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The Rome Guide

For all its mythic history—about 2,800-years’ worth—the Eternal City has a way of making all who visit it feel like they’ve discovered something entirely their own, be it a local trattoria with out-of-this-world cacio e pepe or a famous Caravaggio in a seemingly average church (rule of thumb: walk into every church you come across, you never know what can be found inside). And while so many culture-rich European cities require rigorous touring, Rome’s distinct neighborhoods are best explored by simply strolling around (navigating the cramped cobblestone streets by car is more trouble than it’s worth), as so many of its key sites sneak up on you in easily accessible piazzas. For especially meaty landmarks—the Vatican and the Colosseum in particular—a private guide guarantees you get to see as much or as little as you wish: Your hotel will help with booking or you can DIY by using a touring outfit—we like this one, which employs many local art history students as guides.

Then there’s the food. From teeny mom-and-pops to trendy newcomers to slick hotel-backed cafés—arguably some of the best spots to stop for aperitivo with a view—a good meal is easy to come by in this part of the world, though there are some standouts, many of which are covered in this guide. Note: Though Naples gets all the pizza glory, Roman-style pies are crispier, more varied in terms of toppings, and just as exceptional, so feel free to sample with abandon.

Fendi Private Suites

Via della Fontanella di Borghese, 48, Campo Marzio | +39.069.779.8080

Walking into the lobby sort of sets the tone for the experience here with Campana Brothers sofas, vintage Fritz Hansen chairs, Gio Ponti mirrors, a wall lined with art books, and Lindsey Adelman light fixtures—it’s all very aligned with the luxury-first approach of the Italian fashion house. (It also happens to sit atop the newly redesigned Fendi flagship store in the Tridente neighborhood.) The seven pied-à-terre style apartments maintain a modern, high-design bent—grey paneled walls, sharp Fendi Casa furniture, jewel-toned velvet chairs—and the staff operates with an anything-is-possible attitude. For breakfast, opt for pastries and coffee served in bed.

G-Rough

Piazza di Pasquino, 69, Centro Storico | +39.066.880.1085

Tucked away in a 16th-century palazzo just off Piazza Navoa, this ten-room strong townhouse feels like one of those gems you scour Airbnb for but can never seem to find. The thing about the aesthetic of G-Rough is that it's intensely personal and unstudied—there are pretty, old tiled floors and time-worn frescoes mixed with Gio Ponti and Guglielmo Ulrich furnishings, as well as artwork from the owner’s private collection. For those looking for a bit more space, the two suites on the top floor, each with its own outdoor terrace, can be combined for a kind of makeshift penthouse apartment. Overall, the hotel is about as un-hotel like as it comes: There’s no formal concierge, but there’s a very attentive butler who will see to your every whim, and there’s no food on the premises, save for a modest continental breakfast menu and some smaller bites during aperitivo hour; but plenty to eat and drink within striking distance.

Hotel De Russie

Via del Babuino, 9, Campo Marzio | +39.063.288.81

Often referred to as one of the best places to stay in Rome, Hotel de Russie on Via del Babuino is smack-dab in the center of the city, amidst a maze of cobblestoned streets. Marked by a blush façade and pale blue shutters, the hotel, a 19th-century palazzo, feels like a little Mediterranean enclave in the center. The rooms—and on-point service—are what Hotel de Russie is known for. Perhaps the most exciting, if your pockets are deep enough, are the newly redecorated suites: The Picasso Suite, a tribute to the artist who stayed there for a few months in 1917, features a dining room, Italian marble bath, and private terrace overlooking the garden. The significantly larger Popolo Suite is a wonderful mix of European antiques and more modern design, and includes pieces done up in Italian velvets, custom rugs, and black-and-white photography of Roman monuments lining the walls. A recently updated spa includes Turkish baths, plus on-demand personal trainers. And with the faint scent of orange blossom lingering in the background, drinks in the courtyard garden of Le Jardin de Russie restaurant is as magical as everyone says.

Hotel Eden

Via Ludovisi, 49, Ludovisi | +39.064.78121

On the heels of a seventeen-month-long soup-to-nuts renovation, and now under the watchful eye of the Dorchester Collection (The Beverly Hills Hotel, Hôtel Plaza Athénée), this famously historic hotel, which first opened in 1889, is finally ready for its close-up. The location, situated between the Spanish Steps and Villa Borghese, mean that it’s central without being too highly trafficked. There are ninety-eight rooms, each one thoughtfully done in a way that feels comfortable but refined. (Think: a muted palette, WiFi, marble bathrooms, and Bottega Veneta toiletries.) With the revamp also came a new spa, perched on the top floor, which features Sonya Dakar treatments, plus a blow-dry bar and mani/pedi salon—both new-fangled conveniences not often found in European hotels. Of the three restaurants on the property, Il Giardino, which serves up Italian-style tapas in addition to its menu of pizza and some lighter fare, is the most low-key. Be sure to ask for a table outside on the terrace.

Palazzo Dama

Lungotevere Arnaldo da Brescia, 2, Campo Marzio | +39.068.956.5272

With the unerring oversight of architect Antonio Girardi comes the revamp of Palazzo Dama, former residence and now a small B&B, just a quick walk from Piazza del Polopo. What’s nice about Palazzo Dama is it still retains a residential and decidedly glamorous feel: There are the original Art Nouveau doors, mirrored walls, lithographs from the likes of Miró and Warhol, plus chandeliers bought at auction from New York’s Plaza Hotel. The rooms are a bit more pared-back design-wise than the common spaces, but there are charming 1940's-style lamps, vintage books on the nightstand, brass fixtures, crisp linens, and a well-stocked complimentary mini-bar. Downstairs, for a lighter take on Roman fare, L’Autre Dame serves up breakfast for hotel guests (and is open for lunch and dinner, too). A nicely sized marble-lined swimming pool surrounded by lemon and olive trees is a hit with kiddos—and a great place for adults to unwind.

Portrait Roma

Via Bocca di Leone, 23, Campo Marzio | +39.06.6938.0742

Portrait Roma, the Ferragamo family’s first foray into hotels in Rome is an intimate fourteen-room property that feels like you’re staying at a friend’s sleek apartment. The entrance is discreet, located just next to the Salvatore Ferragamo boutique on Via Condotti. The rooms have an air of formality to them—blond hardwood floors, heavy tapestries, and proper walk-in closet and dressing area. The staff is never without an iPad at the ready, so they're super attentive to requests, which makes just about everything a total breeze. The roof terrace’s views stretch as far as the Villa Medici and the Vatican City—it's the kind of spot you’ll want to make yourself comfortable, with an aperol spritz in hand, and just soak it all in. A note: There’s no restaurant on the property—breakfast is served daily in your room or on the roof terrace, but head out for lunch and dinner.

Villa Laetitia

Lungotevere delle Armi, 22, Prati | +39.063.226.776

On the banks near Piazza del Popolo, Anna Fendi’s Villa Laetitia has twenty guest rooms, each one paying a quiet homage to one of the brand’s inner circle, be it its founder Adele or designer Karl Lagerfeld. As a result, each room is wholly unique, thoughtfully appointed with a mix of vintage pieces from Fendi’s personal collection of 19th- and 20th-century furniture, lighting, and artwork. (Look for a Mies van der Rohe sofa, paintings by Enrico Castellani, sketches on the walls by Dior and Saint Laurent.) Kitchenettes are kind of a thing throughout Europe, so each room has one (these are very modern), and most rooms have their own private terrace. For families traveling, bilingual babysitters are available upon request, and the ace general manager, Giulio Delettrez Fendi, can do everything from arrange a picnic basket for an afternoon in the park to set up bike rentals to explore the city.