Art is unquestionably a huge part of what draws people to Rome; there are incomparable masterpieces housed here. But neither can it be denied that their appeal palls somewhat when you’re caught in shuffling tides of people blocking your view as they angle iPhones and selfie-sticks (are they even seeing the painting?!). Staying at the Cavalieri, however, makes you feel like you’re staying in a gallery, albeit a languidly-paced and tour-group-free one, with a collection of over 1,000 pieces spanning centuries, from the Beauvais tapestries in the lobby, to original Warhols in the penthouse and a series of works from 18th century Italian painter Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, you can either browse completely on your own or plug in to an iPod tour. Alternatively, the hotel’s resident Art Historian can take you through the collection.
The Cavalieri has a magnificently luxurious spa, offering a range of wellness and relaxation treatments so blissfully efficacious that you’ll feel as if you’re hundreds of, rather than four, miles removed from tourist throngs. There’s also a state of the art gym with high-tech workout equipment, and a variety of classes for those who prefer to exercise with guidance. But for me, when the temperatures are searing outside, there’s no better place to be than beside one of the hotel’s four swimming pools. Forget sitting bolt upright at an outdoor table of a bustling cafe to get your people watching fix - here, between refreshing dips, you can recline on a sun lounger and observe from behind your sunglasses - all while being served snacks and cocktails by smilingly attentive staff.
A trip to Italy requires sampling some of the culinary delights for which the country is famed but, as is often the case in such enduringly popular destinations, there’s a lot of sub-standard (yet overpriced) food to be found. Even if this weren’t the case, the Cavalieri offers plenty of incentive to dine at L’Uliveto restaurant, where the focus is on authentic flavours and seasonal produce, with a range of fish, meats, pastas and risottos on the menu.
For getting a more authentic feel of how and where locals eat, book with The Roman Food Tour, who will take you on a walking tour to some of the best salumerias, pasticcerias, markets and pizzerias in a residential neighbourhood, offering you the chance to not only stuff yourself silly, but to do so on quality food about which you’ll learn loads in the process. Dietary requirements? Just let them know in advance.
As a gluten-avoider, I thought I’d be glumly sipping a coffee at the pasticceria but our guide had me covered; likewise at Bonci Pizzarium, where creations by Gabriele Bonci - otherwise known as ‘the Michelangelo of Pizza’ - creates his masterpieces with the finest and freshest ingredients (never more than three per topping; any more will destroy the balance of flavours of colours) to be sold ‘al taglio’ (by the slice).
Rome if you want to - but I can’t imagine doing it any way better than this.