Inside Rome’s Latest Marvel: InterContinental Ambasciatori Palace

By Anwer Bati

4 weeks ago

There's a new Rome hotspot to enjoy


Big cities, particularly tourist magnets like Rome, see top hotels come and go, change hands, and sometimes get refurbished and reopened. Whenever a major hotel closes, some of the life drains out of the area around it, but when it reopens you can feel it breathing it back in. That’s true in even once-legendary places such as the Via Veneto, the epicentre of  La Dolce Vita, or ‘the sweet life’ as epitomised in Fellini’s film, when – in the 1950s and 60s – Rome was the most glamorous place in Europe, a byword for high living. The Via Vittorio Veneto, to give it its full name, was not only the place to be, but the place to be seen, haunted by paparazzi (a word first used in Fellini’s film) on their Vespas and Lambrettas hoping to snatch a snap of the many stars (often filming in Rome’s legendary Cinecittà studios) coming in or out of the bars, nightclubs and grand hotels on the street. But over the decades since the 1960s, not helped by the Covid pandemic, the Via Veneto, though still smart, lost its cachet, particularly the southern end,  and was no longer the place to be seen – until now, with the opening of a number of new hotels. And the reopening of the Ambasciatori Palace in 2023.

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Hotel Review:  Intercontinental Ambasciatori Palace, Rome

The Ambasciatori Palace lobby

Scalinata Lobby

STAY

Built to neo-Renaissance designs by architect Carlo Busiri Vici  in 1900, the Ambasciatori’s name comes from the fact that it was originally used as accommodation for foreign ambassadors. And, since it stands just by the vast pink palazzo housing the American embassy, was then used to house the embassy’s library from 1946 until 1993, after which it opened as a hotel.

Despite the grand building, columned entrance, and surviving fin de siècle features like the marble hall with its splendid staircase sporting an art nouveau wrought iron balustrade, the Ambasciatori has an intimate, almost boutique feel in its public areas, moodily lit corridors, and 160 rooms. The hotel, though less luxe than some of Rome’s very grandest addresses, is among the best in the city. The rooms are mellow in decoration and lighting, and stylishly modern, with brass bedside lamps on elegant tables with marble tops, and the large beds have leather headboards and bed linen from local brand TEBRO. Floors are parquet with smart rugs. Rooms come with an Illy coffee machine and useful extras such as an ironing board and iron. And the large, graceful marble clad bathrooms have rain showers (some also come with tubs) and Swedish Byredo toiletries. Some of the rooms have balconies.

Although there is no spa as such, the Ambasciatori has massage rooms and a large fitness room with Technogym equipment. For a hotel which only opened a short time ago, the smiling staff already manage to give the impression that they have been there for years with their eagerness to help.

Junior Suite

Junior Suite

EAT

Maybe inspired by the Ambasciatori Palace’s proximity to the US embassy, the hotel’s main restaurant Scarpetta NYC serves a mixture of American and Italian dishes, both delicious. But it’s definitely not American-Italian: the American dishes (such as excellent steaks) are as good as you can get in the States, and the Italian dishes are as authentic as you could want in Italy. Scarpetta, with its subdued lighting, wooden booths, marble-topped tables and banquets, is the brainchild of John Meadow, who has similar highly rated restaurants in a number of hotels around the world.  It feels like a real restaurant rather than a ‘hotel restaurant’ and draws in many diners from outside. It’s also the place for varied buffet breakfast with a chef on hand to cook your eggs. For good weather, there are some outside tables in a sheltered area. The kitchen prides itself on being plastic-free.

Leading to Scarpetta NYC is the Anita bar, a sophisticated space for cocktails and snacks. Cocktails and light dishes are also on offer at Charlie’s rooftop bar, with its great views over Rome’s rooftops (you can see St Peter’s and the Pantheon), outdoor terrace and extraordinarily decorated bathroom. It’s open until 1am, with live music and a DJ.

The interior of the Ristorante Scarpetta NYC

Ristorante Scarpetta NYC

DO

You can walk from the Ambasciatori to many of Rome’s main sights, including the Borghese gardens and the magnificent Borghese gallery (note you have to book in advance), the Spanish Steps, the Pantheon, the Piazza Navona (don’t miss the church of St Luigi dei Francesci nearby, with three Caravaggios together in a side chapel) and the Trevi fountain. It’s also walking distance to Rome’s main street, the Via Corso.

For attractions further away, the hotel is a short walk from the Barberini metro station (easily the best option as Rome’s traffic is notoriously bad and taxis pretty hard to find), close to the Palazzo Barberini, one of the city’s main museums.

You can also easily get from Barberini metro station to one of Rome’s most famous institutions, Cinecittà studios, once known as Hollywood on the Tiber, where you can book a tour. Although many major movies are made there, few visitors to Rome realise that you can actually visit. There’s a fascinating permanent exhibition, with famous costumes, film clips and several interactive displays, as well as special tributes to directors such as Fellini. The site also houses MIAC, the Italian museum of the moving image. And you’ll  find a good café. The Cinecittà metro station is directly outside the studio complex. Don’t confuse the studios with the theme park, Cinecitta World.

It’s well worth booking a guided tour, with helpful and well-informed guides, through specialist Towns of Italy to avoid queuing at such teeming tourist draws as the Vatican and the Colosseum. The company also organises tempting food tours and cookery classes.

It’s also worth getting a Roma Pass which allows free travel on public transport and free entry to the first two museums you visit (including any exhibitions) then a reduced charge for further museums. The card, however many days you buy it for, is valid from the moment you first use it, not from the moment you buy it. romapass.it

Rooftop restaurant at Ambasciatori Palace

Charlie’s Rooftop

THE FINAL WORD

The Ambasciatori is breathing life back in to the once legendary Via Veneto by drawing visitors for its relaxed atmosphere, excellent food, great location, and high quality accommodation and service. Offering discreet luxury, it’s one of the best choices in Rome.

BOOK IT

Double rooms with breakfast at the InterContinental Ambasciatori Palace start at £642. rome.intercontinental.com 

Anwer was on a personal trip to Rome when this review was conducted.