Tuesday, Oct. 14, 2008

Hotel de Russie

This hotel — an updated 19th-century palazzo with 122 rooms and phenomenal terraced gardens set between Piazza del Popolo and the Spanish Steps — makes sophistication look easy. Open since 2000, it's become a favorite of Hollywood elite, and it's easy to see why: a great location near some of the city's best shopping on Via Condotti; luxe accommodations in a thoughtfully refurbished landmark building; a rare urban oasis of green; and concierges who know the ins and outs of every neighborhood in Rome. Its distinctive modern interiors are an eclectic mix of pastels, handsome dark woods, and walls accented with Mapplethorpe photography; there's even an on-site spa with Turkish bath. The respected on-site restaurant serves classic Italian dishes, but guests wax most poetic about the hotel's tiered hillside garden studded with classical statues; to add to its oasis-like feel, there's even a butterfly sanctuary. The view is especially pleasant in summer, when the lively Stravinskij martini bar offers alfresco sipping under the palms.

Insider Tip: Take a private tour of Rome with an art historian, arranged by the concierge.

Room to Book: Ask for any room overlooking the quiet courtyard.

Hotel Hassler

Grace Kelly honeymooned at this turn-of-the-century palace at the top of the Spanish Steps, and it's still the hotel of choice for many of today's celebs and stylish tastemakers in search of old-world elegance (Gwyneth, TomKat, and Victoria Beckham are all regulars). Renowned for its personalized service, the Hassler is a family affair — a place where guest relations are taken very seriously. The 95 stately rooms are a checklist of classic good taste, with elaborate moldings, gilded furniture, French silks, 16th-century antiques, Limoges porcelain, playful frescoes, and marble, marble, marble, plus mod cons like flat-screen TV's. Imàgo, its modern Italian restaurant, has heart-stopping views of St. Peter's Basilica and Rome's terracotta-tiled roofs. And the concierges can accommodate just about any request, including mapping out routes through the Villa Borghese gardens, near the hotel.

Insider Tip: Learn everything there is to know about Barolos, Barbarescos, and Chiantis at the hotel's nearby wine school, founded by the Hassler's owner and general manager, Roberto E. Wirth.

Room to Book: Request one of the quiet Classic double rooms, with vistas of the Villa Borghese Gardens.

Rome Cavalieri

Three miles outside the city center, this sprawling 1960 urban hotel with a 15-acre private park sits atop the highest hill in Rome, offering sweeping city views. (An efficient shuttle ferries guests to and from the city center.) Despite its mod exterior, the hotel exudes culture and sophistication; works from owner Angelo Guido Terruzzi's art collection — which includes an original Tiepolo — adorn the halls. The 370 rooms are generously proportioned, with suites and Imperian floor rooms offering the most space (and style), in addition to a private elevator and a stable of business-friendly amenities. There's an on-site spa and gym (and the city's largest pool), but the hotel's three-Michelin-starred panoramic restaurant, La Pergola — and chef Heinz Beck's white asparagus au gratin with Parmesan mousse — is reason enough to consider this "out of the way" location.

Insider Tip: Dine in La Pergola's rooftop garden, with the dome of St. Peter's in full view.

Room to Book: East-facing Deluxes have balconies overlooking ancient Rome. Formerly the Cavalieri Hilton.

St. Regis Grand

This opulent 19th-century landmark palace opened by César Ritz and designed by architect Giulio Podesti, a 10-minute walk from the Via Veneto, made the most of its $35 million restoration in 2007. Guests step into a luxurious haven, with hand-painted frescoes forming dramatic backdrops to tufted guest-room headboards, 24-hour "e-butler" service, and chandeliers made from handblown Murano glass. The 161 ravishing rooms feature décor from the Italo-Franco Louis XVI, Regency, and Empire periods and furniture evocative of the Mediterranean's regal lineage from all eras; expect rich velvets, inlaid woods, carved marble, and fine Pratesi linens. Bathrooms come with travertine marble and Laura Tonatto toiletries, while the on-site health club (accessed via the hotel's original wrought-iron elevator) is state of the art. If dining in, book a table in the cozy wine cellar of the hotel's award-winning restaurant, Vivendo.

Insider Tip: Even if you're not a guest, you can still enjoy a glass of Prosecco in the opulent bar, Le Grand Hall.

Room to Book: For the best value, a regal Superior. For the best service and setup, any room on the St. Regis floor. For modern luxury, the airy three-bedroom Bottega Veneta Suite with fireplace (unveiled in 2007).

Villa Spalletti Trivelli

Small and luxurious, with Neoclassical overtones, this early-20th-century villa — on a side street on patrician Quirinal Hill — is also refined and subtle: a small brass plaque and bell are all that distinguish it from its neighbors. Once the private home of the Spalletti-Trivelli family (titled since 1667), the hotel houses many of their furnishings, around which guests will find oak and walnut floors; 15-foot tapestries suspended on butter-yellow walls; and overstuffed chenille sofas in echoey sitting rooms. The goal: allowing guests to experience what home life for a Roman nobleman was like (apparently, very hushed). A double is about 430 square feet, but small rooms are counterbalanced by refined interiors, featuring color-coordinated damasks on the beds and armchairs and fine antique wood tables mixed with Lucite ones. The winning touches: exquisite bed linens; monumental framed antique maps and prints (each room has at least one); and state-of- the-art marble bathrooms.

Insider Tip: Don't miss the beautiful, fully stocked, totally complimentary bars and fridges in each room.

Room to Book: The rooms on the top floor interconnect and can be booked as a single private unit.