Palazzo Salviati Cesi Mellini has been through many renovations in its lifetime, but none as monumental as that which transmuted it from a stolid bank building into a serene 96-room hotel and spa in the heart of the Eternal City.
Opened in spring, Six Senses Rome is the first urban venture of the luxury brand better known for its tranquil and tropical havens of wellness. Occupying the site of a 1480s palace built for the nephew of Pope Paul II, the hotel offers a holy grail in Rome: an oasis from the bustle of one of the city's main shopping strips, Via del Corso.
Stepping into the cool, marble-clad lobby is akin to taking a minor Roman holiday within your Roman holiday, as a low-key hum takes over from the honking traffic outside. An expanse of travertine marble swirls underfoot, as the open-plan ground floor stretches out, Tardis-like, before you. There are parlour palms and soft seating in soothing Scandi tones, but also classically inspired wall art of voluptuous writhing nudes in bas-relief - just in case you forget you're in Rome.
As it happens, Six Senses' achievement here has been in making both guests and locals feel as if they're very much in the Italian capital but experiencing the cool side of the city's character rather than the classic. Three years and millions of euros in the making, the interiors involved employing the talents of Spanish star designer Patricia Uriquiola while respecting Unesco-protected parts of the property, such as the immense central staircase.
The renovation necessitated taking apart most of the infrastructure, with much of the original building material being repurposed in everything from the cocciopesto walls to the marble used in the rightful star of the show - the contemporary-style Roman baths.
Six Senses Rome's 96 rooms (including 28 suites) are decked out in a modern neutral colour palette of greys, taupes and beige punctuated by pot plants, oak panelling and soft wool rugs. Thanks to top-notch soundproofing, the cocoon effect is so complete that you might need to swing open the window and let the din drift up from the streets below to remind yourself where you are. We loved the abundant natural light, the generously stocked complimentary minibar (with Opinel knife for precision lemon slicing), grey felt slippers, and the inclusion of a yoga mat, plus the fact that there's plenty of space to get down with your metaphorical dog.
What's for breakfast?
Unsurprisingly, it's easy to eat healthily here. On the ground floor, Bivium cafe-restaurant, an all-day dining space, offers a broad-ranging buffet of fruits, grains, seeds, smoothies and pastries. À la carte, you'll find everything from brown bread with cashew butter, roasted tomatoes and saffron butter to frittata with pecorino, and overnight rice porridge. Alternatively, head to Notos on the rooftop and sip your cappuccino amid terracotta pots of herbs, taking in the skyline of Rome's centro storico.
Lunch and dinner
The kitchen is helmed by skilled Sicilian chef Nadia Frisina, whose food leans to Roman-focused with contemporary flourishes, and places a strong emphasis on seasonal, heritage and locally sourced ingredients, supporting regional farmers and producers. "To understand the future, I love to look at the past, following and respecting the seasons," she says. The Bivium dining concept includes a sushi area, gelateria (where kids can trade wooden tokens handed out at reception for gelato) and coffee bar - plus a wine-tasting space with a vinous vending machine as a playful touch. Plant-based options are abundant and excellent - as in a delicate lunch of chickpeas and perfectly dressed salad leaves - and fresh fish and seafood shine. The pizza is made with ancient grains, and some of the best you'll find in Rome.
Is there a bar?
The curved verde alpi marble bar is where the buzz starts to build on Friday evenings, as groups of young Romans in jeans and blazers, bike helmets slung over their elbows, crowd in for expertly mixed aperitivi. The drinks are thoroughly international, with a strong showing of G&Ts, bourbons and, as you'd expect in Italy, bitters and vermouths. Don't miss the inventive Roman emperor-themed cocktail list: options include the Agrippa, made from black Italian sake, vermouth, elderflower and bitters.
Spa and wellness facilities are integral at any Six Senses and here is no exception. You'll want to wallow away a couple of hours in the Roman baths, which include caldarium, tepidarium and frigidarium plunge pools (to be experienced in that order), and not miss the immaculate sauna and steam rooms scented with botanicals. There's also a hammam with a private steam room, a well-equipped fitness centre and alternative wellness experiences such as sound bathing. Beauty treatments run the gamut from classic massages, manicures and facials with an emphasis on natural ingredients to the state-of-the-art, including biohacking techniques, which one of the friendly, professional wellness team will guide you through.
In line with the brand's eco-principles, the Earth Lab on the ground floor offers details about local sustainability and community initiatives, as well as workshops where you might learn to make your own beeswax food wraps or a salt-based body scrub.
The hotel also offers in-house masterclasses (pizza and aperitivi making, for instance) and behind-the-scenes tours giving guests exclusive access to parts of Rome generally inaccessible to tourists.
Heading to Rome?
What are the hotel's eco-credentials like?
In the running for LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold certification, Six Senses Rome's eco-cred is second to none: the hotel even has its own sustainability curator, Federico Catalioto.
Energy from the property comes from 100 per cent renewable sources, low-energy lighting is used throughout and water and lighting are centrally controlled for maximum efficiency. Econyl fabric, made from waste materials, has been used in the curtains and some sofas, oak panelling is FSC-certified, and more than half of the menu is plant-based.
Every Six Senses property has a sustainability fund, drawn from guest donations and 0.5 per cent of room rates, which is used to bring value to the local community - in this case, to restore the Unesco-listed facades of both the hotel and the much-loved historic church, San Marcello al Corso, next door. As Catalioto notes: "Sustainability in an urban environment, especially in a city like Rome, is really about preserving the cultural and historical heritage for future generations."
What about accessibility?
The hotel entrance is step-free, there are four large lifts off the lobby and rooms are wheelchair accessible. In addition, most of the dining venues are at ground level.
What's the crowd like?
The well-heeled of all generations.
Within a short walk I can find…
Shopping; the Trevi Fountain.
Things I should know
Led by dynamic general manager Francesca Tozzi (her sister manages Soho House Rome), the team offers refreshingly informal and friendly service. Ask one of them for a viewing of the ancient Roman octagonal baptism font, tucked below floor level behind the dining area.