A brief stay at one of Rome’s most stunning properties left Liz O’Reilly yearning for a return visit.

They say all roads lead to Rome and what would be a trip to Italy without a visit to the ‘Eternal City’? For us though, a stay at Anantara Palazzo Naiadi was the cherry on the cake of a short but sweet sojourn in this amazing metropolis.

Our arrival was as smooth as can be, but a note of warning for anyone heading to Palazzo Naiadi – it is literally three minutes’ walk from Roma Termini, the main train station. We wondered why the taxi driver gave us a bit of an odd look!

The hotel takes its name from the Fountain of the Naiads, which is right out front in Piazza della Repubblica, its elegant, ancient statuary pouring forth streams of water that glitter in the early morning sun. After a swift check in, we headed to our room and found our window looked out over this 1888 masterpiece.

Upstairs Downstairs

We were treated to a Duplex Suite – the living area and bathroom on one level and the superbly comfortable bed up a set of stairs on an eye-catching mezzanine. On entering the room, I was blown away by the aforementioned window, reaching right up to the double-height ceiling and lending the space an immense sense of grandeur and light.

Thick carpeting and an elegant and comfortable threepiece suite invited us to relax and pore over an artistic coffee table book or simply chill with a drink from the well-stocked mini bar or the Italian essential, a professional looking coffee machine.

My breath was taken again by the bathroom. Clad in marble the intoxicating shade of warm honey, we were greeted by a deep soaking tub alongside an enclosed rain shower and double sinks surrounded by toiletries from Aqua Di Parma. I didn’t steal them… but I was sorely tempted!

After a quick spruce up, we headed back downstairs to explore the lobby, which is very definitely the focal point in a property that’s abundant in amazing spaces. Intricately moulded ceilings house interesting lighting installations including an impressive Murano glass chandelier. And the contemporary art dotted around is both thought provoking and pleasing to the eye.

Dining Extraordinaire

Our first experience of the exceptional culinary offerings available at Anantara Palazzo Naiadi was in a quiet room off the Lobby Bar – which, by the way, is beautiful and put me in mind of something out of The Great Gatsby, elegant and refined with the feeling that you could easily encounter Rome’s great and good in evening dress, en route to the theatre or a swanky dinner. For a late lunch after our arrival, I chose a club sandwich which could easily have fed both myself and my travelling companion (and probably a few more besides). The portion was enormous, the sandwich tasty and satisfying.

The property is home to several outstanding dining outlets, but premier amongst them must be Ineo, where Chef Heros De Agostinis, who formerly worked in Bahrain, combines his experiences as a world traveller with his strong Italian, Abruzzesi roots. Small, with eclectically designed, subdued lighting and plush velvet seating, this space speaks intimacy in a reverent whisper from the stunning entrance bar to the attentive and knowledgeable staff.

We were lucky enough to sample a tasting menu with grape pairing – Ineo’s Journey – which began with a delightful glass of bubbles and progressed through decadent sea scallops with gazpacho of carrots and Philippine lime followed by marinated Sicilian prawns with passion fruit and chilli and coriander oil. A char-grilled Amalfi lemon filled with sweetbreads, courgettes and black lime sauce felt like a journey to the gorgeously picturesque coast below Naples, where we spotted the biggest lemons I’ve ever seen, and ravioli with muhammara filling, seafood and Chef Heros’ Baharat (Middle Eastern spice mix) was an incredible taste of home.

I could wax lyrical at length about this experience. Seven courses, each more intriguing than the last, with thoughtful, curated cellar pairings to perfectly complement the wonderful flavours. But the overall impression was that Chef Heros is not just a charming and welcoming host but also a culinary master whose ability to combine the most unexpected ingredients – textures, tastes, herbs and spices – results in a true journey for the senses.

We also headed to SEEN by Olivier, the gorgeous rooftop bar and restaurant, for another chance to take in the spectacular views. Recently opened and rapidly establishing a reputation as the place to see and be seen, this hotspot abuts the pool, where, by day, you’ll find guests enjoying a haven of tranquillity in the heart of the buzzing city. But by night, its laid-back mix of great music and a selection of mixed drinks, snacks and an eclectic menu mean it’s drawing in a fun crowd.

Our last foodie spot to try was La Fontana Ristorante where we started our days with the most amazing breakfast spread. From eggs and bacon to the wonderful hams and cheeses for which Italy is rightly famed, a huge selection of cakes – those Italians sure do wake up with a sweet tooth – plus cereals and fruit for the more health conscious, there wasn’t any brekkie ‘must have’ I didn’t spot.

Historically Speaking

Luxury travel these days is about so much more than highthread-count sheets and fabulous bathroom amenities – though these are, of course, very welcome. Anantara is a brand that’s well acquainted with the concept of the experiential. Thus, after a brief chat with our host, my companion and I found ourselves booked on the Vespa Sidecar Tour of Rome. And yes, it was every bit as much fun as it sounds.

With one of us seated behind the driver/guide, Allessi, and the other tucked safely into the sidecar, we, and two other intrepid couples, set off on a guided tour of the Eternal City which Allessi rightly described as “the world’s biggest open-air museum”. Aside from the envious glances and amused waves from the people we passed, which was pretty cool, this really is the ideal way to visit lots of busy spots in a city tightly packed with absolute must-sees. From the Trevi Fountain to the Pantheon – where we went inside and learned loads of interesting facts from Allessi – to the top of Gianicolo Hill, where we stopped to enjoy the panoramic view of the capital spread below, and then down into Trastevere and the Jewish Ghetto, we covered so much more ground in a few hours than we could have managed on foot or via conventional transport – not to mention gaining pretty impressive bragging rights and some awesome pictures to remember it by.

And, speaking of the experiential, Anantara Palazzo Naiadi can also arrange off-the-books-style Vatican tours, including a Christmas Eve mass – something anyone would love, regardless of their faith.

Back at base and it was time for a tour taking in a range of rooms from the regular Deluxe to the Presidential Suite – totally fit for royalty and more than a few VIPs have made this their Roman base. The hotel itself is a 19th century marble palace built on top of the famous Diocletian thermal baths that date from AD298 to AD 306. In another of those one-of-a-kind encounters, we headed to the lower ground floor where meeting rooms have been constructed in vaulted areas surrounding the excavated foundations, pools and mosaics of the baths, which can be seen under glass. It’s fabulous to view but I’m not sure I’d get much work done in a meeting there!

And So, To Spa

And, last but not least, no visit to an Anantara property would be complete without a trip to the spa, which is at the heart of the brand’s Asian beginnings. Also known for incorporating local ingredients and traditions, I got to enjoy the Diocletian Ritual featuring olive oil, honey, sea salt, salt-pan mud, St. John’s wort, laurel, sage and lavender all fused together to detox, purify, enrich and heal. Spa Manager Luccio explained that all the plants are grown and harvested in Italy, giving that wonderful, fresh, local feel and, after a scrub, wrap and massage designed along the lines of those carried out back in the days of the original thermal baths, my skin felt amazing and even my soul revived.

Arrivederci Roma

All too soon it was time to say goodbye and we headed to the airport secure in the knowledge that we’ll be back – after all, as instructed, we’d turned our backs and tossed coins over our shoulders into the Trevi Fountain, so it’s only a matter of time, right? ✤