I continue my Italian adventures, and after visiting Lake Garda and Tuscany, it is time to take in the wonders of Rome.
I have always loved the expression “when in Rome” and at last I could finally use it in the right context, but with so much to do and only one day to do it in, we required two things, a central base and a big map of the historical city.
The stunning vine covered façade of the Hotel Raphael offered us just that. Overlooking a small square just behind the Piazza Navona, it’s a stone’s throw away from some of Rome’s most exciting attractions.
As part of the luxury Relais & Chateaux group, the hotel built in 1963, has accents of historic architecture and is filled with art and sculptures. Renovated in 2012 it feels elegant and comfortable at the same time.
STAND OUT FEATURES
The whole hotel has an organic orientation, which is represented by the large curtain of leaves that climb the 17th century building turning it into a green oasis to be admired by those in the streets that surround it.
For my husband and I, Raphael ticks another box, boasting one of the best vegetarian and biological restaurants in the city.
Most of the wines from the extensive wine list are organic. Almost all wines are certified and the remaining ones belong to wineries, which despite working respecting the environment, have decided not to identify themselves with labels, but to follow the nature of independent wine makers, free and genuine without getting certified.
Raphael does not define itself as an eco-hotel but takes pride in caring about the planet and the people who live on it.
WHEN IN ROME
We arrived early, so the helpful reception team held our bags in a safe place whilst we set off to explore the city.
Having been around for almost three thousand years, there is a wealth of history to explore, with a map in hand and plenty of excitement we started our adventure.
We passed through the nearby Piazza Navona leading us on to stop the Pantheon, a former Roman temple, now a church.
Even today, almost 2000 years after its construction, the breath-taking Pantheon is a remarkable building to see. The most fascinating part is its giant dome, with its famous hole in the top, it’s a striking reminder of the architecture of the great Roman Empire.
A visit to Rome wouldn’t be complete without seeing the Spanish Steps, a great place to enjoy the atmosphere and views of the Eternal City.
The monumental stairway of 138 steps connect the lower Piazza di Spagna with the upper piazza Trinita dei Monti, with its beautiful twin tower church dominating the skyline. Note, when visiting you can’t eat on the steps, this is so that they are kept clean and pristine.
From here we then headed to the Colosseum, which has been on my growing bucket list for as long as I can remember! Nothing can prepare you for its grandeur, as I caught my first glance I felt like I was dreaming.
It was no surprise to see that the attraction was very busy; I became impatient and decided to pay a small fee to jump the ques, it was worth every penny.
Was it what I expected? I won’t lie, there is a slightly eerie feeling that surrounds the amphitheater, it’s hard to not let your thoughts run wild with the things that used to happen inside, especially the underground passages, where the animals and gladiators were kept, waiting to meet their fate in the arena above.
It was a powerful place and you can see why it pulls so many visitors every day. This was the highlight of my trip so far.
After a quick Pizza and Peroni stop, no trip to Rome is complete without a visit to the Fontana di Trevi, or Trevi Fountain and I had an important wish to make.
A coin thrown in Trevi Fountain is said to ensure the comeback to Rome, two coins thrown ensure romance with a Roman (either male or female), and three coins thrown ensure the marriage with him or her. Although my wish was none of the above writing this three months later, I can reveal it came true! So, if that isn’t enough reason to visit – I don’t know what is.
When you’ve had your fill of the crowds, it’s easy to duck back into your quiet room at Raphael. It can be a challenge to find a hotel that’s in the think of the action but quiet enough to rest.
With 51 rooms and suites each room comes with its own various configurations. Our room is contemporary but with an old school luxe feel, with burgundy and gold velvet accents and traditional tapestries on the wall. The bed moves up and down the touch of a button, ensuring the best night’s sleep possible, and just what the doctor ordered after a day of walking around the city.
The bathroom is spacious with top of the range products, robes and slippers and a well-stocked mini bar with (of course) organic treats.
The focal point of Hotel Raphael is its rooftop terrace, that also holds a restaurant called Mater Terrae. A visit at this rooftop bar is not only good for the taste buds, but also for the soul and the environment.
You can happily nurse a cocktail while savouring the 360-degree views across Rome’s historic centre. From the Church of Santa Maria della Pace – the dome so close you feel as if you could reach across and touch it – to St Peter’s Basilica on the horizon.
The food favours seasonal products able to keep intact their fragrance and freshness. Melding together unusual ingredients, you will find surprising food harmonies, which appeal to all palates.
An extensive breakfast is available in the mornings, including make-your-own-juices, a perfect start to the day.
The quiet and harmonious atmosphere and the murmur of the city’s buzz makes this an ideal place to call home whilst in Rome.
I wish we could have had an extra day here, but I am happy at the amount we managed to see in the short time we had.
With just two days left of our Italian adventure we jumped on our final train to Naples ready to head to our final destination on the Amalfi Coast.
Address: Largo Febo, 2, 00186 Roma RM, Italy
Phone: +39 06 682831
See here for Part 4 of Rachel’s adventures on the Amalfi coast for Luxury Lifestyle Magazine.