Part of the exclusive UK-based Rocce Forte group, the storied Hotel de Russie is a sophisticated hotel that exudes glamour without being extravagant, a classic five-star hotel with a modern touch. Located in a stylish area of Rome between Villa Borghese and Via Margutta, next to Piazza del Popolo and not far from the Spanish Steps, it shares a locale with some of Italy’s most famous names in fashion, and hosts some high-profile guests, including Kate Hudson who is a guest during my stay.
Once inside, guests can leave a hectic Rome summer behind them. While the hotel’s lobby area boasts eye-candy in the form of brightly-coloured fruit-shaped vases holding towering ferns, the heart of this hotel is in the stunning courtyard they’ve named Piazetta G Valadier. The piazza-like alfresco dining area is home to the Stravinskij Bar, sheltered on three sides by the tall terracotta buildings with pretty pale blue shutters that house its 120 rooms and suites. This is where you’ll also find its iconic — and perhaps not-so-secret — garden, a verdant, strollable wall complete with balustrades, trickling fountains and chirping crickets.
There’s also a spa with a saltwater hydropool, sauna and Turkish steamroom, a gym, and two beautifully appointed common rooms that are anything but. There’s also a hotel cat called Mona, a distinguished resident who may honour you with a greeting at breakfast.
Before I can open the taxi door, a doorman in top hat and tails dashes to assist me and ushers me inside the building and straight to a front desk clerk who promptly checks me in. My bags are right behind me. As part of the five-star service, check-in is a breeze as most of your details are gathered prior to your arrival, foregoing the odious task of presenting your credit card and passport. In the blink of an eye, I have a table booked at the bar for lunch and I’m guided to my room with my bags arriving no more than 10 minutes later.
Of the 120 rooms, I am in a classic room on the second floor which has shuttered windows overlooking rooftops over Vicolo del Borghetto, the quiet street below. Pay more, and you’ll overlook the central courtyard (not that anyone’s complaining about overlooking Roman rooftops over the opposite side). My room is elegant, with fresh cut flowers, wooden floorboards, a marble and silver bathroom and a walk-in wardrobe with full-length mirror. During the evening there is a turndown service and I am provided with two bottles of water, sparkling and still, with glasses, slippers by the bed — and everything I had hastily thrown on top of it folded and put away.
On my last morning I request room service as the restaurant doesn’t open before I leave, and right on the dot of 6.15am a white tablecloth-covered trolley is wheeled into my room with a vase full of flowers and your requested meal selection under silver cloche dome servers. If breakfast is already included in your room rate, the hotel only adds a small service charge to the bill for it to be delivered to your room.
Food + Drink
On an exceedingly hot afternoon, Stravinskij Bar is a fine place to settle in for an apertivo. While I’m there — at the hottest time of the day — the bar is quiet, tables are sheltered by umbrellas and a light mist of water helps keep guests cool. From around 5pm onwards, things start to get busy as guests and the well-heeled Romans flock to the famous courtyard, and things remain busy throughout the night. The bar is known for its excellent concoctions created by “master bartenders”, including a variation on the Aperol spritz with berries, saffron and passionfruit. They come accompanied with fancier snacks such as rosemary-roasted almonds, olives and vegetable chips (which helps take the sting out of the 23 euro price tag). I’m here for a light lunch and for the first time in a month I opt for a very non-Italian lentil burger, which comes coated in toasted quinoa and accompanied with lightly-dressed leaves and a tomato and basil salad (probably, the best salad I’ve had the entire trip). Bread basket, olive oil and a very nice balsamic help round out the meal.
Le Jardin de Russie, the hotel’s fine-dining restaurant, offers traditional Roman meals such as pastas, meat and seafood dishes (including lobster). It’s also where breakfast is served in the mornings, hosted by a charismatic maitre d’, and seated outside under the garden. The buffet-style breakfast is served from its jaw-dropping dining room, hand painted by Italian artist Gio Bressana, who has successfully managed to bring the beautiful garden outside within for guests to enjoy during wetter months of the year.
For breakfast, there is an irresistible array of fresh fruit and organic yoghurt, Roman maritozzi, fruit flans filled with creme patisserie, pane al pomodoro, even a bowl of smashed avo. Eggs are made to order (for the very hungry). Coffee — always a double espresso in Italy for me — is excellent.
Out and About
From here, Rome is at your fingertips. In particular, its shopping district. You’re never too far from an ancient site in the living museum that is this city — a walk through to the Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain and Piazza Navona will probably take you 30 minutes. And it’s a 12 minute minute taxi ride to Rome Termini, costing around 10 euro — although if you’re staying here, money is probably no object.
This is a quintessential Rome experience. If it doesn’t quite suit your budget, visit for an apertivo to soak up the atmosphere.
Our Score Out of Five
Classic rooms start at 1070 euro ($A1570) a night in high season. Via del Babuino, 9, 00187 Roma RM, Italy; see roccofortehotels.com
Waiting for Kate Hudson to wave to me from her studio on the sixth floor which overlooked the courtyard I was dining in.
There was a bit of noise coming from other rooms during the day (mostly room doors closing) and sometimes coming from surrounding rooms late at night, but nothing really intrudes on a good night’s sleep.