Baroque opulence in the eternal city

Timothy Barber
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ENTER the lobby of the Rome Cavalieri hotel and you’re greeted by a sweet swirl of art and ostentation. While the Renaissance came out of Florence, the subsequent era of the Baroque was all about Rome, and the aesthetic splendour and flamboyance that was its calling card is alive and well at the Cavalieri. That huge lobby is an echoing chamber of glistening gold and marble surfaces; around it hangs a slew of huge paintings from the 17th and 18th century that, as art collections go, is museum quality (the largest, a triptych by the great painter Tiepolo, is worth several million dollars) and sets the tone for this enjoyably glitzy hotel.

You couldn’t really call it fashionable, but that’s no criticism. There’s a time and a place for discreet boutique chic, and sitting in a huge building on a hill above the Eternal City isn’t it. The building itself is no thing of beauty, a square 60s block that’s been cleverly swathed in creepers and foliage to soften it. The location is unquestionably magnificent. Perched upon Monte Mario, Rome’s highest hill, it looks out across the city from the north west and offers an unforgettable view. The dome of St Peter’s lies out to the right, while the miraculous cityscape, devoid of modern buildings and with landmarks like the Coliseum, the Palatine Hill and numerous churches and monuments visible, stretches romantically across the Tiber valley.

To get in amongst all that history there’s a 20-minute shuttle bus from the hotel that leaves every hour. But you could quite easily pass a weekend without leaving the Cavalieri – it has a resort feel, and is a destination in its own right. Not the least significant part of that is a superb outdoor pool – heated, naturally – where Rome’s high society come to occupy expensive sun loungers (you’ll also have to cough up a few euros for sunbathing space if you’re a guest too, unfortunately) and feast at the poolside restaurant. Beyond are tennis courts, a climbing wall, kids’ pools and a private park where – of all things – you can learn to be a Roman gladiator if you choose.

There’s a large pool inside too, styled elaborately on Roman baths. Down a large corridor from there is a world-class spa with a Turkish bath-inspired steam room and whirlpool, saunas, grand relaxation room and a hidden-away maze of treatment rooms providing all the pampering you’ll ever need.

There’s more art to be had if you’re able to stump up for one of the Cavalieri’s opulent-and-then-some suites, which are chock full of antiques and art from all ages. You may even stumble across the odd Warhol. Normal rooms are spacious, with large, extremely comfortable beds and heavily-marbled bathrooms. Take a room on the upper floors and you get access to the Imperial Club, a smart private lounge.

You can enjoy that phenomenal view from your private balcony, but it’s best seen from the top of the hotel, where the La Pergola restaurant sits. It’s Rome’s only three Michelin-starred dining room, which means you need to book it well in advance of your stay. The chef Heinz Beck will whip up all manner of things in the jellies’n’foams style that are, in their way, as elaborate, artfully considered and indulgent as the rest of the hotel’s offerings.

Citalia offers three nights b&b in an Imperial room with balcony, including return flights from London Gatwick for £889 per person based on two sharing. 0871 664 0253,