If we’re ever gonna do Rome together, we better do it in style.
Those were my exact words to my partner amid all the planning for our romantic three-day getaway in Rome. While we don’t normally indulge ourselves with luxury hotels, and rarely ever go on all-inclusive holidays, I felt like our first joint trip after Covid should be one for the ages, especially after two and a half years of suspended travel privileges.
All I can say is I’m glad we gave AirBnB a miss this time, and that I’m now pretty convinced there is only one way to do Rome justice if you’re visiting as a couple on a short break:
It All Boiled Down To One Simple Choice
Rome is a bucket list destination for many of our readers, and it’s not hard to understand why. Few cities are as captivating, and evoke such a mystical imagery as the Italian capital. Dating back nearly three millennia, and being the starting point of our Western civilization, there is surely no shortage of wonders to be found here.
How to ensure, then, we could enjoy our romantic break to the max, yet still not feel overwhelmed by Rome’s enormous cultural wealth? Almost instantly, basing ourselves in an area that would help us optimize our visit, besides allowing for some quality time together became one of the top priorities.
Of course, this was our inaugural post-Covid vacation, and our long-anticipated return to Italy now that it has finally removed all of the pandemic-era entry requirements, so it couldn’t just be any hotel either. With all of this in mind, there is only one option we could have possibly narrowed it down to.
Both due to its excellent location, close to some of Rome’s top attractions, an absolute must seeing that we’d only have a few days to explore the city, and its multiple five-star ratings on Google, where it ranks as one of the best hotels, we ended up staying at the Sofitel Roma Villa Borghese. For once, Google couldn’t have been more accurate.
Checking In And First Impressions
Unlike other over-the-top, five-star Italian alberghi stuck in a permanent struggle to attain an architectural grandeur, the Sofitel in fact takes pride in being simple, efficient, and a moderately-sized boutique hotel focused, first and foremost, on well-being. That’s not say it lacks luxury – not at all. It is simply the ultimate definition of ‘less is more’.
My first thought stepping out of the taxi, and being led into the reception area, was how elegantly the Jean Philippe Nuel-styled interior seemed to, perhaps intentionally, mirror the color palette of the nearby Villa Borghese Gardens. It is sparsely decorated with vibrant green and more earthy tones, which help give the 19th century former-palace a fresher look.
Besides noticing the striking color pattern, we knew we would be well looked after as soon as reaching the front desk. Visiting Rome at the peak of the travel season, in early August, I was half expecting to face a long wait time at check-in now that Europe is overrun by visitors, and 97% of hotels report staffing shortages.
Beating the odds, the hotel didn’t look at all understaffed, or even busy on an extent. We were promptly greeted by the friendly staff, who helped us with our bags and checked us in right away. As the room wouldn’t be ready until 2pm, we were led to a waiting lounge where drinks and nibbles were served.
Even though we arrived a bit earlier than we should, we had the keys to our suite within 5 minutes of sitting down, the whole process taking less than 10 minutes overall. No check-in questionnaires needed or any bureaucratic hurdles whatsoever. The entire process was remarkably smooth and, most importantly, fast.
The Room Is A Literal Gateway To Heaven
There is a reason why the Sofitel Rome is a favorite among honeymooners: entering the suite, we were welcomed with a bottle of local wine – more specifically, the deep ruby laziale Sodale merlot – and a tray of traditional Italian macarons, immediately setting the mood and making the bright, white-on-white room feel more homely.
And it didn’t stop there.
I don’t know about you, but I just love it when hotels are genuinely concerned with reflecting the mood of a particular country or culture, and being in a cultural hub as ancient, and diverse, as Rome, that is no small feat. Here, the designer has struck the delicate balance between functionality and Roman aesthetics, and he’s done so beautifully.
In contrast with the vividly-colored reception hall, our semi-minimalist room had a much more traditional feel to it, with an atmospheric lighting that helped bring to life its few, but carefully selected visual elements. Those include some artsy wall decor and possibly my favorite thing about the entire place: the hypnotic Baroque-inspired ceiling fresco.
If you’re an art enthusiast like me, you’ll probably spend several minutes in bed, awestruck and gazing at the heavenly scene depicted. It’s not all about the beauty on the surface, though: comfort obviously plays a huge part in making a hotel truly great, and if I were to summarize our stay at the Sofitel in only two words, those would be ‘extremely cozy‘.
The suite itself comprises a large stylish bedroom, as well as an adjacent room opening onto a balcony with views over an urban park. Both feature smart TVs, bluetooth speakers, and blackout curtains to keep the excess light out. Lastly, there is a marble-built, spacious shower room with everything we needed:
- Shower caps
- Shaving creams
- Universal shaving plug
- Shower gel
- Hair dryer
- A scale
In case you were thinking just that, the Sofitel is ideal for those traveling light amid the ongoing aviation crisis, as its comprehensive list of amenities will ensure guests are covered even when they’re not bringing a wide range of toiletries at all. Having checked all of these perks in advance, we were in fact able to pack lighter, and smarter.
As we were traveling with a couple of carry-on bags only, we managed to ditch the unnecessary weight, such as hair dryers and extra liquids, knowing they would be available at our destination. Additionally, the room was equipped with a kettle, a coffeemaker coupled with different-flavored Espresso capsules, and a minibar with drinks and snacks*.
*Not complimentary, but a nice touch in the sweltering hot Roman summer when even nipping to the shop can prove challenging, and those were usually refilled every time we went back in the room, so big ups to the amazing Sofitel staff!
We Couldn’t Have Asked For A Better Location
Prior to Covid hitting, every time we traveled abroad my partner and I used to spend hours deciding what hotel suited us best, depending on our current traveling mood, and whether we were looking to experience a city’s more Bohemian or idyllic side. This time round, the Sofitel Rome was effectively a split second decision, and I will tell you why.
Although it is conveniently located on a hill in the center of Rome, only a short five to ten minute walk away from all the action, it is private enough to provide that much-needed peace and quiet amid all the hustle and bustle. I know it sounds contradicting, but this is exactly what makes the Sofitel a unique addition to the Accor portfolio.
Trust me, there is nothing less romantic about Rome than its infamous noise pollution, and how at times it can feel more like a tourist playground than Italy proper. Staying at the Sofitel, we never had to elbow our way through crowds, or even resort to ear plugs for sleeping, even though it is a stone’s throw away from some of the most visited monuments.
From a cozy nook atop Pincian Hill, the sounds of cicadas and the sea of green of the Villa Borghese Gardens, to which the Sofitel owes its name, fully eclipse the chaos below. If you’re looking for a more authentic Rome, like we so desperately craved ourselves, without being in a remote location, then this is definitely your best bet.
What Attractions Are Close To The Hotel?
From the hotel, you can easily walk up to:
- Porta Pinciana, the remains of an Ancient Roman gate (4 minutes)
- The Villa Borghese Gardens, the third largest public park in Rome and arguably the most beautiful (6 minutes)
- The Spanish Steps, an iconic staircase leading up to the Trinita dei Monti Church (9 minutes)
- The Fontana di Trevi, a landmark, elaborate 18th-century fountain (11 minutes)
- Quirinale Palace, the tenth-largest in the world (16 minutes)
- The Pantheon, a large Ancient Roman temple, now a Catholic church, dating back to the 2nd century (18 minutes)
- Piazza Navona, a public square encircled by traditional ochre-colored Italian buildings (21 minutes)
- The Theater of Marcellus, an Ancient Theater built in the year 13 BC (26 minutes)
- The Colosseum, the famous amphitheater where bloody war games were staged (28 minutes)
An extra piece of advice? Seeing that the Sofitel is a short 9-11 minute walk away from the ever-busy Spanish Steps and the Trevi Fountain, you will have the opportunity to witness the magic, and surprising quietness, of a crowd-free Rome simply by waking up early enough. We visited many of these spots between 7 and 8 am and there were barely any tourists out!
If you’re using public transport to reach other districts farther away, such as the lively Trastevere or Vatican City, the hotel is a short 7-minute walk to the Tritone/Barberini bus stop, as well as the Barberini metro station. You can, naturally, arrange taxis or private transfers in between activities – the hotel desk clerk will gladly be of assistance.
Off Path Rome, Anyone?
If there is one thing we learned about Rome during our short, albeit delightful stay is that, busy as it may be, the city’s historical struggle with mass tourism centers around only a handful of areas. On the other hand, some of the tiny streets and secret alleyways surrounding Rome’s picture-ready landmarks are hardly ever overrun by the Instagram hordes.
But we wouldn’t know where to find them, as well as numerous other hidden gems without the help of a local. Luckily, the Sofitel knew just how to respond to our demands: besides being a state-of-the-art hotel, it has teamed up with various tour guides, many of them natives who know Rome by heart, to offer guests unique experiences.
As soon as we heard this was a possibility, we opted on a morning stroll with Archeorunning, headed by Isabella Calidonna, an Italian art historian from Calabria who’s found her true calling taking tourists on walking, or jogging tours of Rome – somewhere she has been enamored with since first visiting as a child, and her home for nearly a decade.
With Isabella’s insightful comments and impressive knowledge of Italian History, thanks to her years spent as a student at the prestigious University of Siena, we were able to see the Eternal City under an entirely different light. Did you know, for instance, that Piazza Navona has been built from the dissembled parts of an Ancient Roman stadium?
Or that there are secret markings on the walls indicating precisely how high the waters used to rise during the Ancient Era floods? Me neither, up until going on this tour! The Sofitel is not only distinctive for its stellar service and deluxe accommodations, they know how to make your Rome trip a lot more fun, by hooking you up with some of the best guides in town.
We Seriously Need To Talk About Those Killer Rooftop Views
And the food. Oh my God, the food.
No trip to Italy would be complete without a world-class culinary experience, and this is part of the reason why the Sofitel was such a no-brainer for us. It is the proud home of the Settimo Roman Cuisine & Terrace, specializing in Roman delicacies and a sought-after hotspot usually requiring advance booking, for two very simple reasons:
- The food is just downright gorgeous
- The terrace views are to die for
Matching the ground-floor’s nature-evoking interior, Sofitel’s rooftop restaurant is adorned with similar patterns of lush green with golden-tinged edges, blending in perfectly with the many jardinieres on display. Walking onto the terrace, guests are met with a jaw-dropping panorama of the city of Rome.
Dining at Settimo, you can enjoy views of:
- The Campo Marzio neighborhood
- The two whitewashed towers of the Trinita dei Monti, above the Spanish Steps
- St Peter’s Basilica, the largest church in the world, located in the sovereign Vatican City
- The outline of the Vatican Museums
As guests, we were able to sample the Settimo menu extensively, both during breakfast and dinner. For the breakfast buffet, we were plied with an abundance of fruit, fresh juices, warm Italian pastries fresh out the oven, croissants and pains au chocolat that clearly pay homage to Accor’s French inclinations, and even some old American classics.
Scrambled eggs, bacon, sausages, you name it – and if you’re an early bird like us, you’ll be thrilled to know the buffet operates from 6:30 up until 10:30. In Rome, having breakfast at the crack of dawn proved a game changer for us, considering there was so much to see, and so little time, that every single, precious hour mattered.
As for the breakfast menu, we were so impressed by the quality of the food that we decided to return for the alfresco, intimate dinner, even though we would normally have preferred eating out at one of the local restaurants. And wow, what a brilliant way to wrap up what had already been a memorable last few days.
To watch the sunset colors drop like a veil over Rome’s more than 900 church domes, as we were treated to the Italian favorites pasta and wine, all the while sinking into that early summer eve lethargy felt dangerously close to a religious experience. I believe they have a specific term for that in Italian. Perhaps…
Dolce far niente?
The meals never took long to arrive, either, and we did have plenty of amuse-bouches to manage our appetite ahead of the main course – namely ripe, meaty black olives, cheese sticks, peanuts, crisps and whatnot. Needless to say, this was the Rome we felt we deserved for our first official post-pandemic outing.
My Sofitel Rome Highlights
- Super smooth check-in and check-out, taking minutes if not seconds
- Romantic, more chilled vibes throughout
- Welcoming gifts and personal touches to the room
- Friendliness of staff
- Minibar with complimentary drinks
- Reliable, relatively fast internet
- Amazing local tips and guided tour options
- Close to maybe 90% of all major Roman attractions
- Out-of-this-world Italian food
- Unparalleled city views
All in all, a 10 out of 10 without a shadow of a doubt. Might be back for that pending honeymoon – that is, if Trevi Fountain wishes do count for something in the end.
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This article originally appeared on TravelOffPath.com