The Colosseum is king at Palazzo Manfredi hotel in Rome, a 16th-century palazzo next to an old gladiator gym, with original marble floors, luxurious drapes and a restaurant-enhanced rooftop with a view.
Noon, but flexible for a €100 charge, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 2pm.
Double rooms from £379.46 (€441), including tax at 10 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional local city tax of €7.00 per person per night on check-out.
Rates include breakfast (€30 each).
Live the ultimate Italian experience by taking the house Lamborghini out for a spin. Rentals are for 12 or 24 hours.
At the hotel
Library and free WiFi throughout. In rooms: flatscreen TV, DVD player, iPod dock, Acqua di Parma bath products, minibar, free bottled water and newspapers.
Our favourite rooms
The ground-floor Junior Suite is spacious, furnished with a glossy leather table and velvet drapes, and you can gaze out at the Colosseum through the shuttered windows above the bath. All rooms except Prestige and Executive overlook the mighty monument.
Binoculars to inspect the Forum from your bedroom; gladiator sandals.
Check for private functions in the restaurant during your stay, as this will mean it's closed to guests.
There’s no charge for cots or extra beds. A local nanny can babysit for €40 an hour with 48 hours’ notice. The restaurant has a children’s menu.
Ask for a table on the terrace, where the food will be matched only by the view.
The Romans are fashionable but traditional, so stick to smart, and save shorts and sleeveless shirts for the beach.
Take in the jaw-dropping view of the hotel’s famous neighbour from the artfully rusted front terrace or dine inside at a candlelit table in the dining room of Armoa. Star chef Giuseppe di Iorio cooks a feast of regional and Mediterranean food, adding a contemporary twist to his menu of traditional Roman cuisine. Don’t miss the tender tuna escalope, hand-made pasta twirls, red snapper steak and roasted lamb loin with pistachio stuffing. Enjoy informal meals at Aroma Bistro, also helmed by chef Giuseppe di Iorio; the bistro is on a renovated terrace overlooking Domus Aurea and the Oppian Hill.
Sip a Campari or sparkling bellini on one of the plush sofas in the bar, which overlooks Parco di Traiano across the street. Light lunches are on offer during the day, and a selection of Italian aperitifs, dessert wines and liquors in the evening.
Breakfast is served from 7am until 10.30am. Have lunch between 12.30pm and 3pm, and dinner from 7pm until 11pm. The bar is open from 10.30am until midnight.
Food from the restaurant can be ordered between 7am and midnight.
Leonardo da Vinci (Fiumicino) Airport is half an hour’s drive from the hotel. Most national carriers fly here, including Alitalia and British Airways (from London Gatwick and Heathrow). Low-cost airlines including Ryanair and EasyJet land at Ciampino Airport.
The main train hub, Termini, is a five-minute drive to the hotel.
The hotel can book a taxi for guests. Parking at the hotel costs €60 a night.
Worth getting out of bed for
Indulge in starters of salmon carpaccio and fried seafood platters at Ottavio (+39 06 702 0520) on Via di Santa Croce in Gerusalemme; reservations essential. Stop by family-run Papagio’ (+39 06 686 5308) on Via dei Sediari for more seafood delights, freshly picked truffles and a glass of local wine. The Mediterranean menu at Crab (+39 06 772 03636) on Via Capo d’Africa takes in scallops gratin, sautéed mussels and clams, and spaghetti alle vongole.
Enjoy fresh seafood with a cocktail on the terrace at Gran Caffé Rossi Martini (+39 06 700 4431), right across from the Colosseum. Stroll down to Caffé Della Pace (+39 06 686 1216) on Via della Pace for a double espresso or ristretto, or join the fashionable crowd at Gina(+39 06 678 0251) on Via San Sebastianello.
For a ginger mojito or melon caipiroska lead to Le Coppelle 52 (+39 34 9740 4620) on Piazza delle Coppelle. Enjoy an Italian happy hour (5pm until 7pm) at Trimani Wine Bar (+39 06 446 9630) on Via Cermai, where drinks comes with free snacks and pastries. Bar del Fico (+39 06 6880 8413) on Piazza del Fico serves cocktails and after-dinner liquors until 3am at weekends.
It’s terribly hard to say anything original about Rome. Whenever one thinks about the Italian capital, a smorgasbord of clichés (oh gosh, there’s one now), threatens to suffocate all original thought. The Eternal City is to some extent a victim of its own mythology, a legend fanned by the countless writers, artists and dilettantes who have sought inspiration along its winding mediaeval streets and through its grand piazze. Like Paris, London, New York or half a dozen other great world cities, it is a place so imbued with grand mythology and history that it feels overwhelming even in contemplation.
As a first-timer, I was simultaneously excited and faintly terrified. What if the Italian capital didn’t live up to expectations? What if it rained all the time? What if Mrs Smith was carried off, side-saddled, by a handsome young man on a Vespa? Hotel Palazzo Manfredi sits in the shadows of Rome’s almighty Colosseum, we’d heard, proudly parading the ancient site from every window. We meandered there with the grim determination of two people that have underestimated a substantial walk and are incorrectly shod as a result.
The hotel is located further from the city centre than we had realised. The breathtaking views are considerable, as is the traffic. Italian drivers, it would seem, have a unique attitude towards pedestrians. Avoiding them is less an obligation, and more a sport. Those who understand the subtle etiquette of looking their potential murderers in the eye and tricking them into feeling guilt tend to scuttle across without harm. Those who try and behave as they might in any other civilised country usually escape unblemished, but it can be a close call.
Thankfully, tiredness and terror evaporate the moment that we arrive at Palazzo Manfredi. Less grand than many of its competitors, the hotel provides a friendly welcome and a cosy reception area with amusingly quirky touches, such as a sofa with a psychedelic picture of Sgt Pepper-era Beatles on it. Interiors mix upholstered velvet with marble, arched windows; its 16th-century classical framework has had sleek, architectural adaptations to freshen things up. What it lacks in fripperies it makes up for in a likeably unpretentious vibe that makes it easy to kick off your shoes and loll about in an indolent fashion, like many a Roman before you.
After a welcome glass of prosecco on the upstairs terrace, and a toast of the views over the city, we’re shown to our spacious room. It boasts a dazzling array of facilities and goodies, with everything from an exercise bike to a Tivoli audio system that is so sophisticated that Mrs Smith let out a little cry of fright when she saw it, suspecting it of the devil’s work. I tried to work off some of the quantities of pasta and pizza eaten on the trip on the former machine, but it was no use; I lasted a mere couple of minutes before retiring, quite defeated. I ignored Mrs Smith’s caustic remarks about stamina and staying power.
It would have been remiss not to have sampled Aroma, the much-acclaimed restaurant on the top floor, where chef Giuseppe Di Iorio takes traditional Italian cuisine and approaches it with contemporary gusto. It’s a place where tasting menus come with a slice of Rome BC: sit back and breathe in the centuries as you dine overlooking the Colosseum and the Forum. Mrs Smith and I were gently steered towards a the mixture of sweet and savoury, with highlights including a gutsy, satisfying ravioli filled with mascarpone and cocoa, and a hearty rabbit dish that, as usual, made me grateful that it was still socially acceptable to eat something furry with ears that people keep as pets. Mrs Smith pretended to be appalled at my tuneless singing of Bright Eyes, but I didn’t see any of the beast left on her plate.
However, away from this fine dining, most of the places that we took succour at tended towards the unpretentious; the sort of backstreet establishments where one can get a litre of cheap but highly drinkable wine and a couple of pizzas and still have change from €20. A couple of favourites were Dar Poeta, located in the hip Trastevere neighbourhood, and the splendid wine bar Del Frate, about the best option around the Vatican: it served me some of the best carbonara I’ve ever eaten, complete with a distinctive and deliciously satisfying Roman pasta rigatoni. We didn’t see any priests there, but we did see a remarkable young man, whose facial hair was styled in such a way as to resemble a sort of reverse mullet.
Of course, we did all things cultural and historic. The appeal of the Colosseum may be eternal, but when you’ve had your fill of this Roman relic, most of the other key players in this outdoor museum of a capital are a short walk from Palazzo Manfredi. If you’re in a hurry, the best bet is to eschew the more obvious attractions (you don’t need to queue for an hour at the Colosseum) and head up to the glorious Villa Borghese, which boasts a stunning collection of Bernini sculptures and Caravaggio paintings, as well as a magnificent garden. And, crowded and jostly though it can be, the Sistine Chapel is still as essential as ever. Gaze up at the Michelangelo paintings that adorn the ceiling, including the smaller-than-you-expect The Creation of Adam and the mighty and Last Judgement, you remember that Italy is the home to some of the greatest artists, thinkers and iconoclasts who have ever lived. And not just people who want to run you over, at high speed, by a historic monument.