Hotel Eden, Rome
The Hotel Eden is perched in the foothills above Rome's centro storico, on a corner of the quiet, leafy Via Ludovisi, with the gardens of the Villa Borghese as the backdrop. It's an amble away from the Spanish Steps (and Spagna metro stop) and within 15 minutes walk of the Trevi fountain. The views from its higher floors, and rooftop restaurants, include a litany of Eternal City sights, prime among them, the dome of St Peter's gleaming in the Roman sunshine.
Opened in 1889, the Hotel Eden was as splendid a bolthole as Rome had ever seen, laden with marble, fine furnishings and antiques and became the accommodation of choice for visiting royalty, luminaries and later the stars of (Italian) cinema like Rossellini and Ingrid Bergman. Acquired four years ago by the Dorchester collection, which manages swanky properties like the Plaza Athenee in Paris, the grand dame has been rejuvenated after nearly 18 months of highly skilled cosmetic surgery. Reopening in April this year, she is more dazzling than ever, with acres of marble across her public spaces, especially in the sumptuous lobby, where the contemporary polished flooring is counterpointed by classical frescoes on the walls, and by twin "steles", or stone slabs, that act as reception desks. Overall, there is a greater spaciousness than when I last visited in 2001, both in public areas and guest rooms, the number of which have been reduced from 121 to 98. The redesign is the work of interior designers Bruno Moinard and Claire Betaille, previously responsible for refurbs at the Plaza Athenee and London's Dorchester Hotel. Twin rooftop restaurants, and a plush subterranean urban spa round off the contemporary offerings.
Guest rooms are all about space, light, elegance and making the most of that view through large, picture windows. This is particularly so in our classic suite, with its own finely furnished living room complete with writing desk, Italian-made sofa, wall-mounted Bang and Olufson television and tall windows reaching to the high ceiling. Adjacent is a bedroom fit for imperial romps, with king-sized bed, a mass of plump pillows and silky cotton bedding beneath an embroidered bedhead. But my favourite feature is the capacious bathroom with twin vanities, separate marble tub with its exposed grey-blue grain, and walk-in rain head shower. All rooms combine the classic allure of the Victorian original with the modern luxury expected of a fine hotel, including fingertip climate and lighting control.
It takes something special to stand out in this city full of wonderful food and the Eden's two rooftop restaurants manage that. First, there can be few better vistas of Rome with which to accompany your fine food than that enjoyed by La Terrazza and Il Giardino. Breakfast, before the day and the tooting traffic heat up, sees the historical centre lit up in a lemony hue, and in summer, the setting sun saturates the terrace in a golden glow. Then there is the remarkable fare. At La Terrazza, award-winning executive chef Fabio Ciervo, serves up Mediterranean-style haute cuisine based on seasonal and regional ingredients, and at Il Giardino, it's all day dining on an imaginative Italian theme, with pasta dishes like taglioni with red prawns, pecorino.
You can be at the top of the Spanish steps in five minutes and at the Keats-Shelley house, where consumptive poet John Keats lived and died at aged 25, overlooking Piazza Spagna, soon after. Strolling in any direction from the Eden leads to a Roman marvel, be it the airy gardens of the Villa Borghese behind or the centro storico, and foodie heaven of Trastevere beside the Tiber river, down the hill.
It's hard to fault the rejuvenation of this much cherished Rome address, which remains true to the aristocratic original while slipping effortlessly into the worlds of 21st-century technology and food. Add in the genuine welcome from the dedicated staff and the Eden approaches Roman hotel perfection.
The sense of space, the unrivalled view from many rooms and the rooftop, the integrity of the upgrade and the warm, Roman welcome across all staff, from doorman Alessandro to the lovely housekeeping team. Oh, and the quality treatments in the new spa – Rock, former masseur to Hollywood stars in LA, can untwist even the stiffest muscles.
Like many European cities, Rome is becoming overwhelmed by tourist numbers and it's increasingly hard to visit attractions such as the Trevi fountain without getting a face-full of selfie-sticks.
Hotel Eden, Via Ludovisi 49, Rome.
Rates start at €730 + tax ($1090) per night for a classic room
The writer was a guest of the Eden Hotel.