Almost hidden behind the Ponte Cavour, Hotel Vilòn is an intimate, boutique bolthole perfect for romantic getaways and exploring the historical centre of Rome. Inside, antique furniture, bold colours and modish artwork define its eclectic style - the vibe is at once intriguing and inviting.
Contemporary design is married with a respectful nod to its building's storied history. Dating back to the mid-16th century, it served as an annex of the Palazzo Borghese until 1841, when Princess Adelaide entrusted the property to French nuns in order to create the first boarding school for impoverished girls.
Former classrooms were transformed into 18 spacious bedrooms - some with large terraces overlooking the private gardens of the Palazzo Borghese, which are not normally open to the public. The rooms are what you would expect from a Roman hotel of this standard: beautiful marble bathrooms, large, enveloping beds and modern interiors punctuated by antique pieces and original artworks. There are also several suites, each individually styled and offering that extra level of comfort.
What's for breakfast?
Served in the art deco-inspired dining room, a large selection of meals are made to order, supplemented by fresh bread, pastry and your choice of sweet treats. The breakfast menu is substantial, featuring continental savoury classics and American-style pancakes. We opted for the eggs prepared in the style of classic Roman pasta dishes, such as cacio e pepe and carbonara. Not a light breakfast choice, but an absolute delight.
How about lunch and dinner?
The hotel is also home to the Adelaide restaurant, named after the progressive Borghese princess. It's been recently recognised with a prestigious award of two forks by Gambero Rosso, Italy's answer to the Michelin Guide. Opt for the tasting menu and you'll understand why. The largely seafood-based offering is a light respite from Rome's often meat-heavy dishes, and is best described as traditional Italian with Asian influences. Don't miss the creamy sea-urchin linguine. And do ask the sommelier for a wine from Lazio.
Is there a bar?
What a bar! Lovingly called "Adelaide in Salotto" (Adelaide in the living room), it's a cosy yet elegant affair. Torn between a traditional negroni and the bar's interpretation of a martini? We say: go for both. Each will arrive accompanied by olives and other seasonally prepared snacks. Weather-permitting, sip on the charming outside terrace as the soundtrack of Italian pop classics from the 60s and 70s dances on the evening breeze. Living la dolce vita...
This is a boutique city-centre hotel, so there is no gym or spa but an excellent concierge service, which will impress you with its apparent mind-reading skills. The mini bar and snacks are included in the room price and replenished daily, though we really recommend exploring the hotel's bar and surrounding area.
Things you should know
While Hotel Vilòn's location is perfect for exploring Rome on foot, it's tricky to reach by car as the property is located in the centro storico (historic centre), an area closed to most traffic. Be aware that your cab driver might not be able to drop you off right in front of the door, so opt for a small luggage that you can carry over the old cobblestone streets and swap stiletto heels for comfy sneakers. The hotel's pet-friendly policy accommodates furry friends.
Within a short walk you'll find…
Pretty much everything you want. The nearly restored Ara Pacis Museum, the ancient fort of Castel Sant'Angelo and Ponte Cavour. The Spanish steps are less than five minutes' walk away. If you've overdosed on culture and ancient history, head to the nearby Via del Babuino for a treat-yourself browse of old Italian luxury brands. Not quite in your budget? The flagships of Valentino and Fendi are especially good for window shopping.