Villa Agrippina Gran Meliá, Rome, Italy

Villa Agrippina Gran Meliá, Rome, Italy

The only thing missing at this central Roman palace is a dedicated member of staff to pop peeled grapes into one’s open mouth – though you get the feeling that it could be arranged.

real estate doesn’t get much more covetable than this. A
rosy-hued former palazzo, the 110-room Villa Agrippina Gran Meliá
sits within a verdant enclave of manicured, stone pine-studded
gardens in the heart of Rome, and enjoys unparalleled direct views
across the Tiber to the Vatican (best viewed by night, during a
thunder and lightning storm of biblical proportions, as experienced
during our stay).

The five-star abode oozes coolly classic Roman style, as befits
its namesake, Agrippina. A magnificent likeness of the former
empress – who managed to arrange her own marriage to Claudius,
making her son, Nero, the adopted heir to the throne – graces the
lobby, and archaeological remains unearthed during the building’s
construction are on display in communal areas.

Interiors are characterised by clean lines in a colour palette
spanning white linen to acacia honey. Softening the effect of this
profusion of marble – though not, happily, the pleasing click of
high heel underfoot – flowers play a starring role, from the
outsized arrangements of cut stems in the lobby to the subtle
signature scent of orange blossom in the air throughout. Outside,
meanwhile, you have the Orti Domiziani, the city’s first botanical
gardens, named in honour of Domitia, Nero’s paternal aunt.

Take an evening stroll through the grounds, meandering along
manicured paths flanked by the same plants that would have been
enjoyed by ancient Roman pleasure-seekers, including bay laurel,
myrtle, rosemary, strawberry tree and lentisk – all of which,
incidentally, feature in the hotel’s superb culinary offering, led
up by head chef Alfonso D’Auria.


If you’re in town to propose marriage or celebrate a three-book
deal, the new two-bedroom Private Pool Suite might be for you, with
its 32sq m counter-current swimming pool, huge private garden and
personal chef on hand. Alternatively, there’s the sumptuously
appointed Vatican Suite, overlooking St Peter’s Basilica; or the
Emperor Nero Suite, complete with its own gym, Jacuzzi and
panoramic terrace. Really, unless you’re an actual empress, any of
the rooms should suffice. We loved the huge artworks above beds,
high-grade linens, windows that open wide to let in the evening
breeze – ripe with possibility – and huge bathrooms stocked with
Clarins products.

What’s for breakfast?

A feast for the early-morning senses, from the bedazzling array
of hand-crafted, cream-piped pastries to the excellent coffee, a
mere sniff of which was enough to get our hearts racing. “Detox”
and hot options are available, but we ignored them in favour of
countless iterations of artisan breads, cheeses, yoghurt and local

How about lunch and dinner?

Sure, central Rome isn’t exactly short of trattorias to tempt,
but you wouldn’t feel short-changed if you ate exclusively on-site.
From casual poolside plates at GALA to the refined dishes served up
in the Ossimoro dining room, guests are spoilt for choice. Think
tempura lobster; tuna tataki; seared scallops with parmesan; red
shrimp-stuffed tortelli pasta; sea bream “guazzetto” style; and a
killer praline dessert, La Nocciola, which was almost too beautiful
to eat (but which we devoured, with gusto, as soon as we’d got a
good photo).

Is there a bar?

There’s Amaro lounge bar, which, set in what was once the
villa’s chapel, wouldn’t look out of place in The Great Gatsby. All
teal velvet and shimmering bronze, it’s the place to savour the
likes of an expertly poured Milano Torino, made with equal parts
Italian red vermouth and bitter, plenty of ice and a slice of
orange to garnish. Light bites and some of the biggest, juiciest
olives we’ve ever encountered are also on offer.


Plentiful and high-spec: all rooms are furnished with A/C, a
hairdryer, flat-screen TV with satellite channels, Nespresso
machine and well-curated minibar, while some have a hydromassage
bathtub, and suites, Jacuzzi or pool.

How about their green credentials?

Villa Agrippina Gran Meliá uses sustainable and locally sourced
products across its hospitality offering and is determinedly
bike-friendly, among other green initiatives.

What about accessibility?

Good, with gentle slopes and ramps throughout, and dedicated
accessible rooms with wheel-in shower and grab rails.

Things I should know

That all manner of bespoke experiences – including a high-octane
golf buggy food tour of the city – can be arranged by the brilliant
Mèlia team. But that basking on one of the sunbeds poolside
shouldn’t be missed. Nor should the SPA My Blend by Clarins, which
offers state-of-the-art beauty treatments in world-class treatment
rooms. Put it this way, our Apple Face ID didn’t recognise us after
our Youth Synergy facial.

Within a short walk I can find…

The Vatican and St Peter’s Square, the art-packed Villa Borghese
and its glorious gardens, the Spanish Steps, pizzerias, gelaterias,
Giuliani, purveyors of heaven-sent marron glacé and chocolates, and
moody, Roaring Twenties-themed speakeasy bar Jerry Thomas, whose
cocktails are so decadent they would delight Agrippina herself.

Discover More
City Guide: Rome