Boutique hotels in Rome don’t come better located than Portrait Roma, an elegant Italian townhouse off designer-store-strewn Via Condotti, a handbag’s throw from the Piazza di Spagna. An offshoot of the Ferragamo fashion empire, this one-time atelier is festooned with shoe-related artwork and photos of the shoemaker’s star-studded heyday.
Get this when you book through us:
A bottle of wine to share and a perfume each (one for Mr Smiths and one for Mrs Smiths)
Noon; later check-out may be available. Earliest check-in 2pm.
Double rooms from £440.11 (€484), including tax at 10 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional local city tax of €4.00 per person per night on check-out.
Suites include Continental breakfast.
Portrait Roma is within walking distance of almost everything you’d want to see in Rome, but the hotel can organise a chauffeured car if you’re too lazy for legwork.
At the hotel
DVD library, free WiFi throughout. In rooms: kitchenette, flatscreen TV, DVD/CD player, iPod dock.
Our favourite rooms
Deluxe Studio 53 gets our vote, with its large marble bathroom and a balcony that’s ideal for scenic city breakfasts. The Penthouse Suite (51) occupies the hotel’s top two floors and boasts an L-shaped terrace overlooking the Trinità dei Monti, as well as a shower-sauna in the bathroom. Superior Studio 11 has a lovely view over via Bocca di Leone. As you’d expect from a hotel so deeply ensconced in the world of the fashionista, all mirrors are triple-panel hinge screens, all photographs feature Ferragamo’s shoe designs, and all soft furnishings create seamless colour contrasts (tan leather-covered desks, soft blue sofas, unexpected flashes of pink and green on the curtains).
An empty suitcase and a credit card with room to breathe – the myriad chichi boutiques of Via Condotti are easy on the eye and punishing on the purse.
Small pets are welcome; just make sure they accessorise with your shoes.
Under-threes can stay free and extra beds can be provided for older children (check rates when booking). Babysitting should be organised 48 hours in advance, and costs €20 an hour.
Perch on the edge of the terrace with a glass of champagne and look out over the Eternal City’s skyline as the sun sets.
Palazzo pants and platforms.
There’s no restaurant at Portrait Roma but a breakfast platter of cereals, pastries, eggs and yogurt can be delivered to your room (a reservation is required). À la carte dishes will be served on the rooftop terrace, but there will only be a few tables.
Cushioned wooden furniture, lanterns and shrub lanterns line the roof terrace, which also boasts an open fire for warming wintry cockles. There’s an honesty bar with a wide selection of refrigerated drinks. €20 a day gets you unlimited access.
The bar is stocked 24 hours a day, so just grab a drink when the mood takes.
Drinks and a small snack menu are available in rooms between 7am and 11pm.
Rome Fiumicino is roughly 35 minutes from Portrait Roma; using public transport, the best way to reach the hotel is with the Leonardo Express (www.trenitalia.com) to Termini station. From here, catch a taxi or jump on the metro for two stops to Barberini. A taxi all the way from the airport is €40 plus €1 for each bag. From Ciampino, a taxi will cost €30 plus an extra euro for each bag. Terravision (www.terravision.eu) shuttles passengers from here to Termini.
Portrait Roma is a 10-minute walk from both Spagna and Barberini metro stops (line A), on the same line as the Vatican and Corso Vittorio Emanuele. From here, it is only three stops (on line A) to Termini, Rome’s main station, where you can change lines or take a train to several other destinations in Italy; Florence in an hour and a half or Naples in two. See Trenitalia (www.trenitalia.com) for details.
Portrait Roma has guest parking, but the hotel is located within the restricted traffic zone, so can only be accessed before 8am or after 6pm. Follow signs for the centre and then Piazza di Spagna.
Worth getting out of bed for
If all roads lead to Rome, then all catwalks lead to Via Condotti. As well as Ferragamo, you’ll find a bevy of boutiques, including Bulgari, Biagiotti and Valentino. Swap high fashion for high culture at the Keats/Shelley House (06 678 4235), part museum, part monument to the Romantic Movement that all but colonised the area in the 18th Century.
Portrait Roma nestles in a hotbed of excellent eateries. Two streets away on Via Borgognona, Nino (06 679 5676) has been feeding the glitterati classic Italian dishes with a Tuscan accent for decades. Over in Piazza Augusto Imperatore, Gusto (06 322 6273) is justly famed for its pizzas, but in truth it’s a culinary polymath, with a restaurant, wine bar, cheese shop and kitchenware store, all with beautiful interiors. Il Brillo Parlante (06 324 3334) on Via della Fontanella is the perfect low-key lunch stop, with a well stocked little wine bar upstairs. Porto di Ripetta (06 361 2376), on Via di Ripetta, specialises in innovative seafood dishes – the swordfish roulades are not to be missed.
‘I’ll talk to the big man and see what he can do,’ says Andrea, our concierge.
We were discussing the weather, so I’m a little confused. As we’re in Rome’s Portrait Roma (formerly Portrait Suites), a sleek, fashionable townhouse hotel owned by iconic Italian shoe designer Ferragamo, I assume, at first, he means Signor Salvatore himself. But then I realise, as he died in 1960, that particular ‘big man’ hasn’t been making decisions about bed linen and toiletries for a while. Having just flown from grey, drizzly London to the eternal city, we are disappointed to discover the forecast for the next few days isn’t good. I visualise bruise-coloured clouds hanging ominously over piazzas and palazzos, and can’t help but wish for a little divine intervention, too.
Situated above Ferragamo’s flagship store, Portrait Roma occupies an elegant building, just minutes from the Spanish Steps and the fashion thoroughfares of Vias Condotti, Borgognona and Frattina. We couldn’t be closer to the action. Indeed, Mr Smith and I are even given a Ferragamo lookbook to flick through while Andrea makes our dinner reservations. Only in Italy…
The dedication to style continues inside. On the way to our room, we climb a staircase lined with black-and-white photographs and sketches, all with a shoe theme; and smouldering portraits of old-Hollywood glamour girls. Our simple-but-luxurious room is equally chic. It has beautiful black-wood walls, complemented by a grey colour scheme that allows the occasional bright pop of lime green in unexpected places such as the curtain lining. And there’s a lovely window seat overlooking the beautiful, yellow Hermès store on the other side of Via Condotti – it’s the ideal place to curl up with an early morning espresso or late-evening prosecco.
Mr Smith and I spend a delightful couple of hours lounging on the enormous Roman emperor-sized bed – there’s enough room in there for the multiple generations of an entire Italian family – and watching the massive flatscreen TV. Mr Smith particularly enjoys poking around the in-room kitchen but, alas, refuses to rise to my challenge to whip us up a quick gnocchi alla Romana. It’s so peaceful. Though we can hear hints of the bustle on Via Condotti below, all that changing-room swishing and credit-card swiping at street level seems a long way away.
We finally rouse ourselves to shower and get dressed for the evening – me in a navy 3.1 Phillip Lim sweater and jeans, and Mr Smith in a shirt and white linen trousers – and, after much giggly pouting into the free-standing, fashionista-friendly mirror, we are ready to head out and begin our own Roman holiday. Inspired by a photograph of a stunning pair of heels on the wall, I decide to wear my new six-inch Louboutins. But, oh, how unforgiving cobblestone streets can be to stiletto-clad feet. Despite the fact I’m clinging onto Mr Smith’s arm, the stones on the Via della Pace nearly claim my dignity a few times. I eventually persuade him to set me down outside a nearby trattoria, where we indulge in delicious artichoke antipasti, wonderful pasta with bacon, pecorino and more artichokes, and the kind of tiramisu Mr Smith has been searching for his entire life.
After a refreshing sleep, Mr Smith and I spend the following morning wandering around the vast gardens of the Galleria Borghese, one of the city’s finest art galleries. They’re beautiful. We make our way along wooded avenues to sit beside fountains and ornate Renaissance statues, and watch with concern as an elderly couple, seated beside a running track, shear off their dog’s hair with evident relish. Is this an attempt to make him more aerodynamic? Afterwards, fully aware we’re a big romantic cliché, we hire a boat and row out to the middle of a tranquil, terrapin-filled lake. It’s turtle bliss.
We enjoy a hearty lunch of red lentil soup with creamy goat’s cheese followed by a rigatoni amatriciana that bursts with fresh tomato and white wine flavours at Cul de Sac, a charming restaurant on a side street off Piazza Navona. Mr Smith, a gifted cook in my eyes, mournfully declares he’ll never be able to match the culinary artistry before him. I suggest we come back to Rome a few more times in the name of research – that way, he’ll be able to perfect his skills. To be honest, though, I’m now looking for any excuse to return to this beautiful, atmospheric city.
We return to the Portrait Roma with bellies full and the taste of fresh tomatoes still on our lips, and climb to the roof terrace. It’s one of the hotel’s biggest draws. On one side we can see the Villa Medici and the Spanish Steps, while, on another, we have an uninterrupted view of the hideous Vittoriano – scathingly called ‘the wedding cake’ by locals. To the southeast, the domes of St Peter and the Vatican are ascending heavenwards. More charming than any of these, though, are the tiny rooftop gardens the citizens of Rome have cultivated amid the spires and pinnacles. The sun is setting, and the heady mix of yellows, browns and oranges, bathed in that heavy evening light, is just breathtaking. ‘We need to start taking more mini-breaks,’ says Mr Smith as he reclines in a deckchair. I couldn’t agree more.
The next morning, we finally make it inside the Galleria Borghese, where both Mr Smith and I are stunned into uncharacteristic silence by the sheer dynamism of Bernini’s four sculptures. Afterwards, we head to Piazza Navona for a final ice cream. We sit on a bench and savour our last hours. But, for now, the skies are blue and the sun warms my upturned face, its heat seeping down into my body. The big man has definitely come through for us.