The Westin Excelsior Rome is one of four Excelsior hotels in Italy, jewels of stately style and classic elegance in Venice, Florence, Naples, and Rome. The Westin Excelsior Rome presides over the grand curve in the Via Veneto, a high-fashion boulevard that just last year received a total face-lift.
For most Americans, the Italian phrase 'la dolce vita' refers to the 'sweet life' of style and ease possible for a person who fills their days with good food, good company, and leisure. So to say that 'la dolce vita' is alive and well at the Westin Excelsior is not to refer to the Fellini film of half a century ago that took place in the social milieu of the Via Veneto then, but to invoke a relaxed and elegant lifestyle today.
My experience of staying at the Westin Excelsior Rome began even before I left the US. I mentioned to a friend that I would be stopping there, and suddenly she was overcome with what I call the 'Westin swoon.' She asked if the hotel would have a 'Heavenly Bed' and I said that I expected so, since the 'Heavenly Bed' is standard in all Westin hotels. She then gave a rapturous sigh.
The Westin bed is a signature innovation that has transformed the experience of sleeping in four- and five-star hotels around the world. Begun by Westin in 1999, its success has been so phenomenal, that every major chain has put in place a similar arrangement of crisp white bedding and a selection of pillows on a premier mattress. But that was just playing catch up. Even if another bed could be found that was superior, the visitor to a Westin begins enjoying a good night sleep in anticipation from the moment the reservation is confirmed. Travel is tiring, and a vacation or business trip cannot be successful if the person has trouble sleeping. In a sleep-deprived populace, many with insomnia, familiarity is as important as comfort when it comes to dropping off, and knowing what the bed will be gives them that added assurance of a peaceful slumber. (And although it will not fit into one's suitcase, Westin will let you 'take it home' in that you can purchase it through their website at www.westin.com/heavenlybed.)
The Westin brand also means the hotel will have Westin Workout rooms for those who need that hour with the gym equipment to keep them fit and focused while they travel. Happily, the Excelsior also has a pool, an uncommon luxury in a Rome hotel of any grade.
Even among five-star hotels there are grades and levels of excellence. One measure I take is of the arrival. I am not as interested in a grand facade as I am of a quiet entry. Arriving at the Excelsior does not mean being dropped at the curb, but deposited under its covered porticos. Coming and going is discrete, comfortable and calm, whether taking a cab to dinner on a rainy night, or packing the car for departure.
Normally, one does not notice the hotel reception staff of a topnotch hotel, as the staff of such places is almost universally excellent. But as a woman traveler who often goes solo, I have noticed that when I check into a hotel and see a parity in numbers between women and men working behind the check-in and concierge counters, I feel more comfortable in the hotel and confident of its professionalism. I don't have any objective proof that this is so; I simply remark on my own subjective reaction. Women in suits are 'my people'' in a way, and it makes me feel more at home if there are others like me around. I felt that sense of welcome at the Excelsior with its gender-balanced reception. The hotel staff I had encountered other places in Rome up to that point had been almost exclusively male.
I ran into a friend while there, another solo woman traveler. She was very clear in her reasons for choosing the Excelsior: the Starwood brand. In Rome for only three days on business, she wanted to be absolutely confident of a smooth, trouble-free stay, to be assured of a good night's rest and to have all the services and amenities she required to be provided without a hitch. 'Frankly, I wanted an American-run company with an 800 number I could call. In case there was a problem, I knew I could get it handled hassle-free.' Getting Starwood points was an added incentive for her, but the assurance of Starwood service was the deciding factor. The wonderful thing about the Excelsior, and its sister Starwood hotel in Rome, The St. Regis Grand, is that they are wholly Italian in the warmth of their hospitality and completely American in their comfort and reliability.
The Excelsior opened in 1906 and underwent a complete renovation in 2002 to bring the hotel back to its original splendor. Rooms were redone in two styles: Imperial and Biedermeier. The Imperial style rooms have lively colors schemes such as red and emerald green and restored antique marbles. The effect is that one does feel like royalty in those rooms. The Biedermeier rooms have lighter colors on the walls and warm wood doors and accents for a more reserved, masculine tone that leaves one with a feeling of retrained, refined elegance.
I stayed in a Biedermeier junior suite that had allowed me to work and entertain guests in style. The marble foyer, the brocades and chandeliers, the furniture that was both beautiful and comfortable all created a sumptuous space. Even though only a junior suite, it had a half-bath off the foyer, which was especially welcome when I entertained guests and business associates, as they didn't have to go through my bedroom and use my personal bath while visiting.
The Doney Restaurant, an elegant and polished hot spot in black and gray, was redesigned to match the decor of the ONICE bar, a trendy spot for cocktails until 1 a.m. The recent renovations to the Via Veneto have broadened the sidewalk, making even more space for outdoor tables in that particularly Italian style, elegantly casual.
Sunday brunch at the Doney is a singularly sumptuous banquet. The price rivals that of a full lunch or dinner, but that is simply because the quality of the food and the preparation is just as high as at any other meal. The sausages were the best Italian sausages I have ever eaten. The freshly baked cakes and breads were too numerous to be sampled in a single day. The staff is attentive and gracious. If I were only planning to have coffee and a pastry, your euros might be better off spent in a cafe or on room service. But for a full American style meal for breakfast, the brunch has anything you could ask for and more.
Travelers for whom price is no object can treat themselves to an exquisite living space on the most sparkling avenue in Rome, La Villa Cupola. While I was there, I had the chance to tour the two-floor suite that occupies the corner under the signature cupola of the Excelsior and which is without equal in the city. Occupying over 11,000 square feet, the Villa Cupola has a private fitness room, sauna and steam bath, Jacuzzi and sun deck, not to mention its own movie theater. With magnificent marble floors and equally magnificent furnishings, it is a palace within the white palace that is the Excelsior.
To stay in the Excelsior, whether in the Villa La Cupola or any one of the other 31 suites and 287 guest rooms, is to stay in the place that led the cultural trends of Rome for the last 100 years. When it was built, the area was more suburban that urban. The hotel proved a magnet and the Via Veneto became THE Via Veneto precisely because of the people and the shops that the hotel attracted. So it continues today, for anyone who wants to taste 'la dolce vita' in the Eternal City, the Westin Excelsior Hotel remains THE hotel.
The Westin Excelsior Rome
Via Vittorio Veneto, 125
Ph. +39 06 4708 1
Fax +39 06 4826 205
Published on Feb 28, 2010