I like my décor on the sumptuous side, which is one of the reasons I really like the Hotel Splendide Royal in Rome. Another is that it is only a six minute taxi ride up the hill from the piazza del Popolo, and I tend to measure all my Roman journeys from what is my favourite square in the Eternal City. Inside this remarkable hotel, you will find surroundings nearly as rich as those of the churches for which Rome is so famous. Puritans – who must have a miserable time in the Italian capital – might consider it ‘over the top’. But I am not a puritan. As soon as I walk into the Splendide Royal I feel that a time of jollity and indulgence is ahead. Remarkably, this 19th century palace was once the home of Rome’s Maronite community (a Christian group from the Lebanon). I suspect in those days the ‘ambiance’ was rather more restrained. But nowadays I always feel entirely at home.
My favourite square in Rome is the Piazza del Popolo. On its northern boundary is the church of Santa Maria del Popolo, wherein can be seen two of Caravaggio’s finest paintings, The Martyrdom of Saint Peter and The Conversion of Saint Paul. To the south, guarding the entrance to the Via del Corso, are the two absurdly beautiful (and very nearly identical) churches of Santa Maria dei Miracoli and Santa Maria in Montesanto. And then, as if these cultural and artistic riches were not sufficient, trying to nudge into the piazza at its south-eastern corner, there is what is widely regarded as one of the very best lodging-houses in the Eternal City – the Hotel de Russie.
Deep in the panting heart of Rome there lies the Hotel D’Inghilterra. I suspect this place has always been used to entertaining persons of taste and refinement. In the 17th century the noble Torlonia family built it to house their guests. In 1845 it became an hotel. Here have stayed Mark Twain, Gore Vidal, Gregory Peck and the Duke of Edinburgh. (And, had history permitted, would they not have made a fine quartet at dinner?) Now there come folk from all over the world – the sort who like their billets to be quiet and discreet and yet who want to be in the centre of the sights and surrounded by the most exclusive shopping.
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