x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

The Rome Cavalieri

Built in 1963, the Cavalieri cannot hide its postmodernist roots. The 60s brickwork is not ugly, but for a hotel that is competing with the best in the world, the architecture cannot be forgotten. But that is the only drawback.

The Conciergerie of the Rome Cavalieri, a hotel well-known for its valuable art collection.
The Conciergerie of the Rome Cavalieri, a hotel well-known for its valuable art collection.

The liveried doorman gave me the option of carrying my own luggage, common courtesy I believe, but it was a hot day, and I was very happy when it was taken up for me. On arrival in my room, a complimentary bottle of chilled Berlucchi Cellarius 2005 was waiting on the marble coffee table. It stood alongside a large plate of fresh fruit sushi and sashimi, otherwise known to the rest of us as a fruit salad.

The Cavalieri sits perched on the Monte Mario, the highest hill in modern Rome. Monte Mario lies in the north-west of the Italian capital, and grouped with the Janiculum Hill and the Vatican Hill, the three are known as 'the balcony of Rome' due to the spectacular vistas that can be seen from there. JW Turner sketched from this vantage point in the early 19th century, and the foliage that dominates the surrounding area inspired William Wordsworth to write "the Pine of Monte Mario". Yes, the Cavalieri is a good 20-minute taxi ride from the main sights, but Rome is such a hurly-burly city to my mind that staying slightly out of town had its benefits. The hotel operates a shuttle bus to and from Piazza Barberini throughout the day and early evening.

Exceptional. In some luxury environments it can be difficult to know where all the facilities are, when they can be used, and how some of them work. But instead of a haughty arrogance that can sometimes meet guests' queries at some establishments, the staff were very approachable, friendly and extremely helpful.

I stayed during the Champions League final, and it can be reported that there were a few requests that some may consider as off-piste. Not for the concierge here though. He was unflappable. It is worth enquiring about the hotel's unique gladiator school. In a quiet corner within the six hectares of verdant private parkland that surrounds the Cavalieri, you can learn to wield typical Roman weapons such as a gladius, the sword of the Roman empire. You can even have the lesson transferred to the Colosseum itself if you really want to get into the spirit of things.

At 50 square metres the Cavalieri boasts the largest standard room of any hotel in Rome. The Penthouse suite, with a private deck and exceptional views over the Centro Storico, is 250 square metres, and has four of Andy Warhol's "Dollar Signs" sitting above the indoor spa. There is no pop art surrounding the outdoor whirlpool, and at around US$15,850 (Dh58,200) per night, it was slightly beyond my budget.

All the bathrooms are clad in white Italian marble, and for those who don't bring their own toiletries with them, you can wash, condition, and lotion your body in Acqua di Parma. Furnishings are modern and tasteful, and each room has a balcony. It almost goes without saying that you should ask for a view of the city, rather than the park view on the other side of the building.

If you upgrade to an Imperial Club room, or one of the hotel's 25 suites, you can eat and drink for free in the Imperial lounge. You get a hearty breakfast buffet that caters to pretty much all tastes, as well as morning tea, lunch, afternoon tea and a light supper. The hotel's staple restaurant, the Il Giardino dell'Uliveto cooked up a wonderful sea bass and tuna tartare with cedar sauce for $57 (Dh209), while my dining companion chose casarecce with fillets of swordfish and fennel scented with mint for $41 (Dh150). But if you are going to go all out, you must eat at La Pergola, the only Michelin three-star restaurant in Rome, housed on the top floor. The tasting menu goes on for a total of nine courses for $289 (Dh1,062). It goes through the food spectrum from raw tuna to rabbit, and the mighty panoramic view, with St Peter's Basilica, completes a memorable dining experience.

The regular clientele was skewed in favour of the great and the good from Uefa who had taken over a chunk of the hotel ahead of the title showdown in the Olympic Stadium. Usually American and British businessmen dominate the guest list as the largest deluxe function room out of any hotel in Europe is housed here. A lot of Italian and American families also stay, and there were a surprising amount of guests who appeared to be under 30.

The facilities. The Grand Spa has everything you could possibly want, and I was reliably informed that the beauty treatments were second to none - La Prairie was planning to launch its platinum cellular cream in Europe there. The hotel is owned by Angelo Guido Terruzzi, an art collector of world renown, and some of his private collection is on show throughout the hotel. He paid $11.6m (Dh43m) in May 2006 for three paintings by Giovanni Tiepolo, all of which are displayed in the lobby. Sitting there, taking afternoon tea, and being able to look at such works in your own time is not something about which most hotels can boast. Can I mention the view again?

When will Hilton hotels be dragged into the 21st century and offer free internet connection in guestrooms? I wasn't the only one who thought this way, as there were numerous people with their laptops taking tea and all using the Wi-Fi available in the lobby. The glorious outdoor pool was crying out for an early morning swim, but a rather officious attendant stopped me mid-stroke. The pool opens at 9am, which is too late.

Built in 1963, the Cavalieri cannot hide its postmodernist roots. The 60s brickwork is not ugly, but for a hotel that is competing with the best in the world, the architecture cannot be forgotten. But that is the only drawback. The Grand Spa, the gardens, the art, the food and the rooms are all of the highest calibre. The service is also immaculate, the kind that you always hope for, but never quite receive. If you want to retreat from the madness of Rome, there really is no better hotel.

A double room costs from $480 (Dh1,760) with breakfast buffet and taxes. Rome Cavalieri, Via Alberto Cadlolo, 101, Rome (www.romecavalieri.com; 00 39 0635091) travel@thenational.ae