The St. George Hotel in Rome, a sleek and stylish 5-star oasis, offers travelers who value privacy and quiet comfort a haven in the heart of the Eternal City. With a discrete entrance on the historic Via Giulia, you would walk right past the hotel if you didn't know it was there. The essence of elegant reserve, this hotel does nothing to call attention to itself as the more showy palaces do in other parts of the city with their Belle Epoque flamboyance. The restrained, quiet luxury here is like the street it inhabits, which is one of subdued antique shops and fine boutiques. People speak of the Via Giulia in hushed tones, and that 'hush' is exactly what you feel envelop you like a cashmere sweater the minute you enter the St. George Hotel.
The Via Giulia is named after the Renaissance Pope Julius II. Julius II was Michelangelo's pope, the one who commissioned the painting of the Sistine Chapel ceiling.
Located as it is on this historic street, any renovation had to leave untouched all artifacts of Rome history. The task of modernizing while preserving is a central tension that reveals itself everywhere in the art and design of Rome. The hotel interior was put in the hands of architect Lorenzo Bellini, who created an environment at once up-to-date and evoking eternity. In many ways as spare as a monastery, the contrast between the hubbub of the Roman streets and the cloistered serenity of the interior of the St. George Hotel gives you a sense of refuge the minute you walk in.
The ceilings are set on a human scale rather than the operatic ballroom proportions of many fancier (though not finer) hotels. Low curving arches and long straight lines complement each other as they define the space.
The furniture is custom-designed and reveals the same balance of arc and line. The monochromatic palette of colors for the hotel of muted tans and taupes, set off by dark brown wood and black leather, are those found in the natural travertine stones all over Rome and bring Nature into this highly aesthetic space.
Occasional fantastic ornaments serve to accentuate the simplicity of the spatial design. The overall effect is not bland but simple like a solitaire diamond ring, whose setting is not so much to be noticed for itself but as a perfect presentation of the gem, which in the case of the St. George Hotel, is the visitor.
The rooms and baths are only moderate in size for the expectations of many Americans, but have the same feeling of calm and cultured quiet that the rest of the hotel provides.
The flat screen television is also a computer with access to the internet, so that you can check your email from your room. The keyboard is wireless, so you can do so from bed if you like. And the fact that the hotel is brand spanking new should not be overlooked. They are offering a special introductory rate that is almost a 50% discount off the rack rate for the rooms. And the staff is beaming with a proprietary pride, like doting parents whose child is about to enter a beauty contest.
When I arrived, the hotel had only been open a week or so, and a few glitches surfaced during my stay, but those should all be worked out by the time the high season begins in April. The spa was not yet open, nor were the gardens and the roof terrace, all of which should be finished by March. The rooftop terrace with views overlooking the historic center and across the Tiber to Trastevere and the Farnese Gardens will be a stunning addition to a lovely hotel.
There is another patio garden under construction that should be finished by spring, making this a truly Roman retreat with its open-air private courtyard and rooftop for eating and relaxing under the sun and moon.
I must confess that I preferred being in Rome in winter. It was not bitter cold, the autumnal rains were mostly past and the streets relatively free of crowds. The city was mine to enjoy with a coat and hat. For my companion, who does not like the heat, the winter was actually preferable to the draining temperatures of summer. And this cozy, discrete hotel is an marvelous off-season haven.
Whether you go in winter or summer, if you want modern comfort in the middle of historic Rome, to be within walking distance of almost all the sights, and to feel safe and secluded when not out in public, the St. George in Rome is a perfect gem.
The St. George Hotel
Via Giulia, 62
telephone: (39 country code) 06-686611
6 junior suites
I Sofa di Via Giulia Restaurant
Spa with whirlpool, fitness room, sauna and steam room