For two travellers from London arriving in Rome on a sunny and warm Sunday morning, after a very enjoyable British Airways flight from Heathrow, a good choice to stay would be Hotel d'Inghilterra, rich in tradition and style dating back to the mid 19th century with a name that reflects its popularity with British visitors of the day, including the English romantic poet John Keats who spent time in the hotel during the last years of his tragically short life. And indeed it was our place of choice, however this was not the location given to the taxi driver that took us from Fiumicino airport to the city, - would we be able to enjoy at least a glimpse of the Pope Francis towards the end of the Palm Sunday mass? Our driver was optimistic and even though the service had ended when we arrived Pope Francis was still greeting the masses on St. Peter´s Square.
After soaking up the atmosphere and seeing his holiness return to his chambers we gave our own accommodation some attention and soon arrived at Via Bocca di Leone 14, just a stone’s throw from the Spanish Steps. The building dates from the mid-sixteenth century when it was used as an aristocratic residence for visitors of Palazzo di Torlonia, located across the street. By the 15th century the local area was renowned for hosting the city’s best hotels and attracted foreign visitors and international communities. The nearby luxury shopping district Via Borgognona owes its name to the group of merchants from the region of Burgundy, who populated the district since the early 1400s.
As our room wasn´t quite ready this was a good time to explore the immediate vicinity and it seemed fitting to visit Keats and Shelley House at the right foot of the Spanish Steps, a museum dedicated to the English Romantic poets, who were spellbound by the Eternal City. On the other side of the steps we found another place to extend our stay in the 19th century for a while, the famous Babington’s Tea Rooms with interiors still typical of that time and much of the décor and many of the prints and furnishings dating back to that period. After this pleasant early Sunday afternoon excursion it was time to settle in our room and promises of a harmonious sanctuary and a peaceful privilege were obviously well founded. The style is opulent and classic, colour schemes are bold and complement the hotel's rich history. We found our room lovingly decorated with fabrics, antiques and artworks handpicked to create a unique individuality and found the claim somehow ring true that the hotel retains the air of a private noble residence.
By this time we were very much looking forward to taste chef Antonio Vitale’s culinary creativity honed working at several Michelin star restaurants. His menus, based on popular Italian classics with contemporary flair are said to maximise seasonal local produce and we found them served with elegance and enthusiasm by restaurant manager Marco Lo Verso and his welcoming team. This evening proved to be slightly too fresh for alfresco dining so we enjoyed our dinner indoors. Linguine with lobster and olives from Gaeta scented with fennel made an excellent first course as did homemade tagliatelle with fresh porcini mushrooms, followed by grilled slice of tuna with aubergine and tomato scented with vanilla and beef fillet with potatoes tarte and grilled porcini mushrooms. This was served with a most pleasing Pinot Grigio and a very subtle red, Brunello di Montalcino, of which we new nothing before this meal but now is a much loved favourite.
After a splendid breakfast we found most of the following day well spent going by the concierge’s suggestions for nearby attractions visiting the National Roman Museum, a nineteenth-century palace in Neo-Renaissance style, close to the Termini Train Station, housing one of the world's most important collections of Classical art and Galleria Nazionale d'Arte Antica with the Corsini Collection, the only eighteenth-century collection of Roman paintings to have survived intact to the present day. But apart from such distinct places of interest Rome in itself is of course a thing of beauty to admire, Roma Aeterna, Caput Mundi.
We enjoyed our second evening in the vibrant and atmospheric Trastevere district across Tiber with its many restaurants and street artists. Returning to our room for our last night we found ourselves reluctant, even a bit sad, to be leaving Rome and this lovely hotel. It was a comfort though we still had a few days left in Italy, staying at another Niquesa hotel, Grand Hotel Continental in Siena. But before that a good rest, ‘a sleep full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.’