Steps from Rome’s famous Spanish ones, Hotel Vilòn is an elegant, art-filled boutique retreat in the shadow of the Palazzo Borghese. Esteemed neighbours aside, this former boarding school has been transformed into a small-scale hotel with just 18 rooms. Several of them overlook the Palazzo’s secret gardens; nab one with a furnished terrace suspended over them. The all-day bar extends out to the courtyard in fine weather, and you don’t have to wait for the bell to ring for the fun to start (first orders are taken at 10.30am). Don’t be fooled by the bistro’s Adelaide moniker: there’s nothing Antipodean about this seasonal Roman fare.
Get this when you book through us:
A welcome glass of wine each (Italian sparkling, white or red) upon arrival, to be enjoyed in Adelaide, and one €40 food and drinks credit a stay
Double rooms from £652.35 (€713), including tax at 10 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional local city tax of €7.00 per room per night on check-out.
Rates usually include breakfast.
Calling all Wes Anderson fans: if the purple staff uniforms look familiar, it’s because they were inspired by The Grand Budapest Hotel.
At the hotel
Free WiFi throughout, courtyard, carpark. In rooms: free soft drinks from the minibar, air-conditioning, flatscreen TV with DVD player, radio and Vilòn bath products.
Our favourite rooms
The finest views in this old Roman building are undoubtedly out over the Palazzo Borghese’s private garden; several rooms enjoy this vantage point and the best ones have an extensive terrace overlooking it (the Melangolo Suite, the Borghese Suite and the Vilòn Charming Terrace category). We loved the handpicked mid-century furniture in the Vilòn Suite. Every room has a marble bathroom, velvet armchairs and original artworks.
There is a steam room, and exercise classes can be arranged (including personal trainers).
Bring trendy tomes to brush up your design knowledge in these incredibly chic surroundings; and stylish yet comfortable shoes (if that isn’t an oxymoron) for conquering Rome’s endless tourist checklist.
The hotel is suitable for wheelchair users – all communal areas are accessible and there is a specially modified room on the first floor that can be reached by the lift.
Dogs are as well looked after as the guests: for €50 a booking, bowls, beds, treats and foods will be provided. Dog-sitting can also be arranged on request. See more pet-friendly hotels in Rome.
All ages welcome. Cots can be added to rooms. The Vilòn Double and Vilòn Charming Deluxe rooms can be interconnecting, as can the Vilòn Suite and the Vilòn Charming rooms. Babysitting needs a day’s notice and costs from €25 an hour (minimum two hours).
Vilòn Double and Vilòn Charming Deluxe rooms can be interconnecting, as can the Vilòn Suite and the Vilòn Charming rooms.
Children are welcome in both the bar and restaurant at all times. Highchairs are available in the restaurant, there are baby-changing facilities and meals can be modified for younger tastes. Colouring books and pens can be supplied for distraction purposes.
Babysitting can be arranged with a day’s notice and costs €25 an hour (minimum two hours) as well as the cost of a taxi home after 10pm.
No need to pack
Bedlinen, changing mats, puzzles, crayons, and books suitable for smalls.
Out on the patio if it’s sunny – and in Rome, it probably will be.
Bust out the Valentino in homage to the city’s most famous designer.
The Adelaide restaurant champions seasonal Roman and Mediterranean ingredients. Vegetarian and vegan options are on offer, as well as healthy takes on local dishes. The bistro complements its historic setting – don’t forget to check out the ceilings and floor. Breakfast is served in the bar; expect a spread of pastries, cakes, cereal, fruits, charcuterie and cheese.
Italy’s famous cocktail exports, from the Bellini to the Negroni, are mixed to perfection here in the lounge bar. It is open from 10.30am (it’s never too early for a spritz in our book). Sandwiches, salads and charcuterie are served here too.
Breakfast hours are a leisurely 7am to 11am. Lunch is available between 12.30pm and 3pm, and dinner is from 7.30pm until 10.30pm. The bar is open all day until late.
A selection of dishes from Adelaide and an additional shortlist of pastas, soups, sandwiches and salads are available around the clock.
The hotel is in the historic heart of Rome, close to all of the big players, including the Spanish Steps, the Trevi Fountain and the flashy boutiques of the Via del Corso.
The city’s major international airport, Leonardo da Vinci Fiumicino, is a 45-minute drive away. Hotel-arranged transfers in a Mercedes cost €90 each way. It’s a similar distance (and the same rate for transfers) from Ciampino Airport, which is served by Europe’s low-cost airlines.
While you won’t want to hang around Termini for long, the city’s main train station is an easy entry point, whether for trains arriving from Fiumicino Airport or for Trenitalia services from across Italy. The journey time from Termini to the hotel is 20 minutes by car and transfers cost €50.
If your driving skills fall short of Lewis Hamilton’s, it’s probably best to avoid getting behind the wheel in Rome. For the brave (and the skilled at identifying traffic lanes when there don’t appear to be any), there is a carpark nearby. Prices start from €35 a day. It’s a five-minute walk from the hotel, so drop your bags off first.
Worth getting out of bed for
Rome wasn’t built in a day and it would be impossible to see all of its sights in one – but Hotel Vilòn is so perfectly placed, you’ll be able to make a decent start. Get the credit cards ready for a trip along the neighbouring boutique-lined Via del Corso; prepare to recite Romantic poetry at length following a visit to the Keats Shelley House on the Spanish Steps; and make like a homesick Victorian ex-pat by mainlining the scones at Babington’s Tea Room, which has been baking for this purpose since 1893.
Those with a tolerance for gluten will do well by visiting Emma Pizzeria on Via Monte della Farina (yes, it’s a road named after flour), which has an elaborate array of dough-and-topping options, including an entire sub-section of the menu dedicated to buffalo-mozzarella versions. At Roscioli on Via dei Giubbonari, diners can choose between stockpiling salami from the deli and pulling up a stool to enjoy everything there and then in the adjoining cucina.
Nowhere is safe from the clean-eating bandwagon, not even the capital of the country that spawned pizza, pasta and gelato: for the best smoothies, juices and superfoods in the city, head to Ginger on Via Borgognona.
And so to Rome, the city that makes you feel as if you arrived by time machine rather than aeroplane. Our departure was an early one, landing just in time for lunch on an unusually warm November full of blue skies and sunshine.
Hotel Vilòn is just off Via del Corso, right by the Tiber River; its entrance an unassuming doorway. The building – previously owned by the Borghese family – dates back to the mid 16th century and its authentic Roman spirit remains, with a little modernising from a trio of creatives: Giampiero Panepinto designed the public spaces; Roman scenographer Paolo Bonfini created each guest room with his cinematic flair; Florentine photographer Massimo Listri curated the artwork, including his own photographs and vases.
Walking through the deco-inspired doors it feels as if your art-dealer friend just invited you stay at their Roman palazzo, so personable are the surroundings. In fact it’s hard not to leave Hotel Vilòn without wanting to redecorate your house. Each room has its own look and feel, from the monochrome tiled entrance to the lounge area with candy striped sofas and stacks of coffee-table books. The restaurant, Adelaide, is adorned with zingy emerald silk panels and a large cabinet of curiosities standing centre stage. It’s a place with personality where everything, down to the Richard Ginori china, feels individual and unique to the hotel.
Mr Smith and I arrive a few hours early but our room is ready for us within minutes, though not before we’re offered a drink at the bar: a much needed cappuccino.
We had booked a Vilòn Charming Deluxe. There are three in the 18-bedroom hotel and only one that comes complete with a Jacuzzi – ours happened to be that very one. Alongside the most decadent marble-swathed bathroom, a large bedroom with Egyptian cotton sheets and a huge wardrobe space, there is a fully stocked – free – mini bar.
In the summer, however, with Rome is at its most scorching, I‘d suggest the Charming Terrace, Melangolo-suite or Borghese suite as they come with their own private balconies and a view over the Borghese Palace Gardens.
Once settled we left our luxurious cavern to go to our favourite lunch spot, Giulio Passami L’Olio, lounging outside with a carafe of wine and empty plates that had only moments earlier housed towers of fresh linguine, the first pasta dish of many.
After a day spent wandering around the iconic sites, from the Pantheon to the Trevi Fountain, fuelled by pasta and a quick afternoon stop at Giolitti for a skyscraper sized cone of salted caramel ice cream, we were ready to head back.
Our room had been turned down for the night, the heavy velvet curtain drawn, some beautiful cerulean towelling slippers put out for us and the next day’s weather report printed on a neat card on our bedside table. Everything was so inviting that an unintentional nap resulted in a rather late dinner… I blame the bed.
The night ended in a wine bar where we stayed till closing, walking back through the yellow glow of the street lights. Rome is truly magical at night.
Morning was slightly rushed due to an early booking to see the Colosseum and some wine-induced snoozing. A mistake, it turned out. Hotel Vilòn’s breakfast is fabulous and the best way to enjoy it would be in a laissez-faire manner. After a shot of juice, a latte, a rather confused breakfast plate on my behalf (I couldn’t resist the fresh fruit, croissants and…fresh custard) I also ordered pancakes which were light and sweet – the perfect start to the day.
Managing to just make the Colosseum in time, we then spent the rest of the day at various galleries, only stopping for lunch where Mr Smith claimed to have had the best tiramisu of his life. A mere 25km of walking later and we got back to the hotel. We could hardly move. This is where having the only room with a jacuzzi really comes into play.
After a quick refresh we decided to try out the hotel’s restaurant, Adelaide, a popular choice for most guests judging by the quite hubbub of Saturday night chatter in the dining room and limited amount of free tables. We sat in a hidden nook, using the warm moody glow from our candlelit table to peruse the menu until our waiter appeared.
We began with an organic white wine from Puglia and some rather ostentatious sounding starters. From my seat I enjoyed watching the flurry of white chef hats from afar as the evening’s dishes were prepared. And what dishes. For my main I chose a butternut and pumpkin pasta, perfectly al dente, and Mr Smith went for a homemade gnocchi and duck ragu. Dessert was my favourite: a meringue with chestnut cream which I ate with as much excitement as a seven-year old at their own birthday party. By the end of dinner I felt as tired as one, and just about made it up to bed.
On Sundays the hotel hosts a brunch with a live jazz band who were playing during our check-out; the delightful thwack of the double bass soundtracking our departure. Just before we leave I glance at the guest book. The last comment reads: ‘The best hotel we stayed at in Italy’. We’re inclined to agree.