The secret garden at Hotel de Russie

A Storied Roman Grand Dame: Hotel de Russie, Rome – Review

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Nicole Trilivas checks in for a classical Roman holiday

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Tucked away just off the fountain-festooned Piazza del Popolo, Rocco Forte’s Hotel de Russie is a landmark Roman hotel known for its splendid not-so-secret garden courtyard and its storied elegance. This is the place for a classic Roman holiday. 

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Review: Hotel de Russie, Rome

The Piazetta Valadier at Hotel de Russie

Piazetta Valadier

STAY

With endless attractions and ancient marvels at every turn, Rome is a city that requires a refuge — a sanctuary to slip into before all of the excitement and beauty becomes overwhelming. Hotel de Russie is that hideaway. 

The first reason is its location: Hotel de Russie is within walking distance of many of the big-name sites like the Spanish Steps and the Villa Borghese gardens, and is just a few steps from shopping-hotspot Via del Corso and the always-bustling Piazza del Popolo. (The hotel was actually designed by architect Giuseppe Valadier, who was also responsible for the redesign of the ancient Piazza del Popolo in the nineteenth century.)

A classic room at Hotel de Russie

Classic Room

The next reason comes down to what hides behind the hotel’s understated entranceway. The property is made up of 120 cocooning rooms, well dressed by Olga Polizzi, Director of Design at Rocco Forte Hotels, along with: the charming Le Jardin de Russie restaurant; the De Russie Spa with salt water hydropool, sauna and Turkish steam room; and, the pièce de resistance, a gorgeous, 2,800 sqm terraced courtyard garden of classical statues, towering pines, and flowering citrus trees.

While the garden — also designed by Valadier — was no doubt the backdrop for many tales, one famous story tells of how Pablo Picasso and Jean Cocteau would lean out from the windows of their adjoining rooms to pluck oranges from the trees while they were both staying at the hotel in February 1917. (In homage, there’s even a Picasso suite with a private terrace.)

The Secret Garden at Hotel de Russie

The Secret Garden

DO

There’s no shortage of things to do near Hotel de Russie. Marvel at the lit-from-within Caravaggio in the fifteenth-century Basilica of Santa Maria del Popolo in the Piazza del Popolo, and check out the art galleries on the picturesque Via Margutta (you can even commission a small marble plaque for a very affordable price at the pint-sized stone carver studio, Il Marmoraro). 

Via del Corso has some lovely boutiques and big names, which can also be found near the Spanish Steps (also the site of the Keats-Shelley House Museum, where Romantic poet John Keats died). Inside the hotel, there’s some good shopping, too – don’t miss the fantastic Italian linens. Hotel de Russie can arrange tours via electronic tuk-tuk, a fantastic way to see the city at ground level. Or for a birds-eye view, helicopter tours can also be arranged. 

EAT

Le Jardin de Russie is a gorgeous spot, hand-decorated in swirling green vines by Italian artist Gio Bressana. Breakfast is an epic spread of fresh honeycomb, ever-changing cakes, fresh fruit juices, and hot egg dishes – and don’t skip the crispy pancetta bacon. The fresh cheeses — creamy taleggio, bitingly salty asiago, and fresh ricotta, creamy as ice cream — are a stand out, as are the maritozzi, fluffy Roman cream buns.  

A summer terrace covered with foliage at Hotel de Russie

Le Jardin de Russie

In the summer, dinner is al fresco and, in the winter, there’s the heated Le Jardin d’Hiver terrace dressed in sprigs of pine. No matter the season, dishes delight with rich seasonal risottos, plentiful al dente pastas, and heart-warming roasted meats. The lamb is especially divine, especially when paired with an intense glass of Cesanese, a grape with roots dating back to ancient Roman times.

For aperitivo, the place to go is the impossibly cool J.K. Place Roma, a temple of high style housed in a one-time school of architecture. Drinks in the lobby of graphic carpeting, frilly palms and marble statues are a must (try the Gentleman’s Spritz with Franciacorta, mint, ginger and bitter orange. Try (and perhaps fail) to go easy on the homemade snacks of fat Puglian olives and crispy taralli — only because dinner is such an event in the adjacent café, where the ritzy risottos comes garnished with rich hazelnuts, and the rhum baba is bigger than a baseball.

For a more casual bite, try a sandwich of porchetta (a Roman speciality) at La Vita è Un Mozzico, or go for lunch at the rustic courtyard at Babette. For gelaterias, everyone has their favourites, but Giolitti never disappoints.   

THE FINAL WORD

A heritage hotel hideaway with a garden courtyard, Hotel de Russie is all grown-up elegance. Come here for old-world Italian hospitality.

BOOK IT: From €710 per night. roccofortehotels.com

Featured image: The Secret Garden at Hotel de Russie.