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Licence to Rome

Where else to base yourself for a break in the enchanting Eternal City than Leo DiCaprio and Julia Roberts’ favourite hotel

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The Colosseum in Rome, the cradle of modern Europe. Credit: Getty Images

The Colosseum in Rome, the cradle of modern Europe. Credit: Getty Images

Getty Images

Fountain di Trevi in Rome

Fountain di Trevi in Rome

The sun sets over St Peter's Basilica and Rome. Credit: Getty Images

The sun sets over St Peter's Basilica and Rome. Credit: Getty Images

Getty Images

A view of St Peter's Square and the city of Rome

A view of St Peter's Square and the city of Rome

The rooftop terrace at the Rome Cavalieri hotel. Credit: Antonio Saba

The rooftop terrace at the Rome Cavalieri hotel. Credit: Antonio Saba

A premium suite bedroom. Credit: Antonio Saba

A premium suite bedroom. Credit: Antonio Saba

Rome Cavalieri outdoor terrace

Rome Cavalieri outdoor terrace

Main outdoor pool. Credit: Credit: Antonio Saba

Main outdoor pool. Credit: Credit: Antonio Saba

Nervi staircase at the Garden Lobby. Credit: Antonio Saba

Nervi staircase at the Garden Lobby. Credit: Antonio Saba

The bathroom at the penthouse suite. Credit: Antonio Saba

The bathroom at the penthouse suite. Credit: Antonio Saba

Cavalieri Grand Spa. Credit: Antonio Saba

Cavalieri Grand Spa. Credit: Antonio Saba

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The Colosseum in Rome, the cradle of modern Europe. Credit: Getty Images

Sitting high on Monte Mario overlooking Rome city centre, the Rome Cavalieri hotel is the perfect location for a city break in Italy.

The five-star hilltop oasis was my base during my first ever break in the city to see some of the most famous landmarks on the planet.

Sitting on the balcony of your room or in one of the hotel’s bar or restaurants, you have stunning views across the Eternal City including Vatican City and St Peter’s Basilica thanks to Monte Mario being the highest point in Rome.

Opened in 1963, the opulent and grand Waldorf Astoria resort has played host to royalty and celebrities such as George Clooney, Julia Roberts, Leonardo DiCaprio and Brad Pitt.

As soon as you walk into the lobby you will see why this hotel exudes Italian luxury with marble floors, golden banisters and priceless artwork everywhere you look.

While there is so much to see and do in Rome (and see them you must) the hotel is itself a destination which some guests, who have already done the tourist thing on previous visits, never leave during their stay.

You could spend days wandering around the hotel and its 15-acre grounds including its Roman-themed spa, outdoor and indoor pools, magnificent gardens and tennis courts, where Venus Williams and Novak Djokovic (he may have been refused entry to Australia but not there) have both been spotted.

We spent a morning in the Cavalieri Grand Spa Club (due to Covid you have to prebook times for the pool and Jacuzzi) and could easily see why it is considered the best in Rome. The inside pool is such a relaxing and vast space with nods to ancient Rome everywhere.

While we were there in December the outdoor pool was closed (although there was a freak heatwave which saw temperatures climb to 17°c just days before Christmas). In the summer it would be a perfect spot to sunbathe and sip cocktails as you admire the view of the city beyond.

There is also a rather large fitness suite next door and the spa has an extensive treatment menu featuring La Prairie products.

We stayed in an Imperial room (they are on the seventh and eighth floors) which come with private balconies. An added bonus is that staying in one of those rooms gets you access to the Imperial Club. During the day and early evening you can avail of free drinks, canapés and a splendid afternoon tea, either inside the lounge or on its balcony, so paying that little extra is really worthwhile. Those who have stayed in a Hilton hotel before will know this is similar to what they offer with their Executive Lounge.

The rooms themselves are so spacious, much more so than those in the middle of the city — everything at the Rome Cavalieri is about space and more space. The rooms exude the same glamour evident throughout the building with a rich imperial blue and gold colour scheme and lots of Italian marble in the bathroom, which has a bath and rain shower. There is a great selection of Salvatore Ferragamo bath products including facial mist and pillow spray to eye cream.

With huge beds which swallow you up helping guarantee a great night’s sleep, so does the fact that the double doors are soundproofed with electric blackout shutters shutting you off from the world outside as you snooze. There is even an extensive pillow menu so you can choose your favourite.

I managed to grab a sneak peek of the hotel’s Penthouse Suite, which was by far the most impressive and decadent hotel suite I have ever stepped foot in. You would need to have a lot of cash to splash to stay there as it costs around €10,000 per night.

The Penthouse has a private bar, Swarovski crystal taps, huge Jacuzzi bath and a unique sofa designed and formerly owned by German designer Karl Lagerfeld, as well as original artworks by Andy Warhol on the walls. The room even has a retractable roof which rolls back to reveal stairs to a private rooftop terrace with an open air Jacuzzi.

Little wonder that I discovered Don’t Look Up star Leonardo DiCaprio lived there while filming Gangs of New York and Julia Roberts books it every time she is in Rome.

From that suite guests have their own entrance door into the hotel’s top floor La Pergola restaurant — the city’s only one with three Michelin stars. Reviews for Chef Heinz Beck’s menu alone have placed this restaurant on my bucket list.

You have to book well in advance to get a table there but the hotel’s other restaurant, Uliveto, where we dined, offers a great selection of tasty Mediterranean dishes including classic pasta, meat and seafood dishes. My highlight was the pappardelle pasta with wild boar. As a side dish check out their very moreish French fries with black truffle and pecorino cheese.

Make sure and explore every inch of the hotel as it is home to one of the most valuable and most important private art collections in the world. More than 1,000 paintings, sculptures, antiques and tapestries decorate walls across the property.

Of particular significance is the 17th century three panel Giovanni Battista Tiepolo triptych in the hotel lobby. I have since read they are worth $28million and the glass which protects them is bulletproof. Also check out The Kiss marble sculpture, created by Antonio Tantardini back in 1861, which has become an Instagram sensation for couples’ pictures on Valentine’s Day.

When you can drag yourself away from the hotel, make a plan of action for hitting the sights. Must-dos include the Vatican City and Sistine Chapel, the Colosseum and the Forum, the Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon and the Spanish Steps.

It is a 20-30 minute taxi ride to Rome city centre but just 10 minutes to Vatican City. The hotel has an hourly pick-up and drop-off minibus which will whisk you into and back from Rome free of charge. We just grabbed an Uber to be more flexible on time.

We spent a day in Vatican City — the smallest state in the world, with a population of just 800 — and its own postal service. It is home to St Peter’s Basilica (where Saint Peter is said to be buried) which is the largest church in the world with an interior as magnificent and grand as its exterior. Entry is free but there is an entrance charge for The Sistine Chapel, with its intricate ceiling frescos painted by Michelangelo, and The Vatican Museums.

One of the best things you can do is just get lost wandering the ancient cobbles of Rome. Thanks to doing so, we found some of the best pasta I have ever tasted. It was in a tiny restaurant a few minutes away from the Vatican called Borghiciana Pastificio Artigianale and the range of savoury and sweet dishes has to be seen to be believed.

And after a day’s sightseeing there is no better way to relax than returning to the Rome Cavalieri where the Dolce Vita is very much alive and thriving.

Travel factfile

Rome Cavalieri, A Waldorf Astoria Hotel, Via Alberto Cadlolo, 101 - 00136 Rome, Italy. For reservations and further information please visit www.romecavalieri.com. Rooms start from €213 per night.
The hotel has also four individual packages for guests starting from €150. They are:
Facelifting Caravaggio
This experience provides guests with an artistic laboratory, in which to learn the various techniques that are used to restore beautiful works of art to their former glory. Uncover a painting by Caravaggio, considered the father of the 17th century Naturalism movement, and supervised by an expert restorer, guests will be taught the secrets of how to give life, light and colour to his masterpieces once again.
Eco-Spiaggina
The best way to get a snapshot of the iconic city is by electric Spiaggina (two-seater car). With the concierge on-hand to provide valuable insider tips, one can nip around the streets and discover the city’s most commended haunts.
Dine at an Organic Farm
Just 20 minutes from the city centre, explore the Roman countryside and visit a beautiful organic farm. There you will find a vegetable garden, observe the cheese and honey production and hunt for medicinal plants on a tour of the farm before sitting down for an idyllic picnic.
Fashion Through Movies
With the help of a personal shopper, discover the history of fashion through Italian movies. The experience will take you to renowned theatre tailors, including Sorelle Ferroni and Foundation Micol Fontana, who created dresses for actresses such as Grace Kelly, Elizabeth Taylor and Audrey Hepburn.

Exclusive Sunday Life offer

As we left on the 6.25am flight with Ryanair from Dublin to Rome’s Ciampino we checked into the Maldron Hotel at Dublin Airport.
The hotel, just three minutes to the terminal with a 24-hour shuttle bus, has a Park, Stay & Fly package so you can leave your car there while you are on holiday. Checking in the night before meant we didn’t have to set off from Belfast at around 2am and ruin our first day in Rome due to tiredness.
It also allowed us to start our holiday an evening early with a nice bite to eat in the Grain and Grill Restaurant. The Maldron has launched an exclusive Sunday Life reader offer of 20% discount off their best available rates. Rates start from €119 for bookings made in January for throughout 2022. To avail of this offer, visit: https://bookings.maldronhoteldublinairport.com/offer/sunday-life-exclusive-offer-20-discount
For anyone flying out of Dublin Airport the hotel also has a fixed parking cost of €10 per night supplementary to whatever bedroom offer you book. Check out www.maldronhoteldublinairport.com/park-stay-fly/


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