The Eternal City is intoxicating, with no end to its must-see attractions, from the Colosseum to the Sistine Chapel and the Trevi Fountain.
Exciting and vibrant, it can also be overwhelming, so when you’ve walked until your feet are crying out for a soothing “rituale bellezza piedi”, head to Aldrovandi with its La Mer spa.
This five-star Leading Hotels of the World (LHW) haven of delights is in the heart of Rome, yet located away from the madness, opposite the Villa Borghese, Rome’s third largest public park. A former convent, this 19th century villa is still a place of sanctuary in the city’s smartest neighbourhood, with its own lush gardens, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, serious restaurant with renowned chef, and spa offering endless pampering with Crème de Mer products in treatment rooms, sauna, steam room, jacuzzi pool and fitness suite.
Once you’re refreshed and revitalised there are complimentary lifts to and from the Spanish Steps and Via Veneto so you can resume your hectic sightseeing schedule before being transported back to flop down once more on a sunlounger poolside, prosecco in hand. Bliss.
Budget or boutique?
There’s nothing budget about this place whatsoever. Your credit card will take a serious bashing, but then La Dolce Vita doesn’t come cheap. However, if you check the website, prices vary depending when you travel.
One of 92 rooms, our junior suite with its cooling polished stone floors was decorated in calming greys, greens and creams. It had a sitting area, writing desk, acres of wardrobe space and a vast en-suite with pristine white bath and shower, separate toilet, plus toiletries from elegant Italian fashion house Etro. A welcome platter of canapés, fruit and champagne was a lovely touch and the view out over the pool and garden only added to the sense of tranquillity.
Wining and dining
Assaje restaurant is regarded as one of the best in the capital and has both indoor and outdoor seating with tables among the trees overlooking the swimming pool. The fare served up here is for serious foodies and will take diners on a culinary tour of Italy. Resident Chef Claudio Mengoni and two Michelin star executive chef Andrea Migliaccio head a talented team who serve up dishes that really are works of art in a city where that’s not a phrase to be bandied about lightly. Menu highlights include hazelnut crust loin of lamb, spring onions, tomato confit and Taggiasca olives, and beef-tail-filled tortellini with bitter Neopolitan chicory pear and Castelmagno cheese fondue (from the tasting menu, five courses, €120).
Worth getting out of bed for
You’re spoiled for choice. There’s St Peter’s Basilica and the Sistine Chapel and the Spanish Steps for a start. For me the ancient Roman majesty of The Pantheon, with its vast concrete dome, is a must, and the Trevi Fountain is spectacular with its sugar-icing frivolity. Beware flying coins as enthusiastic visitors fling them over their shoulders into the fountain, legend having it that this will ensure a return visit.
Or you could while away the day at the hotel, lying in the shade of the garden’s mature trees, breathing in the heady scent of the flowers and having a splash in the pool before heading to the spa for a regenerating facial (75 minutes for €225) or that feet beauty treatment (60 minutes for €90), both using the transformative powers of La Mer’s miracle broth.
Then, since you are right next to the Villa Borghese park with 226 acres of gardens, statues and bust-lined paths, fountains and artificial lakes, take a wander round there and drop into the fascinating natural history museum, the Museo Civico di Zoologia.
There’s a cute sweetie bar with candy piled high in glass jars; and there are courtesy bikes lined up outside the hotel that you can take for a spin around the Villa Borghese.
Tossing a coin in the Trevi fountain, it was of returning to Aldrovandi that I wished.
• Rooms start from €889/£700. Rates inclusive of 10% VAT, service charge included, city tax €7 per person per night not included; daily buffet breakfast not included. Aldrovandi Villa Borghese, Rome, Via Ulisse Aldrovandi, 15, 00197 Roma, Italy