Gritty yet glamorous, boutique hotel Chapter Roma injects design-forward, audaciously sexy aesthetics into a 19th-century building where culture and creativity reign supreme.
"We're not fancy, and we're not not fancy" is Chapter Roma's defining mantra, so if you're expecting the crème de la glam of an Italian grand dame, our advice is simple: these digs aren't for you.
In place of the smart ballroom, then? A sexy, daringly naughty and forward-thinking arts space dreamed up by South African designer Tristan du Plessis, who has transformed the once exhausted late 19th-century pile of bricks into an exceptionally slick monochrome pad.
Marco Cilia, owner and alumnus of several spunky hotel start-ups, set out with a goal for Chapter Roma to challenge traditional Italian hotelier codes by creating a "new boutique concept" that celebrates both the locale and the creative mindset.
Brass, copper, steel and bronze fixtures, dark-stained herringboned and green-granite floors, mid-century velvet loungers and art pieces by Warios, Cyrcle, Willy Verginer and local creative Alice Pasquini are framed by original brick work, ornamental nods to the area's Jewish heritage and a cleverly curated mishmash of muted industrial tones. In a word, Chapter Roma is stylish.
The location is just as edgy as the interiors. It's wedged in between the razzmatazz of the Jewish ghetto and the cooler-than-cool Regola neighbourhood, so a grand bazaar of eclectic bohemian hangouts and no-nonsense restaurants add to the hotel's already glowing street cred.
Spoiler: culture and creativity reign supreme at Chapter Roma.
The vibe is a chic mash-up of art deco Manhattan-loft-esque glamour and all the mod cons of contemporary Roma. All 42 rooms are minimalist but Instagrammable, with most boasting snazzy lights from Tom Dixon along with exposed brick and boiserie walls plastered with statement artworks. Think neon signs glowing "what if?" and steamy Seletti rugs bearing tight bum cheeks.
Though the digs appeal to all the latest trends, out-there designer details stay true to the area's Roman past and cultural heritage. Worthy shout outs include the custom open wardrobes built by local metalworkers (an historical throwback to the area's blacksmithing traditions) and the hyper-comfy velvet beds handcrafted in central Italy.
Stealing the spotlight however, are the industrial-style bathrooms. Dark terrazzo floors complement swish cement walls and brass fixtures, along with spacious walk-in showers ready for a post-pasta sweats or couples looking for a good time. The L:a Bruket bath products and the skimpy Turkish-made peshtemal-cotton bathrobes are a real treat too.
Best of the bunch? OTT millennial flair is omnipresent in the hotel's corner rooms. All come with dual-aspect views and raunchy, camera-friendly orange velvet sofas that hug the walls.
What's for breakfast?
Breakfast is a continental affair served downstairs in the main lounge and bar area to the sounds of punk rock and garage classics. From 7am to midday, you can expect fresh juices, cured meats, local and regional cheeses, breads and Roman pastries, cereals and yoghurts. Eggs made to your liking are also up for scoffing on request.
What about lunch and dinner?
The recently opened Market bistro is all about sustainable fresh salads and clean, green juices designed to wake you up and get all your key organs fully detoxed. Signature dishes include spicy Thai and veg avocado bowls and a knockout kale caesar salad. Granola, chia and acai pots are other highlights.
A Peruvian restaurant and rooftop bar are planned for spring and summer 2020, respectively. Until then, down a few negoronis in the Lobby Bar - some say they are the best in town.
You will find no spa or gym here - yet. The hotel does, however, host a series of creative nights along with DJ-led takeovers. Ask for more info at check-in.
Things you should know
As the building is listed, room layouts vary, along with the furniture and even the height of the windows in each room. If there's one you really want, call in advance and request it before you hop on the plane. Small pets (under five kilos) also stay for free.
Within a short walk you'll find
Rome's A-list attractions. The Colosseum and Roman Forum are a short 15-minute stroll away; the Trevi Fountain (20 minutes) and Vatican City (25 minutes) are also within easy reach of the hotel. Tip: go early to avoid all the crowds.
If you'd rather ditch the tourists, stay put. The Jewish ghetto is home to several top restaurants, including Ba'Ghetto (don't miss the fried artichokes or fried mozzarella balls) and, if you walk two minutes north of the hotel up Via dei Giubbonari, Roscioli spins out some of the best pasta, wine and cured meats in the city.
The lively restaurants, cutesy shops and photogenic plant-flecked market squares of Trastevere are just across the river, too.