This opulent boutique apartment in Rome that is the Napoleone Suite is stupendously grand, with two fine reception rooms and a master bedroom with silk-draped canopy bed. Of the six huge oil paintings you see at this signature apartment at Residenza Napoleone III, one is the bedhead, and another is the entrance to the exquisite marble bathroom.
Get this when you book through us:
A bottle of Anagallis wine from the Ruspoli family's vineyard in Chianti, plus late check-out if availability allows
Two: the private apartment, Residenza Napoleone III (which has an optional extra room called the Blue Bedroom), and the much less grand Roof Garden Terrace Suite.
11.30am but flexible if possible.
Double rooms from £564.91 (€675), including tax at 10 per cent.
Rates include breakfast.
At the hotel
TV, DVD/CD player, wireless Internet. Private tour guide, butler, babysitting, beauty treatments all available on request. There are fitness centres, pools and saunas nearby.
Our favourite rooms
The opulent and luxurious Napoleone Suite is the apartment to book for the proper palace experience. You can book as part of this the interconnecting Blue Bedroom which is charming and cosy, named for its Chinese vases. The Roof Garden Terrace Suite is much humbler, but it has a multi-level decked terrace of some 600 square feet, with fabulous views of Rome.
Buy yummy deli food to stock up the kitchenette, especially if you want breakfast in bed. A short silk Kiki de Montparnasse robe will be sufficiently cosy and come hither when lounging around.
You enter your palazzo through massive wooden doors, pass along an arcade of Doric columns, take the grand marble staircase lined with antique busts… Well-behaved pets are allowed. No smoking in the rooms.
You can ask for an extra bed in the apartment for €100 a night. Cots are supplied free. If you take the Blue Bedroom, you get an extra bathroom, as well as the twin-bed interconnecting room.
Rome Fiumicino is roughly 50 minutes from the hotel; 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 (journey time – 15 minutes) 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.
The hotel is a 15-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.
Residenza Napoleone can provide a chaffeur-driven car for the duration of your stay. If you are bringing your own vehicle, you may want to leave it in the nearby Parcheggio Ludovisi (+39 06 474 0632; €18/day), particularly as the hotel is within the restricted zone which traffic cannot enter between 8am and 6pm.
Worth getting out of bed for
The Keats-Shelley House, a tiny and enchanting museum next to the Spanish Steps, is the restored house in which the poet John Keats lived, worked and died, and holds a unique collection of manuscripts, memorabilia and paintings, as well as an important library of Romantic literature. It also hosts lectures, poetry recitals and other literary events.
La Rosetta on Via della Rosetta is a Michelin-starred fish restaurant next to the Pantheon and its menu changes daily based on the day’s catch. The tuna tagliatelle and fish carpaccio with olive oil are both excellent. Another fine seafood restaurant is Quinzi e Gabrielion Via delle Coppelle, serving delicious dishes is a series of rooms decorated with spectacular artwork.
The only problem with tourism is the other tourists. In Rome, where tourism was more or less invented, they traipse around in huge groups in high season, with their backpacks and sneakers and shorts, swamping the Spanish Steps, gawping at the Trevi Fountain, dripping ice-cream onto the Colosseum. Worse is the horrible moment when you catch your reflection in a shop window and realise that, contrary to the mental image you’ve been entertaining all day, you are not in fact a chic Italian in handmade shoes and tailored linens, but a sweaty tourist fumbling with a camera and map. Shock! You are one of them, the great uncouth swarm, the one blot on this otherwise perfect city. Thankfully, there is a solution: stay at the Residenza Napoleone III and live out your fantasy of being a suave Italian for the weekend. For this is not a hotel – those are for tourists – but your own private palazzo on Rome’s smartest street.
On our first morning, Mrs Smith and I return from a stroll along Via Condotti, past branches of Fendi and Ferragamo, to find a cluster of holidaymakers reading an official information panel outside the Residenza. It explains that the building dates from 1556 and that in the late 16th century it was transformed by its owner, a diplomat for the Medici family, into one of Rome’s grandest residences. It goes on to note a ceiling inspired by the Sistine Chapel, the dozen busts of Roman Emperors that line the corridors, and the staircase with 100 marble steps (‘regarded as one of the marvels of Roman civil architecture’), before regretfully telling readers that, though it sometimes hosts exhibitions, the building is not normally open to the public.
At this point, I draw from my pocket a small brass key attached to a green velvet rope. As the tourists look on, I step towards the huge wooden gates that fill the building’s arched stone entrance, open the small door within a door, and go inside. Smug? Noi? The building is actually called the Palazzo Ruspoli, after the family who bought it in 1713. Today, the Ruspolis still live here, but along with running a chic riad in Marrakech, they rent out two apartments, calling them the Residenza Napoleone III, after the French emperor, who used to stay here when visiting Rome.
Walking up the marble staircase, past the busts and the frescoes, then along the wide and high corridors, our steps echoing on the stone floor, it feels as though we’ve broken into a private museum. There’s no reception desk, restaurant or bar – all of which helps if you’re trying to forget you’re a… well, you know. There’s just a discreet butler to bring breakfast and make reservations for dinner (should you wish).
Our apartment, the Roof Garden Terrace Suite, is reached via a spiral staircase. There’s a tiny bedroom, a bathroom (stocked with Bulgari products and pretty soap containing rose and lavender petals), and an upstairs sitting room. If you’re seeking slick hotel minimalism, the latest gadgets and decor in a hundred tones of taupe, this is not your Holy Grail. If you’re a bit bored of all that, and fancy somewhere with lots of character, you’re at the right address. Staying here feels as though we’ve borrowed the lived-in flat of a distant aristocratic relative. Surfaces are crowded with objets d’art, the walls are bookcase-lined, there are paintings and statuettes of racehorses and piles of auction catalogues. Instead of a notepad, there’s a stack of wine-bottle labels from the family’s own vineyard. A panama hat hangs on a hook, in case you forgot yours.
But the real draw is just beyond the sitting room: throw open the French windows and you are in a capacious private roof garden with the most incredible view over the Italian capital, among olive trees and bushes of mint, thyme and lavender. On our first day, it rains, but the second dawns warm and bright; we eat breakfast under a parasol outside, listening to the bells ring out from the city’s churches and trying to work out which of the endless terracotta domes are the Vatican’s.
Testament to how truly ‘Roman’ our Residenza Napoleone apartment already has us feeling, by the middle of day two, I’ve left an extra shirt button undone and I’m making expansive hand gestures. But if you want to pretend you’re an 18th-century royal, you need to book the Napoleone Suite: it is jaw-droppingly lavish, with three vast, high-ceilinged rooms, full of golden chairs, antique mirrors, tapestries and huge oil paintings. In the breakfast room is a notable 18th-century painting by Giovanni Paulo Panini; in the living room, an oil masterpiece in an ornate frame swings off the wall to reveal a massive TV. The marble-lined bathroom hides behind another artwork, and a widescreen film projector is concealed in the drapes above the immense bed. Buckingham Palace isn’t a patch on this.
Of course, Rome has the best sights of any city (not to mention world-class gelato), so we spend a happy couple of days pounding pavements and gawking alongside the tourists at the Pantheon, St Peter’s and the Keats museum. But ultimately, nothing compares to the pleasure of retreating from the fray to the roof of our own palazzo, cracking open a bottle of prosecco and watching darkness settle over the city.
Reviewed by Tom Robbins, travel editor
Whenever you book a stay at a Smith hotel or villa, we’ll invite you to review it when you get back. Read what other Smith members had to say in Residenza Napoleone III’s Guestbook below.
We loved the location – right near the Spanish Steps, but a million miles away in terms of peace and quiet, tucked away in a family palace with a private roof terrace. The on-site team are responsive and charming and the breakfasts set you up well for days exploring all that Rome has to offer.
Don't expect – any on-site food apart from breakfast but then you have all of Rome's eateries to chose from. The seating – both in the small lounge and on the balcony is functional rather than comfortable and at this price point that's disappointing.
Stayed on 14 Sep 2018
The roof terrace was amazing, and the views of Piazza Di Spagna were something to behold. Every time we walked through the building to our suite, we were enchanted by the marble staircases, the busts, and the architecture. And it was so quiet, given our proximity to one of the liveliest parts of Rome! Breakfast was delicious, don't miss a chance to try the hot chocolate. Best of all were the small touches, done without any fuss: every night we'd return to find the roof terrace awash with candlelight; who couldn't resist one more glass of wine out there before bed? Fiaschetteria Beltramme on Via Delle Croce was a gem. Don't miss Pompi for the Tiramisu!
Don't expect a traditional hotel experience: there is no desk, no restaurant, and no lobby. The important things are always taken care of, however, and we were always able to make contact with our host if we had any questions.