ROME–When the life-size resin statue of a rhinoceros showed up one day last fall under Rome’s only surviving four-sided monument, the Arch of Janus, no one knew quite what to think. The beast seemed truly out of place in Rome – and even more so in a neighborhood that sits in the valley of Imperial Rome, cradled between the Circus Maximus, Palatine Hill and Tiber River. The area, called the Forum Boarium, is littered with ancient ruins and majestic fountains that create a backdrop to its most famous tourist attraction: the Mouth of Truth. The rhino was a curious addition, to say the least.
But nearly six months later, the rhino seems right at home in this ancient cultural mecca and now marks one of the eternal city’s most innovative new spaces to stay, aptly called The Rooms of Rome, combining the melded genius of fashion matriarch Alda Fendi and French architect Jean Nouvel. It is the fifth selection for our twice-monthly series on gorgeous new or restored hotels, The New Room With a View.
Fondazione Alda Fendi, which has sponsored unique art installations in the city for nearly two decades, will sponsor rotating exhibits in the hotel’s Rhinoceros gallery. The first is a collection of original drawings and designs by Michelangelo, no less, on loan from the Casa Buonarroti in Florence.
Together with Spanish entrepreneur Kike Sarasola, they have transformed an abandoned 17th century noble family palazzo, that for years served as council housing, into the awe-inspiring Rooms of Rome. The structure’s 24 exclusive apartments, in-house museum space, and rooftop restaurant Caviar Kaspia Roma provide something the eternal city has never seen before. Each of the apartment door frames have haiku poems by Raffaele Curi engraved in the marble work and all of the apartments have hidden sliding doors and secret features that can quickly transform the space.
PIÈCE DE RÉSISTANCE
The panoramic rooftop terrace offers a unique 360-degree view that spans the city, from St. Peter's dome to the majestic ruins of the Roman Forum. The entire top floor is made up of a multi-space aperitivo lounge bar where guests can relax under the open sky on white leather sofas or sit under chic awnings at intimate tables to take in the extraordinary skyline view. The posh restaurant, Caviar Kaspia Roma, offers Russian-inspired caviar-based treats coupled with innovative takes on traditional Italian cuisine and a wine and champagne list that rivals the city’s top enotecas.
Each of the palazzo’s 24 exclusive apartments was designed by French starchitect Jean Nouvel with the building’s long, complicated history in mind. Some of the rooms include original majestic ceiling works. Others nod to the building’s history as a “casa popolare” or council housing for the middle class, complete with retro tiles and original lighting. Each room’s window treatments are made up of panels depicting how Nouvel found the room when the renovation started. At night, the staff draw these backlit blinds to create the illusion that the building is still 1950s Rome. “The passage of time, Roman history, modernity and a never-ending construction,” was Nouvel’s guiding mantra as he created the space.
Each of the apartments, which range from the smaller twin apartment to the large two-bedroom deluxe apartment, are kitted out with fully serviced stainless steel kitchens that are either hidden behind electronic folding panels or easily covered with receding steel plates to create a seamless flow throughout the space. Several apartments have hidden connecting doors to create a larger family space. Heating and lighting can be programmed on smart panels at the entrance. Each space has Bang & Olufsen sound equipment and L’Occitane goodies in the modern bathrooms. Twice-daily cleaning, a “pillow menu” and services like before bedtime massages complete the luxury details. Guests are encouraged to choose services á la carte prior to their arrival, which range from perfumed room themes and spa treatments to specialized courses in Roman cooking or even Latin to make their stay as unique as the centuries-old building where they will be staying.