THE PINES OF ROME
ONE IS A GRAND HOTEL ON A HILL WITH STUPENDOUS VIEWS AND A HISTORY OF GLAMOUR; THE OTHER IS A GEM OF CHIC DESIGN TUCKED AWAY IN A LANE – BOTH ARE STEEPED IN NOSTALGIA FOR THE CITY’S MANY PASTS.
Hotels Eden and De’ Ricci, embodying old glamour and new chic, are two contrasting ways to experience the Eternal City.
Once upon a time (1889, to be precise) a grand hotel opened on a patrician hill overlooking Rome. It was the first luxury hotel in Italy to furnish guests with a lift, electricity, heat and running water, and its reception halls and suites gleamed with rare marble and fine antiques. In its early 20thcentury years, the guest book was graced with names such as Asturias and Bourbon, and in later decades, with ones such as Sharif and Wells, Rossellini and Bergman. Throughout the 70s and 80s, the maestro Federico Fellini favoured its worldfamous roof garden and terrace, with its staggering views of the historic centre, for conducting his press interviews. It was, among the world’s well-heeled travelling classes, a bona-fide Place To Be. Cut to 2017, and the Hotel Eden – acquired by the Dorchester Collection in 2013, and reopened last April, after an 18-month renovation – is once again a nexus of the great, the good and the glamorous. Its interiors have been completely refashioned; its rooms and suites consolidated from 121 to 98, creating vaster, more luxurious accommodations; its restaurants, including the world-renowned La Terrazza, reinvigorated under the aegis of the formidably talented (and utterly charming) Fabio Ciervo, a former protégé of Michel Roux; and a full-service “urban” spa deftly fitted into its subterranean level.
Such full-scale renovation projects are always a creative and political tightrope walk, in which respect must be paid equally to tradition and progress (and, of course, to budgets, municipal regulations, and the personal proclivities of longtime VIP guests). Mercifully, the Dorchester team – which has form with such tip-totoe makeovers, not least among them that of the Hotel Bel-Air in Los Angeles, in 2014 – has honoured the hotel’s patrician bones and illustrious past while ushering it firmly into the 21st century.
The designers Bruno Moinard and Claire Bétaille, of Agence 4bi et Associés, who between them have overseen the look of the Fondation Cartier and Chateau Latour (as well as projects for the flagship Dorchester Hotel, in London), have brought a rigour to the lobby’s public spaces and rooms alike. The former, especially, are far more boldly delineated than before, the monochrome marble floors contrasting vividly with a coffered ceiling now entirely clad in glowing gilt; the entrance lobby flows seamlessly up a half-stair and into La Libreria, a new bar-lounge awash in sumptuous russet and saffron leather, warm backlighting, and rich burl wood.
In the rooms, this assertiveness gives way to a softer palette of creams and greys. They’ve struck some as not especially imaginative, but look closely: the sophisticated juxtapositions of texture and subtle shade-contrasting show a master’s hand at work. They’re also supremely comfortable, with vast baths alternately showcasing veined white marble and tiny, beautiful metallic terrazzo tiles; leather-upholstered wardrobes; and the (love-it-or-hate-it) in-room tablet-touch technology for which Dorchester Collection hotels are known. And clever touches abound: in the gorgeous Bellavista
Penthouse Suite, guests are greeted with the Eden’s own in-house compilation of classic Italian pop songs of the 60s and 70s – on vinyl.
The superb restaurants, meanwhile – the fifth-floor La Terrazza and the more laid-back alfresco rooftop venue, Il Giardino – are luring much of Roma bene in to air-kiss, gossip, and savour Ciervo’s exquisitely plated interpretations of regional, often seafood-centric dishes. Both spaces owe their ethereally sleek looks to Patrick Jouin and Sanjit Manku, who’ve done Alain Ducasse’s restaurants at sister hotels the Plaza Athénée in Paris and the Dorchester. But up here, as in all those decades past, the thing is still That View: a 200-degree panorama over placid cupolas, ancient temples and umbrella pines – now chicly reframed.
Far below, in the jumble of old Rome, is the rione, or district, of Regola, a felicitous accretion of low-rise buildings and aristocratic 14th and 15th-century churches and palaces; the beating heart of Rome’s centro storico, home to both the Campo de’ Fiori’s happy chaos and the resplendent symmetry of the Palazzo Farnese. Here, on a tiny lane just off the noble Via Giulia, is the Hotel de’ Ricci, which opened in late May.
The joint project of creative directors Daria Reina and Andrea Ferolla (founders of Chez Dédé, the achingly chic concept store on the Via de Monserrato) and Lorenzo Lisi (the proprietor of nearby Pierluigi, one of Rome’s finest – and most perennially rammed – seafood restaurants), the Hotel De’ Ricci sits behind an unassuming four-story palazzino façade, marked only by a lantern glowing next to a glass door. It houses just eight suites, each totally individual in layout and design; a dimly-lit cocktail bar swathed in rich velvet, called Charade; and a spectacular subterranean wine cellar with some 1500 bottles, replete with boutique and bluechip Italian producers.
Lisi – who acquired the palazzo over a decade ago and, impressed by Ferolla and Reina’s aesthetic, invited them to design the interiors – wanted to realise a longnurtured vision of easeful, tailor-made, vaguely nostalgic hospitality with a food-wine experience at its core. Wine is thus uniquely inherent to the De’ Ricci story: many of the super-competent young staffers are accredited sommeliers, and guests have full access to that cellar, which is run on an honesty basis. Bespoke in-suite collections are also crafted for each of them by general manager Flavio Scannavino, based on their regional and varietal preferences.
Ferolla and Reina have seen brilliantly to the nostalgia factor, via a design narrative that nods to the 1960s heyday of Roman style: suites boast whimsical wall murals painted by Ferolla (who’s also a fashion illustrator known for his naughty Gallic-influenced sketches of long-limbed, déshabillé young ladies), and collections of prime mid-20th-century furniture are artfully grouped in every space, meticulously refurbished with artisanal textiles from producers Reina features at Chez Dédé. Floors are of rich chestnut; bed linens are hand-embroidered; bathrooms are clad in sexy black subway tile, with brass- and nickel-edged bevelled mirrors and amenities created for the hotel by the Franco-Lebanese cult perfumer, Francis Kurkdjian.
It’s light years stylistically from the dame up on the hill, to be sure; but the Hotel De’ Ricci, with its surprising charms, has its own, highly original take on hospitality alla romana one that looks set to create an equally unique buzz. dorchestercollection.com hoteldericci.com
Up here the thing is still That View: a 200-degree panorama over placid cupolas, ancient temples and umbrella pines.
Clockwise, the Hotel De’ Ricci’s lobby, breakfast on a bedroom terrace, a bedroom with mural by Andrea Ferolla, and the hotel bar