Another joy of Rome is its Spanish Steps, all 132 of them, and they seem like more, especially when going up. The authorities are supposed to have cleared away the flotsam and jetsam of hawkers, many from the Indian sub-continent, trying to sell you obviously-fake Burberry shawls: unfortunately as soon as they are chased off these traders return. (Note to the new young lady mayor Virginia Raggi: please do something or you will lose yet more luxury tourists.) Knowledgeable visitors may still stay nearby, say at Portrait Suites, but simply not visit the Steps at all. The gal loved her first visit to Lungarno’s Portrait Rome, directly above a Ferragamo store (stay there, and you get ten percent discount on anything in the shop). Stay there, and you have your own inbuilt kitchenette, with induction hob, microwave and dishwasher, and, rooftop, you have an idyllic breakfast buffet venue and all-day sensational skyline views.
From Portrait Suites it was about ten minutes’ walk along via del Babuino to Hotel de Russie, to see its GM, Martin Elsner. I wanted to hear what Rocco Forte Collection was going to do with Hotel De La Ville Roma, which a friendly investor now owns on its behalf. Well, Tuesday, September 19th, 2017, was that hotel’s long-awaited demolition party, hosted personally by Sir Rocco Forte, who presumably wielded a sledge-hammer to knock down a few bits of yesterday to make way for what, from early 2019, will be tomorrow’s today, designed by Tommaso Ziffer, working of course with Sir Rocco’s sister, Olga Polizzi (the same pair did Hotel de Russie, which is also going to have a bit of tweaking, notably to its near-vertical garden, originally designed for Pope Paul V in the first quarter of the 17th century).
Martin Elsner showed me what Olga Polizzi has, alone, done to Hotel de Russie’s Picasso Suite, now a blaze of colour, with stunning Picasso-art cushions and hangings. It, like the signature Nijinsky Suite, has big terracing facing over the C-shaped hotel’s courtyard and up to that vertical garden. As always, my eyes lit up at the glorious flowers in the hotel’s lobby – this is now a working flower shop, Martin Elsner explained, showing me where the florist works to one side of the lobby. We went out, across the main courtyard and up about 20 steps to a terrace which is the main outside lunch venue for local cognoscenti. It is all so delightfully stylish, Rome-style: you go inside, to help yourself from three tables, one each cold, hot dishes, and desserts.
We merely made it to the cold buffet. The combination of Italy’s cheeses, and salad ingredients, and oils, and tuna – always better canned, I think, when used in salads. I made my own dish, a feature that more luxury hotels should follow. Let the customer be in charge. After 90 minutes’ talk about how a Hamburg-born hotelier can fit so well into Italy’s DNA, and how important it is to be ahead of luxury wants these days, I was sadly on my way – again.