Luxury Hotels

ROME – 8

So, first thing when staying at the top of The Spanish Steps in Rome, what does a longevity-luster do?  Head down the steps and back up again. 135 steps down and 135 steps up, and apart from a handful of enthusiastic Asian tourists – probably about seven hours’ ahead timewise – there are few people around. The ideal would be to get one’s preprandial constitutional and then luxuriate the day away in the Hotel de la Ville’s spa. Irene Forte, naturally.

(By the way those tourists know that Dior, Gucci and Moncler have the easiest-seen shops at the bottom of the Spanish Steps but how many know why the steps are so called? They were financed by a French diplomat at the end of the first quarter of the 18th century, but someone named them for the Bourbon Spanish Embassy to the Vatican. Apparently the original plan was for a statue of the French King, Louis XIV, the Sun King, on horseback at the top of the steps. He would have been looking down at another sculpture, still extant, at the bottom of the steps: it’s Pietro Bernni’s La Barcaccia (ugly boat), one of Rome’s  countless fountains.)

Anyway, Girlahead did a few minutes of horsing around down there, at lowest level, and then upped the steps to breakfast at Hotel de la Ville, the Rocco Forte Hotel ‘up there’ (his Hotel de la Russie is ‘down there’). Breakfast was a charming treasure hunt to reach. One divinely decorated room, perhaps with cartouches of historic etchings supposedly framed on a mustard wall, leads to another similarly memorable space. Ah, found it. A white room with masses of greenery, see above. Green and white striped china. A convent-worth of crisply starched white linens. A separate room for the buffet.

At this point it’s worth mentioning that Italian breakfast buffets are arguably, en masse, the world’s best. Tables are always elegantly set, with linens and fine china. Displays of foods are magnificent, and well labelled, and the servers are genuinely proud of the products. Yes, there are yoghurts, but also whole ricotta – displayed on living greenery and replaced when the shape begins to collapse – and many other soft cheeses. Breads might not always rival those of Austria, France or Germany but add in the cakes and tarts that the Caesars obviously coveted and you have a winner. See part of the buffet at Hotel de la Ville, below.