Where to stay: Villa Spalletti Trivelli, Rome
What is luxury? When it comes to travel, the definition is subjective. There are those of us for whom it denotes hotels with super-fast broadband, multiple restaurants, glossily designed bars and revolving doors manned by immaculately uniformed staff. Then there’s the kind of luxury purveyed by Villa Spalletti Trivelli, the neoclassical villa turned boutique hotel in Rome’s bohemian Monti district. Here, the staff are discreet and the decor is classical, with 17th-century tapestries lining the walls and antique treasures scattered throughout the property. The kitchen serves a few authentic, home-cooked dishes (expect your espresso strong and your ravioli al dente) and if you fancy a drink, you’re invited to mix one yourself using the selection of spirits, liqueurs and mixers at your disposal in the lounge or in your personal minibar.
Overseeing this elegant home from home are the brother-and-sister duo Andrea and Raymonda Spalletti, the latest generation of the Spalletti family to take over the hotel management. When I visit with a group in early spring, they welcome us with the kind of honest, gregarious enthusiasm that we soon learn is characteristic among Romans, especially when they sit down to dinner together: “We don’t understand the British habit of getting up straight after dessert,” Andrea tells me. “It’s difficult to get an Italian to leave the table at the end of a meal.”
We enjoy one such convivial occasion at his local favourite, Mater Matuta restaurant on Via Milano, which serves exquisitely prepared fish and seafood dishes; our tasting menu includes delicacies such as roasted octopus with peas and cardamom cream, and monkfish ‘porchetta-style’ with herb stuffing. We also discover how seriously the Italians take their gelato when Andrea sends us off on an “educational” visit to the Mama Laboratori di Cucina cookery school, where Mario – the maestro behind Gelateria De Angelis – teaches us to hand-mix our ingredients, before letting us watch with wonder as the machine churns out creamy scoops of gelato in just seven minutes. Buonissimo!
When not feasting your way across the Eternal City, you might be tempted simply to hunker down in one of the hotel’s 15 beautifully appointed rooms (book the garden suite to benefit from a tranquil outdoor space cloistered away from the main hotel) or to relax in the basement sauna and Turkish bath. If the weather is fine, however, it’s worth heading up to the rooftop, where you can either take a dip in one of several hot tubs or order a drink from the alfresco bar, which in summer plays host to regular cocktail nights in collaboration with the expert mixologists at the Hunting Club.
Better still, you can do as we did and arrange a private tour of the Spalletti family’s privately owned organic vineyard and olive farm, Pomario, situated in Monteleone d’Orvieto on the border between Tuscany and Umbria, about an hour-and-a-half from Rome by car. Under the expert tutelage of our guide Stefania, we are introduced to the art of barrel-making (“It’s the same technique as making a Stradivarius”), the secret of making extra-virgin olive oil (the olives are mechanically pressed rather than chemically processed), why Sangiovese is “the king of grapes” and why Trebbiano deserves a place on every menu. After a four-course lunch of rustic Italian dishes accompanied by tastings of each wine, we don’t need any further convincing.
Double rooms at Villa Spalletti from €450 a night on a B&B basis. The Town and Country package with Pomario and Villa Spalletti Trivelli costs an additional €325 per person (minimum two guests), including return transfers, a private tour and a four-course lunch with wine. The gelato experience costs from €350 for up to four people (residents only).
All images courtesy of Villa Spalletti Trivelli
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