Before Carlo Mazzi and his family showed up, 15th-century Palazzo delle Pietre, in central-as-can-be Rome, was a victim of heinous style crimes: frescos wallpapered over, painted beams behind false ceilings… The Mazzi’s played both archaeologists and future-proofers, restoring porticos, epigraphs, cosmatesque tiles and more, and crafting eight apartments, using both Carlo’s masonry collection dating back to antiquity – for which the stay is named – and furnishings from Rome’s modern makers. They’re a joyful past-present melee of statuary, friezes, marbles with psychedelic striations and colourful statement pieces, along with a gracious concierge, hammam, and private cultural club with the aim of sharing and safeguarding Roman culture; and, we surmise, ensuring not one Corinthian column, gilded cherub or Latin fragment gets again persecuted by poor taste.
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All-natural bio juices from an organic Italian farm on arrival
Double rooms from £429.71 (€480), including tax at 10 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional local city tax of €3.50 per person per night on check-out.
Rates don't include breakfast but you'll get a basket with fresh bread and croissants each morning. Guests get a bottle of wine from the hotel cellar and flowers on arrival. There's a minimum two-night stay, three nights in some seasons.
The aparthotel’s name means ‘Palace of Stone’, so-called because of the impressive collection of decorative masonry Carlo Mazzi has amassed, a lot inherited from his great-great grandfather, and much sourced from antique dealers across Italy. Spanning the Roman to Romanesque to Renaissance eras, it includes Corinthian capitals, fountains, sculptures of muses and mythological animals, frescoed friezes, portals and epigraphs. And, the palazzo has some Roman heritage itself, sitting on the site of the former Alesandrian baths, built in 62AD.
At the hotel
Culture-led club, gym and hammam, reading room with a small library, concierge (from 7am to 11pm), laundry room (free to use from 2pm to 8pm) and a charged service. In rooms: A bottle of wine selected from the hotel cellar and fresh fruit, Smart TV, high-speed WiFi, Illy coffee-maker with eight free capsules, tea-making kit, two bottles of mineral water, international adaptor, daily cleaning (linens and towels changed every three days), air-conditioning, bathrobes and Comfort Zone bath products.
Our favourite rooms
Each apartment feels unique and special, and there are none we’d turn our nose up at. Aside from the cherished collection of family-collected stonework and the frescoed and beamed bits, there's dainty porcelain ware by Richard Ginori, furnishings by De Padova and Alivar, accessories by Kartell, Artemide lighting, Altai carpeting, and spectacular marbles by Antolini. The only real choice is whether you want a terrace (Comfort or Superior apartments), an extra bedroom (Prestige or Penthouse apartments) or a cosier space (Studio apartment).
Get into gladiatorial shape in the fitness room (from 8am to 10pm, for up to six guests at a time), which is packed with Technogym kit (an elliptical, bike, treadmills, a Kinesis core station, wellness ball and weight bench) then follow in the path of the Roman’s thermae with a spell in the green-mosaic-tiled hammam (must be booked in advance, available 9am to 8pm). And, in-apartment pampering can be booked through the concierge.
The apartments are all set for long-term stays, so translate as many of your belongings here as you wish. Otherwise, get your head around some scientific and cultural theory and school yourself in Italian art to bring something to the table at Frammenti Club.
The palazzo is very much a family affair – Carlo Mazzi oversaw the restoration (and still lives here), his daughter Barbara acts as host, and his wife Patrizia played a huge part in the apartments’ styling.
These private stays are very accommodating for bambini. Most have a sofa bed or interconnect, and if you need a babysitter, itinerary to engage smalls or pretty much anything else just let the concierge know.
Children old enough to play nicely with things – kids are welcome, but there are a lot of antiques on display.
The Studio might be on the small side unless you interconnect it with another apartment. Otherwise all take at least one extra guest.
The concierge can help with suggestions, but Rome is very kid-friendly – the larger-than-life monuments are fascinating, they can learn to be gladiators or make pizza, there are parks and bike trails to follow, and you could even take a day trip to Pompeii.
Pizza, cheesy pasta, gelato – what’s not to like?
Babysitting can be arranged.
No need to pack
The concierge can help hunt down essentials (and Rome has plenty of shops), so just bring the things from home that you can’t replace in a pinch.
The 15th-century palazzo underwent a six-year renovation, because by the time Carlo Mazzi and his family found it, alterations had been made with no respect to its original structure, decor or character. Frescoes were found behind wallpapers; stone epigraphs, sculptures and porticos were revealed when demolishing fake walls and peeling back plaster; and two original windows had been obscured by new masonry. In putting these wrongs to right, the family collaborated with the Superintendence of Cultural Heritage to ensure the restoration was historically accurate and to keep any enhancements in check. And, now back to its former glory, it’s also used to display Mazzi’s impressive collection of antique Italian stonework: sculptures, columns and the fragments of decorative masonry after which the hotel is named. And, the Frammenti Club is an esteemed space for scientific, literary and cultural salons. All in all, the palazzo achieves its goal of paying reverential tribute to the Eternal City and safekeeping part of the culture and history for the next generation; and, as such, it’s a member of the Italian Historic Houses Association.
You’re in your own private city pad, but there’s still room for flouncing about in dramatic robes or even getting dolled up for pre-dinner drinks.
Each apartment has a kitchen, so dining is DIY here (or DIABAR: ditch it and book a restaurant). Or, you can ask for a private chef to take the reins.
You’ll get a bottle of wine from the palazzo’s cellar to welcome you on arrival, and the concierge can certainly help you acquire more. And, if you do a recce of Rome’s enotecas, your kitchen comes with a corkscrew.
The concierge signs off at 11pm, so if you don’t want to schlep bags upstairs then order shopping or deliveries before then.
On request groceries can be delivered and Deliveroos brought to your door.
Palazzo delle Pietre sits in the capital’s political seat Campo Marzo close to all the Centro Storico’s headline acts: the Pantheon, Piazza Navona, Trevi Fountain…And Rome’s most bougie shopping streets.
Both Ciampino and Leonardo Da Vinci airports are about 45 minutes’ drive from the palazzo; the former has connections all over Europe, while the latter better serves international arrivals. The concierge is on call if you need transfers (around €80 each way).
Roma Termini – from which you can easily connect to Florence, Naples or Pisa, with happy-cry-inducing views throughout all journeys – is just a 20-minute drive from the hotel, and transfers are around €65 each way. The closest Metro stop is Barberini about a 20-minute walk away.
In some ways, driving in Rome is actually very much like the car-chase scene in Spectre, in that it’s a bit of a stressful affair, and you may well find yourself in a barely car-sized cobbled alley tempted to nose the vehicle you’re wedged behind out of the way. Although – alongside many other violations – Bond would likely have also got himself a fine for breaching the ZTL (Limited Traffic Zone). Unless you have the swagger of a special agent and the patience of the Pope, we’d leave the driving. But, if you do brave the streets, there are a few charged car parks close to the hotel. Besides, Rome surprises you more when you’re on foot.
Worth getting out of bed for
The cobbled Via delle Coppelle on which the hotel sits was named for the cheap cups of wine you could purchase from vendors along it. These days you can’t exactly swig your way about like a drunk-on-power emperor, but there’s plenty to match that buzz close by, because all the pomp and circumstance of the Eternal City is concentrated in this neighbourhood. Go west and you’ll hit the gloriously OTT San Luigi dei Francesi church, whose ceiling has been thoroughly Midas-touched, and casually hanging on the walls are no less than three Caravaggio masterworks (Saint Matthew and the Angel, TheMartyrdom of Saint Matthew and TheCalling of Saint Matthew). A little further along is the Church of Sant’Agostino, where you’ll find yet more Caravaggios crowding the walls with works by Raphael, Sansovino and other masters. Go down a bit and you’ll see 16th-century Palazzo Giustiniani, home to the President of the Senate of the Republic, and a sight grander than most government buildings, frescoed and gilded to the hilt within. And then, a few steps away, you’ll come out into Piazza Navona, formerly emperor Domitian’s chariot-racing stadium in the ADs, hence its oval shape, now a lively enclave with Bernini’s famed Fountain of Rivers at its heart. It’s alright, but it does pale into insignificance when you take a 10-minute walk east and find yourself in the fray surrounding the Trevi Fountain – remember, it’s one coin if you want to return, two if you want to return and fall in love, and three if you want to do all that and get married. We can’t promise any of that, but the around €1.5 million that gets tossed in each year goes to homeless charity Caritas Roma, so at least someone’s guaranteed something good from it. And, you’re also a bag swish from Via Campo Marzio and Via Condotti – two of the city’s most well-heeled and dressed streets, lined with luxury-label boutiques (and some indies). If you feel a little overwhelmed ask the hotel to hire you a personal shopper for the day. The latter Via culminates in the Spanish Steps, the Villa Medici and the Villa Borghese encased in its spectacularly landscaped gardens with all the fussy parterre, follies and serene fountains you could ask for. And to the south, the Colosseum and Forum complex are a 30-minute walk away. It’s worth taking a more leisurely walk by the Tiber down to Trastevere, a bohemian ‘hood with a renowned vintage market (Mercato della Città Ecosolidale), paintings and photography in the Museo di Roma, 1930s arthouse cinema Sacher Film and Tiber Island where screenings are held from June to September as part of the Isola del Cinema festival. But, you needn’t go far for cultural fodder – as part of your stay you have access to the Frammenti (‘fragment’) Club, where luminaries from the science, literature and art worlds hold classes and talks a few times a month.
Dining in the Centro Storico does involve some discernment – is that an heirloom trattoria with generational recipes, staff you feel like you’ve grown up with and the sort of food you’ll pine for? Or the dining equivalent of a selfie stick and ‘sexy gladiator’ calendar? We’ve cherry-picked some of the area’s more authentic and stylish eateries to try. Il Sanlorenzo is set in a palazzo built over the foundations of the Teatro Pompeo, chandeliers hang from ancient stone ceilings and artwork by up-and-coming Romans (Veronica Botticelli, Piero Pizzi Cannella, Oliviero Rainaldi and Marco Tirelli). Only fish and seafood are served here – delivered daily from the isle of Ponza – but in eloquent style, say swordfish with porcini; grilled squid stuffed with friarielli, scamorza and red prawns in a bouillabaisse sauce; or sea-urchin spaghetti. And Sapora di Mare in Piazza Navona also does a fine line in fish, seabass comes on a bed of salt, amberjack delicately sliced, and tonnarelli tossed with pata negra lard, red prawns and cherry tomatoes. To the north, Alfredo Alla Scrofa is the birthplace of creamy comfort food fettuccine alfredo, its fame attributed to American actress Mary Pickford who visited on her honeymoon and loved it so much she sent back two golden spoons declaring ‘To Alfredo the king of noodles’. It dominates the menu, but there are other Roman classics here (veal saltimbocca, cacio e pepe, meatballs) in tasting menus dense with carbs. Close to the Colosseum, Cuoco e Camicia modernises centuries-old favourites; they’re best known for their ‘reverse carbonara’ where the sauce is encased in tortellini, but why not try their wackier inventions: creamed fish popsicle with strawberry and dukkah; beef tartare with plums and popcorn; or Iberian pork in bell-pepper barbecue sauce with cherries and ‘nduja.
For coffee, hit Caffè Sant'Eustachio near the Pantheon – they’ve earned a reputation for their sugar-frothed espresso (and the equally easy-downing regular version). And for that other Italian treat – gelato – try Günther Gelato Italiano. The South Tyrolean maker uses microfiltered bio milk and Alpine Plose water (known for its purity and high oxygen content) in his ice-creams and sorbets. But enough of the science bit – the cones you need to try are the eggnog, mountain pine and ricotta strega – or the panettone if you’re around at Christmas.
Rome’s nightlife is as exuberant as its citizens and as modish, so pull out your big-gun outfits. Vyta is a mod-deco drinkery (and bistro) in glittering gold and black, which has a very fashion-forward crowd, gins from all over the world, an all-classics cocktail list and excellent regional wines, of course. On Piazza Navona, Liòn, too, is a snazzy dresser, with mosaic-tiled columns, looping brass medallions hanging from the ceiling, patterned floor tiles, and a scarlet and teal colour scheme. Cocktails are vaguely film-themed (there’s a menu dedicated to Bond) – try the Alien with tequila, blackberry syrup, lime, cointreau and a spritz of oud; or the Sober Up with rum, strega, raspberry and redcurrant syrup and orange juice. An old-school drinkery, which spills out onto a chattery square, Osteria Delle Coppelle is where the locals come for a friendly apéritif; but, push open the wardrobe at the back and you’ll find yourself in – not Narnia – but Club Derrière, an intimate speakeasy serving cocktails like the English Pie (gin muddled with sage, raspberry and cocoa). Dress up, secure your password in advance, and keep your phone tucked into your bag.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this past-hurrah palazzo close to all Rome’s big-deal buildings and sites and unpacked their bit of vintage statuary that didn’t exceed the luggage limit and a few new ideas from the Frammenti Club’s talks, a full account of their forward-thinking break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Palazzo delle Pietre…
One of Rome’s joys is the way that past and present casually co-exist together: grandiose monuments side by side with big-name boutiques, papal blessing windows set in graffitied façades, a slice of Servian Wall cleaving into a McDonalds in the basement of Termini station… 15th-century Palazzo delle Pietre uses this concept in microcosm – each of its eight apartments has portions of the past (frescoed friezes, beamed ceilings, chunks of antique stonework, statuary, epigraphs and more) styled with sleek and vividly hued furnishings and artwork to represent for modern Rome’s makers. It’s the result of a huge renovation project, during which the fashion scion Mazzi family peeled away wallpapers, moved masonry, scraped away plaster and knocked through false walls and ceilings to get at these sacrilegious-ly buried treasures; and a collection of stone pieces from the Roman to Renaissance times, passed down through the generations, that gave the palazzo its name (Palace of Stone). The family’s aim wasn’t just to create a unique, private and ultra-luxurious collection of city pads – although they are certainly that, with a concierge on call, gym and hammam, and all the comforts of home included – but to create a hymnal to Roman culture, which at once conserves the past and celebrates the future, so much so the hotel has joined the Italian Historic Houses network. It’s a message further emboldened by the Frammenti Club, an exclusive space where scientific, literary and cultural talks are held to pass on knowledge and preserve places from design downgrades. It’s like a sleepover at a museum, but one that lives and breathes, and like the Eternal City, delights at every turn.