By Cindy Clarke
Getting back to the Sweet Life at Sofitel Rome Villa Borghese.
While being grounded for the last six months has been difficult for all of us, it has been especially hard for travel aficionados accustomed to jetting off to Europe in pursuit of a coveted cultural connection whenever the urge hits. That the current state of the world mandates that any and all outside encounters be crowd free, socially distant and uniquely intimate makes the idea of a trip away from home all the more elusive. Add the fact that your favorite “it” destination may have gained newsmaking notoriety as a COVID hot spot like Italy did this spring and your dreams of a Roman holiday may have been dashed indefinitely.
But it doesn’t have to be so. Once the borders reopen, there is a home in Rome that promises those champagne worthy travel bubbles you’ve been longing for.
Welcome to Sofitel Rome Villa Borghese, a quiet refuge in the epicenter of the city, steps from Rome’s best-known landmarks and Accor’s only hotel in mainland Italy. Located directly across the street from the Medici Palace and the storied villa of an American celebrity turned fairy tale princess, the chic Sofitel Rome Villa Borghese was born into royalty as a 19th century guesthouse belonging to the aristocratic Ludovisi Boncampagni family and transformed into an elegant Art Deco Roman residence by acclaimed architect and interior designer Jean-Philippe Nuel. The ground floor, once a nobleman’s stable and one-time escape hide-away for the controversial 16th century artist Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio, today boasts arches, curved ceilings and mosaic floors, palazzo perfect. Dining is heavenly in its rooftop restaurant, Settimo, blessing guests with fine regional cuisine, noteworthy wines and Holy Grail views of the park-like Borghese gardens and St. Peter’s Basilica. Its guest rooms are equally regal, discreetly paying tribute to its rich royal heritage with sumptuous French inspired amenities, contemporary in style, privileged in placement.
Here balconied salons invite welcome relaxation. Floor to ceiling bookshelves speak volumes about high profile fashion and art icons with collector edition coffee table books and fine objets d’art tastefully displayed. Ceilings soar with soothing blue skyed Baroque beauty playfully handpainted to enliven the space with mythical illusion. Generous bathrooms, marbled, meticulously designed, and perfumed with luxe Hermes fragrances, surprise with TV-embedded mirrors that turn on at your personal command. And bedrooms? Think pillow cloud mattresses that embrace you with such a heightened sense of bliss with every toss and turn that the hotel trademarked them. Motion sensors near the floor light the way in the dark of night and touch button curtains usher in a new day when dawn breaks. Add an assortment of unexpected culinary treats – delicate melt in your mouth macarons dressed in palate pleasing pastels, artisan crafted chocolates, and fresh fruit and cheese plates, baguettes at the ready – all artfully presented, impossible to resist and surreptitiously delivered by a staff who arguably can read your mind, and you might never want to leave your room.
Would you like to be |quarantined here?
Pre-COVID, this hotel catered to my privacy, palate, preferences and passion for one-on-one authenticity in spades. Looking back on it now, I think the folks at Sofitel were already well on their way to providing guests with the kind of catered concierge experiences that will be the new mandate in a post-pandemic world. It’s in their DNA. After all, hospitality, hospitium, has been practiced in Rome since ancient times, when it was considered a divine right of the guest and a divine duty of the host. The French took it to an art form, marrying la dolce vita with that indefatigable spirit of joie de vivre to come up with the kind of guest service that’s exemplified at this boutique 71-room, 7-suite hotel.
You’re familiar with the saying “When in Rome, do what the Romans do?” I think the staff here not only invented that phrase, they really take it to heart and soul when it comes to their guests.
During my stay, they orchestrated crowd-free VIP visits with local experts to must-see places, from the homes and hang outs of literary giants, like Keats, Shelly and Goethe to the catacombs off the Appian Way. They arranged a chef-led market walk and private cooking class in Trastevere, complete with a convivial tasting lunch with the owner host, secured sought after tickets to a Bulgari launch party in the historic Palazzo Bonaparte and set up a tête-à-tête with a principessa who just happens to live across the street in a neighboring palace. My daily agenda overflowed with insider experiences that are difficult to replicate on your own and made me feel like a pampered part of the family.
Along the way I met and mingled with the locals like I lived there. An impromptu glass of wine at jeweler Giorgio Cazzaniga’s family apartment near Piazza del Popolo turned into a social soiree I’ll long remember and led to a Sofitel-sponsored Valentine’s Day dream date that featured custom jewelry and a night on the town with Giorgio and Rome’s elite. A knock on the door of Villa Aurora revealed the private palazzo of Prince Nicolò Ludovisi Boncampagna and his widow, the former Texas socialite Rita Jenrette, who invited us inside with the graciousness of an old friend who shared her stories and treasures with us along with a behind the scenes look at an original Caravaggio painting that graced a second floor ceiling. A blind wine tasting at the hotel opened our eyes to an impressive collection of wines from Italy and France personally curated by Sommelier Chiara Giannotti, recognized as Dame Chevalier de Champagne and the author of The Perfect Wine Cellar: The Ultimate Guide for Great Wine Collections, who hosted the experience.
And when I ventured out for a short walk to the nearby Spanish Steps, Piazza Barberini and Trevi Fountain or headed out for dinner locally inspired, the hotel’s staff offered recommendations and reassurances that made my wanderings worry free, once again raising the bar with their personalized care and attention.
Now that COVID has put the world on edge, this Sofitel hotel has ramped up their already high standards of safety, hygiene and guest care with preventative measures that go beyond what is required. Sofitel Rome Villa Borghese has introduced enhanced hygiene and sanitary standards to ensure guest safety in accordance with Accor’s #ALLSAFE program. Verified by SGS, the world’s leading inspection, verification, testing, and certification company, the cleanliness and prevention certification label provides assurance that these elevated standards have been met.
Is it any wonder that I’ve been dreaming of returning to Rome during my time at home? ☐