While European travelers have to wait until November to finally visit the US, Americans have been fortunate enough to visit most of Europe’s top destinations for months. Yes, traveling to Europe during the pandemic brings additional Covid-related hurdles to overcome – such as a negative Covid test within 72 hours of arrival – but there may not be a better time for willing travelers to travel to Europe visit than now.
For my first adventure across the pond in over twenty months, I traveled to Italy’s beautiful capital, Rome, to restart my European travel adventures. As summer turns into autumn, the weather in Italy at this time of year is ideal. And with the usual tourist crowds nowhere to be seen – thinned out not only by the pandemic but also by the end of the summer vacation – this is a truly unique opportunity to visit the museums, plazas, restaurants and of course the retail stores of the Eternal City in a more relaxed and enjoyable way experience – more like a local than a tourist. Fittingly, the home base during my stay was the elegant and iconic Hotel Eden, a quiet oasis in a residential area in the heart of Rome.
The Hotel Eden, one of only two Italian hotels in the portfolio of the ultra-luxurious Dorchester Collection hotel group, is perfectly located in the affluent Ludovisi district of Rome – close enough to easily walk to many of the city’s most famous attractions (both Spanish Steps) and Trevi Fountain are a 5-7 minute walk away) but just far enough from the hustle and bustle (and the rest of the tourists) of the city to provide refuge. Located on the Pincian Hill next to the beautiful Villa Borghese gardens, the upper floors of the hotel offer incomparable panoramic views over Rome.
Originally opened as a hotel in 1889, Hotel Eden has been a crown jewel of Roman hospitality for over 130 years and is home to countless kings, dignitaries, celebrities and other VIPs. The hotel’s Wall of Fame, which leads to the rooftop restaurants and features photos and messages from John F. Kennedy Jr., Marlon Brando, Sean Connery, and Nelson Mandela, pays homage to its great history.
In 2015, however, the Dorchester Collection closed Hotel Eden for a major restoration and renovation, and opened the hotel in 2017 with an updated look and feel and modernized amenities, including a new urban spa. “The restoration of Hotel Eden sought to preserve the Roman essence of the property while providing guests with the ultimate luxury experience, enhanced by contemporary design and state-of-the-art facilities,” said Christopher Cowdray, CEO of the Dorchester Collection.
In the opinion of this seasoned traveler, the hotel has struck its place, striking just the right balance between classic ancient Roman style and modern luxury. My suite was not only large, with high ceilings and lots of natural light, but also refined and elegant, with fine fabrics and surfaces and the rich, heavy marble that I associate with fine Roman decor. But at the same time I loved the high-tech televisions and the Bang & Olufsen sound system in the suite, as well as the lighting and air conditioning systems controlled by the master. The main bathroom was appropriately stocked with a selection of delicious Bottega Veneta Italian toiletries. To top it off, I did this on perhaps the most comfortable mattress I’ve ever slept on – a Vispring, darling no less than the British royal family.
The two signature restaurants of the Hotel Eden, La Terrazza and Il Giardino – both on the top floor of the hotel with a wide open-air view over Rome – were exceptional. The Michelin-starred La Terrazza with healthy, courageous and innovative Mediterranean cuisine under the direction of chef Fabio Ciervo serves as the hotel’s upscale dining option. The restaurant was known as the favorite of the legendary Italian film director Federico Fellini, who always conducted his press interviews at the same table in La Terrazza. Judging by the tables that were occupied in the dining room during my visit, La Terrazza is clearly a favorite of many Romans.
Il Giardino – “The Garden” at Eden – and the all-day dining restaurant and meeting point of the hotel, was the place where I started the day happily with a delicious breakfast. My only complaint was that the Italian leather cabins were so comfortable and the view was so fascinating that I never wanted to leave!
But what sets the Hotel Eden apart more than anything else is its service. With 200 employees serving only 98 guest suites, the hotel prides itself on providing the best service in Rome. Dorchester Collection was one of the few hospitality organizations to have paid its worldwide staff in full throughout the pandemic that one would expect from a five-star hotel. At the Hotel Eden the loyalty and gratitude of the staff was palpable and the service and attention to detail, from the reception to the concierges to the waiters and housekeeping, was impeccable – which I certainly appreciate even more these days, when the pandemic The human touch in the hospitality industry is often lacking. The small details – like the personalized leather card key holder and the daily treats and notes left in my room – set good hotels apart from great ones.
Hotel Eden’s management and staff have recognized the need to be creative with reduced travel during this time and have developed an additional program to lure guests into its doors. The hotel has an “Artist in Residence” – the celebrated Italian fashion illustrator Andrea Ferolla – who visits the hotel twice a month to visually record the history of the Hotel Eden through a series of observation drawings in a unique way.
The hotel hosts movie nights and workshops in its La Libreria library room.
It has even developed an island excursion program that offers day trips to the remote Italian islands of Ponza and Palmarola in conjunction with stays at Hotel Eden.
Unfortunately, my stay at the Hotel Eden was not long enough to enjoy everything the hotel has to offer. That just gives me one more reason to return to one of my favorite cities.