The magnificent lobby with its lovingly restored opulence takes you back to the glories of the golden era of grand hotels. At the same time, in a masterstroke of design perfectly achieved, the hotel is vitalized by the incorporation of some of the best work of contemporary Roman artists. The artwork is incorporated throughout the hotel, used as a motif for designating rooms and suites and stimulating the imagination at every turn. The result is a palpable sense of living in the grace of culture moving through time.
The St. Regis Grand has always been at the leading edge of style. When the hotel first opened in 1894, the great Cesar Ritz almost single-handedly transformed Rome into a cosmopolitan city. Until that point, upper class social gatherings were in private palazzos only. Uprisings by Vatican supporters against the House of Savoy, malaria, and a population of less than half a million limited the entertainment options for the Roman elite.
Its success does not simply rest on its legacy. A complete 10-month, 35 million dollar renovation was completed a few years ago that included over 12,000 square meters of marble, 70 kilometers of cornices, 2300 plaster decorations and 1000 doors in 161 rooms and 23 suites. Where the antique marble inlaid in the floors could not be repaired, the replacement marble used was also antique. At the same time, no expense was spared in modernizing the underpinnings of the rooms and baths. Modern amenities augmented the classical, with up-to-date security, high-speed internet access and the latest multimedia equipment. However, the ubiquitous modernTV screens are tucked away in cabinets, so that if you don't want to watch, you don't have to have that empty black square staring back at you.
Directly behind the lobby is the ballroom. The Salone Ritz is one of the most requested in Europe for its beauty and for the spell it casts over events under its marvelous frescoes. The US Embassy held its 2004 election night party there and the spirit of common enjoyment smoothed over the partisan edges as it brought the attendees together much in the way I imagine the aristocracy, cardinals, ambassadors and members of the new Parliament of Italy must have put aside their differences as came in carriages through the snow to Cesar Ritz's grand opening reception and concert on January 11, 1894.
The colors are predominantly Roman reds and golds, the upholstery plush with luxury fabrics and gilt edges. The amenities are modern and the technology up-to-date. The effect is elegant and comfortable at the same time.
Both bed and bath are held to the standards of the Starwood brand, so the comfort and cleanliness are absolutely wonderful. The baths are marble, with double sinks, fine fixtures and plush robes. Baths have both shower and tub. Beds have firm mattresses and gleaming white linens.
The most elegant of the suites is the Royal Suite, a collection of rooms that have literally housed royalty. For those who seek the best in privacy as well as luxury, the Grand Hotel Royal Suite is a golden oasis. It has a sleeping wing and an entertainment wing, with options for closing off the whole section of the hotel to include the suite and a corridor of rooms for staff and entourage. It is also possible to rent the public half of the suite for private dinners or events if someone does not need to stay in the sleeping quarters.
My favorite space, however, was the Designer Suite. The moment you walk in, you feel as if you could take up residence and make it your home in Rome. Elegant, sophisticated and inviting, the artwork infuses you with a sense of aliveness that makes everyday living feel extraordinary. To stay there while in Rome is to transform your experience of the entire city. I loved it.
The St. Regis Hotel is not just a place to sleep; it is one of the best places in Rome to eat. And that is saying something, given the quality of dining in the city.
The St. Regis, in the restaurant as in the bar and the hotel itself, has established a program called the 'Wines of Italy' which allows you to order a broad selection of fine Italian wines by the glass instead of by the bottle. This unique innovation lets you taste and experience wines from among a selection of 32 labels from all over Italy. To be freed from choosing a whole bottle allows someone like myself who often travels alone to have the perfect wine for the dish I order. Should you want a bottle, the 600-label wine list is the province of the Restaurant Manager, Federico Galligani, an enthusiastic sommelier. The wine cellar, di Vino, also permits guests to visit and engage in wine tastings and even dine in complete tranquility.
Le Grand Bar is the place to go for tea in the afternoon or a cocktail in the evening. Even a quick cup of coffee from a table overlooking the lobby feels refined and timeless. Drinks are elaborate, artistically presented with sprigs of mint, spirals of orange and lemon rind intertwined, or fresh gardenias.
To stay at the St. Regis Grand Hotel is to not simply visit Rome from a hotel, but to be a part of the elegance and glory of Rome every moment you are there at the hotel as well. The golden glow of the hotel's living history colors your every experience of Rome and your place among the timeless parade of the Eternal City.
The St. Regis Grand Hotel, Rome
Via Vittorio E. Orlando, 3 Rome
Phone: (+39 for Italy ) (06) 47091