It was a few years back on a rainy night that we wended our way to Palazzo Manfredi and dinner at its Michelin-starred Aroma restaurant. A lot of hotel stays and superb dining experiences later, we still had a memory of that time and also of our meeting with the elegant Bruno Papaleo, general manager.
Now we were back in Rome, guests at the Palazzo Manfredi, a five-star Relais & Châteaux property (Via Labicano 125), right near the Coliseum. In the 17th century it became a villa of the Evangelisti family, then later passed on to the Venerable Cofraternity of the Most Holy Trinity of Pilgrims and Convalescents. Totally rebuilt in the 18th century, the building then became a hunting lodge.
Finally, in 2002, Count Goffredo Manfredi, a famous Italian businessman and construction magnate, purchased the villa. All thanks to him for the creation of this 16-room gem of a boutique hotel.
Chef Giuseppe Di Iorio has been Aroma’s master head chef since the sublime 40-seat restaurant opened in 2010. It is located on a picturesque outdoor terrace that offers at all times an unparalleled and almost hypnotic view of the Coliseum.
Perfecting a menu that merges his mastery of traditional Italian cooking with his zeal for fresh ingredients and new ideas, the inventive chef Di Iorio was awarded his first Michelin star in 2015. He is a man with zest for good food and a light touch it making it out-of-this-world extraordinary. His cuisine is definitely “not just pasta,” but if it is pasta you crave, there is that too - a delicious mix of inventive and classic Italian dishes.
We had a bit more time to spend this time around with GM Papaleo, who if anything is more on top of his game than ever. His insights into the hotel’s marvelous chef and the environment around Palazzo Manfredi were succinct and on target.
The cuisine in Aroma,” he explained, “is Mediterranean with small touches of the regions of and around Rome. Our setting is very historic, and the area is a nice, quiet place, like a small village where everyone knows everyone else. From some of the hotel rooms, you can see the changing rooms of the gladiators. There is a tourist crowd around the Coliseum, but the tourism doesn’t extend into the Domus, which is where we are.”
The 16 individually-created rooms in this elegant property each have their own delightful personalities, and views are everywhere - the Coliseum, the Colle Oppio (Nero's gardens), and the picturesque streets of the neighborhood. And within them, Papaleo’s terrific touch is everywhere, from the sublime Palma toiletries to the friendly, attentive, capable staff. It is all of one piece – service with a smile and among the best we have had in years. If you must choose one hotel to stay at in Rome, choose Palazzo Manfredi. It is king of the hill, top of the line.
Gran Meliá Rome is like being in Rome while at the same time in the country. It is actually situated in the heart of the great city, yet apart from it on the quiet Janiculum hill (Via del Gianicolo 3). Incredibly, one has serenity and luxury and everything else including being within walking distance of the Vatican, Piazza Navona, Castel Sant'Angelo and other fabled sites.
The property is a sprawling and wondrous villa replete with beautiful gardens, many birds, an outdoor and very appealing pool. Once upon a time this over-the-top luxe hotel was a convent constructed on the site of the Villa Agrippina, the suburban home of Emperor Nero's mother. Nowadays it's an over-the-top boutique hotel with Balinese beds in all 87 rooms.
A member of the Leading Hotels of the World, Gran Meliá Rome opened in the spring of 2012, a unique and highly luxurious member of the Spanish hotel chain.. During the massive excavation and construction period, relics and other items of archaeological interest turned up, and today these are displayed throughout the hotel.
Other unusual features include the sleek lobby which houses a bust of Agrippina and a library of art books. Numerous dining options exist, including the gourmet and Michelin two-star Vivavoce restaurant, the Liquid Garden, a pool lounge bar in an orange grove. Wherever you chose to dine, the food is divine.
In the rooms, High-speed Wi-Fi, Nespresso coffee maker, king size bed and a full set of Clarins bathroom amenities add to the total package. There is also the convenience of a shuttle service for free transport to downtown. Overall, the feeling of the hotel is light and airy, thanks to the large windows, glass paneling in all areas. There are also accented elegant modern Murano chandeliers and contemporary art pieces.
A special feature, never seen before by our well-seasoned travel-writing eyes, is what we call the “ladies in red.” Decked out with red dresses, scarves, shoes, part concierges, tour directors, confidantes, attractive, attentive, attuned, these women are a very plus part of the remarkable scene. A big winner!
The Frommers are a wife and husband team who successfully bridge the worlds of popular culture and traditional scholarship. They are the authors of five six critically-acclaimed oral histories (It Happened in the Catskills; It Happened in Brooklyn; Growing Up Jewish in America; It Happened on Broadway; It Happened in Manhattan; It Happened in Miami and It Happened in Israel, forthcoming in 2018). They are professors at Dartmouth College, going into their third decade, where they teach oral history. Their many articles have appeared in such outlets as The New York Times, Newsday, New York Daily News, Los Angeles Times, Redbook, Golf Digest, International Herald Tribune, USA Today, Washington Post, Haaretz, Caribbean Travel and Life, as well as many Internet sites. Harvey Frommer is also a noted sports journalist and oral historian, the author of 43 books on sports including the autobiographies of legends Nolan Ryan, Tony Dorsett, and Red Holzman. His The Ultimate Yankee Book will be published fall 2017.