Rome is one of the world’s great art destinations thanks to unparalleled collections like the Vatican Museums, the Palazzo Doria Pamphilj and the Villa Borghese, not to mention all the ancient sites around the forum. However, one of the city’s luxury hotels is an art destination in and of itself.
The Grand Hotel Via Veneto has a long and storied past. You might recognize it from its cameo in Fellini’s La Dolce Vita. Yet the hotel dates back long before that and is, in fact, the conjoining of two beautifully preserved 19th-century buildings. Since its multi-year multi-million-dollar renovation by Jumeirah, the décor these days is Art Deco fabulous in the style of Émile-Jacques Ruhlmann. It is embellished with Murano chandeliers, polished black granite floors, and a grand Travertine marble staircase with wrought-iron railings wending between the two buildings.
The grandeur is fitting for a hotel that holds pride of place among the grand dames of Via Veneto, a circuitous thoroughfare of luxe hotels, big-name boutiques and foreign embassies. In fact, the hotel is just a leisurely walk from the Borghese Gardens, the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps (though you can also hop on the metro at Barberini just a five-minute walk away).
The 116 rooms and suites take their cue from the Art Deco theme, with handmade mahogany furniture, wood-paneled bathrooms with marble floors, sinks and baths (stocked with Bulgari products, of course), and oh-so Italian touches like in-room espresso machines.
The hotel’s other amenities include the casual and trendy Time Restaurant & Wine Bar, and the more elegant Magnolia restaurant with its cozy dining arcades and open-air patio. Up on the roof is a small, simple grill and an indoor spa pool. On the hotel’s lower level, the Aqva City Spa is inspired by the ancient Roman dedication to health and beauty and features brands like Sisley for treatments in its six mahogany rooms as well as an all-marble vitality pool and a eucalyptus Carrara marble hammam.
However, it is perhaps the hotel’s art collection that is its most impressive feature. Guests walking into the hotel pass by a beautiful 1748 city-planning map by Giovanni Battista Nolli, and that is just the beginning. Every hallway, every corner—the walls next to every room door—all seem to display a different hand-drawn sketch or painting. The inscription that looms largest is that of 20th-century Italian artist Giorgio de Chirico, whose haunting works blend neo-classical subjects with surreal settings. He is hardly the only big name here, though.
Astute guests will notice a Picasso sketch, Dove in the Rainbow, between check-in and the elevators (the artist used to frequent the long-closed Café de Paris across the street), while others will find a Dalí here and a Miró there, not to mention a healthy smattering of Italians like Guttuso, Nespolo and Burri.
In the rooms themselves, the hotel has judiciously placed photos from photographer and author Francesco de Marzo’s Rome’s Fragments collection. Each photo depicts a detail from Rome’s monuments, churches and ancient sites to set the visitor’s wanderlust atwitter. Those who are intrigued can find the full compilation in a coffee table book of the artist’s work that can be found in each guest room.
Though you cannot blame the first-time traveler to Rome for spending all their time out at the museums, city habitués in the know can check into the Grand Hotel Via Veneto to find their own private museum waiting for them, along with a nice, refreshing Negroni and Italian cheese plate in the lobby atrium.