Eyes straight – blinkers if necessary – and repeat after me: Dior, Prada, Gucci, Bulgari, then hang a right at Cartier. Walk all of 30 yards and we’re there. Wow. If you worship the Roman gods of shopping and fashion, luxury boutique hotel Crossing Condotti – just a handbag’s throw from designer-shopping heaven in the Italian capital – makes a more than suitable temple. Indeed, Mrs Smith even confesses to Posh Spice-like levels of excitement at the thought of the damage she can do to her credit card within a few paces from our front door. And it really is our front door: Crossing Condotti isn’t a hotel as such, but rather a smart townhouse with five delightful rooms, a kitchen and shared sitting room. Thus, while there is no room service or spa, we do have the enviable freedom to come and go according to our whims.
Upon arrival, Marco, the assistant manager and concierge, rushes downstairs to hike our not inconsiderable baggage up the one flight of stairs into the serene sitting room, where, he points out with a flourish, there is a luxuriant selection of guides, novels and style magazines at our disposal. Marco offers us coffee and a scrumptious little pear cake while he does the paperwork. The kitchen features perhaps the best espresso machine I have ever encountered in all my years of caffè snobbery. We are also pointed at a generously stocked fridge, with a large range of complimentary soft drinks.
All five rooms, although not huge, are comfortable, and sensitively and elegantly decorated in muted tones. Ours – Carrozze – is a splendid mix of greys, olives, ochres and creams, which sets off the impressive 19th-century dark wood-panelled ceiling a treat. Furniture is a mix of antiques in dark wood with tapestried upholstery and modern pieces, such as Perspex-cube side tables. Lovingly restored portraits of rather austere-looking characters from the 1800s adorn the walls. And sumptuous drapes hide recesses, so the overall effect isn't spoiled by something so pedestrian as a kettle and a few sachets of Nescafé.
Crossing Condotti doesn't serve breakfast, but Do Bar, just around the corner on Via delle Carrozze, means we manage to bypass the kitchen altogether, and enjoy cappuccini and Roman pastries each morning until we are replete and ready to flex our Amex Blacks.
Do Bar is just one of Marco’s recommendations which, along with his encyclopaedic knowledge of local events, proves invaluable during our long weekend in the Eternal City – where time is short and options too numerous to leave to luck. Along Via Mario de’ Fiori, a few metres from Crossing Condotti, is a vibrant wine bar called Shaki, where the table service spills cheerily onto the pavement. Stop there for a glass of Prosecco, fresh pasta and risotto, or just to spot the fashion faux-pas of passing tourists and Romani.
We manage (inadvertently) to be in the city at the same time as La Notte Bianca, a night of cultural events in which all the city’s museums stay open till 2am. Sadly, after pounding the streets with several hundredweight of designer shopping bags and filling our bellies with sumptuous pizze and gelati, I am ashamed to report that we didn't manage to take full advantage of this cultural opportunity this time around. Vatican? What Vatican? Sacrilegious, I know.
And we have no excuses… Crossing Condotti’s A-plus for location is as much for its proximity to Rome’s cultural attractions as it is for its boutique-side credentials. As well as being metres from the Spanish Steps, it’s only a short stroll from the Trevi Fountain. Our first visit (circa 1pm) involves being stampeded by around 42,000 other tourists. Fortunately, after a splendid dinner at Il San Lorenzo on Via dei Chiavari (thanks for the tip, Marco), we meander past contentedly, arm in arm, and get to enjoy it floodlit and alone at around 1am. Thankfully Mrs Smith resists the temptation to do an Anita Ekberg, La Dolce Vita-style, but the romantic effect is, well, magical. While we’re on a cinematic bent, fans should note that this corner of the Centro Storico – from the Spanish Steps to the foot of Via Vittorio Veneto on Piazza Barberini – is the where the Vespa scene was filmed in Roman Holiday.
It is with extremely heavy hearts – and shopping bags and bellies – that we peel ourselves out of our exceptionally comfortable bed for the last time and make our way to check out, complete with newly acquired suitcase (not Vuitton – I drew the line, after Mrs Smith splurged her Euros to extinction in Prada).
Phrases such as ‘home away from home’ are bandied around way too much in hotel reviews, but the set-up, location and hospitality afforded us at Crossing Condotti made us feel more at home than we could ever have dared to expect. I only wish that our actual home was as commodious, peaceful and elegant as Crossing Condotti. And a concierge such as Marco wouldn’t go amiss either…