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A Relais & Chateaux property

Hotel Palazzo Manfredi, Rome, Italy | Bown's BestThe Colosseum in Rome is one of the most impressive buildings ever constructed. To stay in a 17th Century palazzo, built upon the site of the Roman gladiators’ barracks and looking directly upon this antique masterpiece, was a temptation I could not resist. The Hotel Palazzo Manfredi has just 13 rooms and 2 suites, together with a highly regarded restaurant called Aroma. It is located on the side of the Colosseum away from most of the tourist activity – which is an advantage, given the huge number which daily arrives to visit the monument. Nevertheless, this is, of course, still a busy part of town.

One of the rooms at Hotel Palazzo Manfredi, Rome, Italy | Bown's BestI tried both of the hotel’s suites. To be more accurate, I only looked at the larger one. On the first floor, it is a remarkable example of designer chic. But I soon realized that I would have had to be considerably more agile than I am to be able to use its bath. I therefore forsook its modernist charms and went down to the ground floor for the altogether more traditional comforts of the Junior Suite, room number 11. (You will need to look on the hotel website for the prices for particular dates, as they change from day to day.) Like its senior counterpart, its windows look directly onto its grand neighbour, so I had my ‘Colosseum view’.

My bed/sitting room measured about 16 feet by 14 feet, and had a floor of red and grey marble. There was plenty of hanging space for my suits in the two fitted wardrobes, one of which contained a private safe. Two upright armchairs and a sofa-bed provided the seating. Behind the headboard of the main bed was a writing desk. In addition to the table lamps, lighting came from two wall-mounted golden roundels, behind which were electric bulbs. In the marble-clad bathroom were toiletries by Battistioni, one wash basin, a tub of reasonable size (with an overhead shower), a loo and a bidet. This was a comfortable billet. And my stay was made all the more comfortable by the help and kindness I received from the hotel’s suave manager, Bruno Papaleo, who goes to considerable lengths to ensure that his guests are looked after well.

Hotel Palazzo Manfredi, Rome, Italy | Bown's BestHotel Palazzo Manfredi, Rome, Italy | Bown's Best

Eating at the Palazzo Manfredi was a particular pleasure, for the Restaurant Aroma, at the top of the building, enjoys the best views of the Colosseum and is blessed with a talented chef, Giuseppe di Lorio (pictured). To reach the dining room, one uses the lift to the third floor and then walks up the stairs to the fourth. (Remember, this is a 17th Century building.)

Chef Giuseppe di Lorio, Hotel Palazzo Manfredi, Rome, Italy | Bown's BestHotel Palazzo Manfredi, Rome, Italy | Bown's Best

For dinner, I settled into one of the metal chairs (with cushions) and gazed at the panorama, which included two floodlit beauties – the Vittoriano (the grandiose monument to King Victor Emmanuel II) and the dome of St Peter’s basilica. On my table the napery was light brown, the rose was red and the glassware was by Riedel. To this refined setting were brought dishes robust both in size and taste. My escalope of goose foie gras, with figs glazed in sweet wine and vegetable mustard, set the tone – big, bold and tasty. Then came orchiette pasta with rabbit ragout and cumin-scented vegetables. My meat course was the best course: grilled and sliced beef of exceptional flavour, with more goose foie gras and lovely roast potatoes. I decided upon a vanilla soufflé for my pudding, but it soon became clear that soufflés were not the kitchen’s forte, so I would advise you to choose something else. (These four courses were 132€.)

The wine list has 276 offerings, which are mostly Italian and French. There are some good champagnes – 2004 Cristal is 400€. Prices run from 35€ for various bottles, including a chardonnay from Lazio, to 1,300€ for Krug 2000 Clos du Mesnil champagne. 2008 Ornellaia is 230€, 2008 Masseto is 820€, 2007 Solaia is 320€ and 2009 Tignanello is 150€. I enjoyed a particularly good Italian white from Sicily – a buttery, muscular wine, which reminded me of a big chardonnay from California (Tasca d’Almerita, Regaleali, 2010). 

Hotel Palazzo Manfredi, Rome, Italy | Bown's BestHotel Palazzo Manfredi, Rome, Italy | Bown's Best

Each morning I returned to the fourth floor for breakfast, and was looked after by Alessandro, smart in his black tie. All the food on these happy and leisurely occasions (one should never rush the first meal of the day) was exceptionally good, whether it was from the buffet (like poached pears, fresh melon and pineapple, Allbran with banana and slices of chocolate cake) or brought to me from the kitchen (like bacon and poached eggs – the latter with gloriously dark yolks – white jugs of coffee, dishes of ice cubes and orange juice squeezed ‘al momento’).

The Hotel Palazzo Manfredi is a small, distinctive hotel with a dedicated staff and a good restaurant. If you want to be near the Colosseum, this is the place for you.

Hotel Palazzo Manfredi, Rome, Italy | Bown's Best




A Relais & Chateaux property
Via Labicana 125, 00184 Rome, Italy.
Telephone +39 06 7759 1380
Fax +39 081 837 790
Room rates – see the hotel website for specific dates

Francis Bown 2003
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