Manners maketh man used to be the maxim but sadly, manners generally seem to be forgotten in today’s world. They are, however, alive and well at The Eden in Rome, which also offers amazingly superlative style and personality. Yes, says the gal, for today’s top travellers, it is personality that maketh a perfect stay in a luxury hotel. Arrive at the hotel, in via Ludovisi – seven minutes’ walk from the top of the Spanish Steps – and you may well be greeted by 23 Hours. Does he have another name? Who cares. He laughingly claims he works 23 hours a day, and admits that the tips are good.
‘The gang’ here has been working as a team for years. Ninety percent have been here since the 112-room hotel re-opened, in the presence of Rocco Forte and Margaret Thatcher, on September 1st, 1994. Today the leadership is headed by Marcel Levy – who will have clocked up a mere 14.5 years when he moves on, on September 17th, 2013, when The Dorchester Collection takes over. His deputy today is Pietro Zanzot, whose predecessors include some of the current best hoteliers around (think Luca Virgilio at Baglioni).
Regular guests stay here for three Ps, the people, the personality of the whole operation, and for privacy. Celebs wanting paparazzi go to other, lesser, hotels around. This one is for the kind of person who flies in in his private jet, sees a friend also dining up on the rooftop La Terrazza and sends over a bottle of Ornellaia 2006.
Regulars know that this is also the place for breakfast, looking across the rooftops of Villa Medici, where some lucky French art students stay from time to time. What makes an Italian breakfast? The fruits, all perfect, the coffee, strong of course. Every time I see The Eden in my future diary I think of its ricotta.
Today there are two kinds, one buffalo, which I think is slightly more tart, less rounded. Oh gosh, I see every hundred grams is 138 calories but who cares, it must be good for you. Last night I ate the type of Michelin one-star food that is indeed beneficial for healthy bodies, spaghetti with pecorino and Madagascar black pepper and whole rose petals, and a ‘fried non-fried fish dish’. What, you might ask? Well, chef Fabbio Ciervo, who got his star last year, somehow infuses nitrogen into the fish so that it does not absorb the cooking oil. I make up for this by pouring yet more Ardoino olive oil over my nude salad (sounds so much better than ‘undressed’).
Another P comes into The Eden equation, by the way, and that is perception. They know they have intelligent and international guests here, and there are piles of decent newspapers, including for non-Italians both the Financial Times and the International Herald Tribune. I can read about the Panama Canal and plans for alternatives while looking out, at pine trees and rooftops, and realising yet again how well different fruits go with ricotta, and other cheeses.
And then one of the earlier Ps, people, enters the scene. Ezio Indiani, who now runs another Dorchester Collection hotel, Principe di Savoia in Milan, is also staying here. We sit together at breakfast and he asks one of the waiters – one of the 19-year veterans, although from his looks he must have started work when in kindergarten – to make him a cappuccino. This is the captain of cappuccino-making, says Ezio Indiani. The cappuccino arrives, with the logo of the Dorchester Collection on its foam. Indiani knows this luxury hotel well. He ran it, from 1991 to 1997, through its closure for refurbishment, and it was he who hired 90 percent of today’s people.