggest booking one with a terrace) and the panoramic rooftop. What I didn’t like was the cafeteria-style restaurant, but you’re going out anyway, right?
Anantara Palazzo Naiadi Rome Hotel
Even though it quietly opened in 2021 (or was that 2022?), Anantara Palazzo Naiadi makes my list because since opening its doors, the hotel has constantly upgraded its rooms, restaurants and spa, opening officially in March 2023. And it is located in the coolest piazza in the city – Piazza della Repubblica, a square with two crescent-shaped colonnades surrounding a fabulous fountain of bathing nymphs (naiad) atop the location of the Baths of Diocletian. Yep, it’s incredibly historic and cinematic.
The palatial hotel is a show-stopper, from its elegant white-on-white lobby to its panoramic rooftop. Its 232 rooms and suites feature high ceilings and large bathrooms, and again are decorated in that contemporary meets classic decor. Anantara tapped executive chef Heros de Agostinis to helm its three restaurants including the groundfloor’s Monkey Bar (a very sexy nook) and restaurant INEO and rooftop lounge SEEN.
What doesn’t get mentioned is the hotel is literally built with and on history. The fourth floor is the Clementino Wing (named for Pope Clement X) has original exposed wooden ceiling beams from when it was a papal granary, while the subterranean level has an excavation site of the ancient baths.
As far as quiet openings are concerned, Palazzo Ripetta has so far been the most quiet. Supposedly it opened in December but it has been off the radar awaiting its Summer 2023 inauguratio. Located on via Ripetta, a street in the Tridente neighborhood leading to Piazza del Popolo, the 78-room boutique gives off a very intimate vibe, more akin to private apartments and ,pied-a-terres. I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying a drink at the cocktail but haven’t had a chance to check out designer Fausta Gaetani transformation of the baroque palazzo into richly colored, lavishly contemporary rooms and suites.
Did I mention the location is key? Like Bulgari, it is just off via del Corso, but the via Ripetta address is just enough away from the teen screams.
You heard it hear first. Rome is about to go super nova with even more five stars that will cover the city in incredible buildings and neighbourhoods. The aforementioned Via Ripetta will also open architectural fete ROMEO Roma later this fall with a 74-room boutique hotel designed by Zaha Hadid Studios. The team has been tight lighted about the details- I know there will be indoor and outdoor pools, a rooftop lounge and Sisley Paris spa. Design-wise, I am guessing it will have a vibe somewhat similar to flagship property ROMEO Napoli, which means slick cutting-edge design, dark colours (I hope not), and a lot of contemporary art from the owner’s collection. Rumor has it that ROMEO plans to bring little Naples to the Eternal City with a Neapolitan-inspired bistro and a restaurant helmed by superstar chefAlain Ducasse.
Via Veneto is a landmark with so many epic buildings like the original headquarters of Italy’s Banca Nazionale del Lavoro, a 1930s Rationalist palazzo.which will host Rosewood Rome (2024). TBD on Nobu Hotel Rome, another storied landmark of La Dolce Vita, restyled and renovated by founders Robert DeNiro and Nobu Matsuhisa. Nobu’s mammoth 122 accommodations include the signature Nobu Suite and an expansive wellness center. Expect a Nobu restaurant and room service sushi, available 24/7.
The Four Seasons has a lot of faith in the city bringing in not one but two hotels by 2025: Four Seasons Palazzo del Rovere , which long ago used to be my favourite hotel in the city simply because it was a 15th century palazzo decorated with frescoes by Pinturicchio in the rooms and just a three-minute walk from St. Peter’s Square. I still can’t believe Four Seasons has taken it over. You’ll want to book here for the 2025 Jubilee. Likewise, I am excited to see the Four Seasons Palazzo Marini in Piazza San Silverstro, an open and undervalued piazza behind via del Corso (and the Apple store).
In Rione Sallustiano, the tiny neighborhood behind Via Veneto and the US Embassy, Mandarin Oriental is opening its own Eternal City outpost in 2024/25 while across town, the Orient Express opens its very first hotel at Piazza Santa Maria sopra Minerva – you know the piazza with Bernini’s elephant- taking over the former Grand Hotel de la Minerve. This is guaranteed to have the best view of Pantheon’s dome.
Latest and potentially last to openings so far is BRACH, the entirely new build designed by super star architect Philippe Starck. New builds are very rare in Rome, and pretty much impossible in the historic center, that’s why BRACH is just outside the wall in Piazzale Flaminio- closest enough to the center but not in the center.
A version of this article originally appeared in Forbes Travel, May 2023.