Other luxury hotels in Rome have gardens but only Rocco Forte‘s Hotel de Russie has one that seems to rise vertically, studded with a stray Roman column here and there. The gardens, called Giardino Segreto, were created by Cardinal Caffarelli Borghese (Scipione Caffarelli) 1576-1633. He was nephew of Camillo Borghese, Pope Paul V, born in 1552 and pope from 1605 until his death in 1621. Good for the Cardinal. His gardens are now landscaped by Antonella Daroda: look out from many of the rooms in what is a C-shaped building and you see the garden with its myriad of nooks and crannies (this would be an ideal spot for a proposal, or for a private dinner for two or more).
So here you are, ten minutes’ walk from the bottom of the Spanish Steps, and the same from Armani, Burberry, Ferragamo, Gucci, Prada, Tod’s and all the other stores along Via Condotti. Except in winter, the knowledgeable head to the hotel’s rear courtyard or one of its upper terraces for the outstanding, and bijou and superb, lunch buffet. The chef is there throughout, helping replenish seabass sashimi or pasta or rare roast beef slices. All the tables are taken – as the hotel’s GM Mauro Governato says, no-one comes to your restaurant unless it is busy. At weekends there is live cooking, and a sushi station. Every day, your espresso is served in exquisite Richard Ginori cups with trailing greenery that echoes the foliage of the Giardino Segreto ahead of you.
Coffee here comes with a free side of icecream; Mauro Governato has his espresso, in a glass (probably cut-glass Murano), with the icecream already in. The price is amazingly reasonable – €38 for as much as you want (it ups to €52 at weekends), drinks extra. But of course this is Rome and you can tell from the number of bottles set cooling that a glass of this or that goes really nicely. We talk about kids’ programmes. Mauro Governato’s teenage son has tried out some of the activities the Hotel de Russie offers, such as archaeology. Boring? Not if you are taken to where miscreants were killed, and where gladiators fought to the death. Try art. Boring? Not when you study graffiti and are encouraged to have a go, yourself.
On the way out of this luxury hotel’s courtyard, I spy a glass door with one of the most discreet shop signs imaginable. Blink and you miss it. This is LUXlab, the design boutique run by Bianca de Rosa. Her clothes are fab, and if you want something special, she can have it run up and ready to go in 48 hours. Guys and girls, this looks like the place to go if you want something you saw in a Via Condotti boutique, but you want it in your choice of fabric, or whatever.