Our first impression of the Romeo Hotel was in an unexpected venue. As we exited our high speed train from Rome we met Antonio Deperte, the newly appointed general manager of the hotel who had volunteered to pick us up at the train and personally introduce us to the much maligned Italian city. His warm greeting, in American English, and the short drive from the station to the hotel in a vintage Jaguar together set the tone for our lovely two-night stay at the art filled property.
Our week-long trip aboard the SeaDream II was reminiscent of the by-gone days of classic ship travel where passengers had an opportunity to meet each other while sharing time and space with fellow travelers and crew members. In an era fraught with time constraints our “cruise” aboard SeaDream II provided us the luxury of meeting like minded people while enjoying a leisurely and luxurious voyage along the coast from Italy to Spain in the prime of the area’s tourist season.
We thoroughly enjoyed the pluses the sailing offered such as a limited number of passengers (there were 108 of us) and high crew to passenger ratio (there were 96 crew members).
Arriving at the Hotel Hassler after a transatlantic flight and dizzying taxi drive from the airport, I was relieved to discover my room was ready. Inside, the charming and comfortable black and white themed room with a delightful view of the city and welcome fruit basket, helped reenergize me. In spite of the lack of sleep and jet lag, I was eager to revisit Rome after a long absence. From the small balcony I could see the Spanish steps and beyond them, in the distance, the Vatican. And what a location! The Hassler is in the heart of Rome, at the top of the famous Spanish Steps, an excellent point of departure for tourist oriented visitors. The wholly independent and small family run hotel, which has been temporary home to many celebrities over the years, had a historic character.
Although my hotel had recommended other more trendy restaurants and nearby trattorias I hoped to find a spot in a popular restaurant I had visited years earlier. A pleasant young man, Claudio, answered the phone when I called to make last minute reservations for dinner at La Rosetta, one of Rome’s better known seafood restaurant. It was in a historic Roman neighborhood, a 20-minute cab ride from my centrally located hotel. When I arrived at the restaurant later that night, it was nearly empty. I thought Claudio had pulled my leg but as the night aged the dining room and terrace filled up to capacity.
Established by famed hotelier Cesar Ritz at the request of the Italian president in 1894, this Roman jewel is said to have its foundation over the Baths of Diocletian. The hotel, built on land belonging to Pope Sistus V, recently underwent a $35 million renovation requiring 450 workmen, including 151 skilled craftsmen and one million man hours of work.