Via Vittorio Veneto became famous around the world in the Sixties thanks to its role in Federico Fellini’s movie La Dolce Vita, which turned it into a popular destination for jet-setters and Hollywood stars. Still today, Via Veneto is one of the most expensive and elegant streets in Rome, home to historic cafés (Café de Paris and Harry’s Bar) and five star hotels, such as the Westin Excelsior.
Even though my memories of growing up in Rome have nothing in common with the glamorous and glitzy lifestyle evoked by Fellini’s movie, Via Veneto still today makes me feel like stepping back to a time of Hollywood stars and sweet way of life, la dolce vita.
Walking down on Via Veneto, from Borghese Gardens to the Spanish steps, I can pretend to be a tourist in this wonderful city; I take in the beauty of gorgeous buildings around me and dream of my next meal of fried artichokes, spaghetti carbonara cooked al dente and creamy gelato.
Ah! Sounds amazing doesn’t it? That’s exactly how I felt when I stayed at the Westin Excelsior for one night last July.
Westin Excelsior features 281 rooms and 35 suites over 6 six floors; one indoor pool, WestinWORKOUT® Fitness Studio and wellness centre in the basement; a large lobby area with cocktail bar; a restaurant and café with outdoor seating area on Via Veneto.
Like any five star hotel, it’s not cheap (around £300 per night for two people), but if you are looking for a special place to stay in Rome to make an unforgettable trip, then this is it.
The hotel offers a wide range of rooms: deluxe and grandluxe rooms, junior and grandluxe suites, plus three unique suites: the Via Veneto, the Imperial and the stunning Villa La Cupola. This is the largest suite in Italy: it has a domed living room with a 12-metre high, hand-frescoed cupola; a marble staircase leading to the upper floor with its own private fitness room, sauna and steam bath; and a magnificent Pompeian style Jacuzzi pool.
I didn’t stay at La Cupola, but I can’t complain about my Deluxe room on the 6th floor with views of Via Veneto and the historical centre of Rome. I could even see St. Peter’s Basilica from my private balcony!
My room was beautifully decorated in Biedermeier style, adorned with a white-and-gold ceiling, crystal chandelier, and sumptuous damasks on the walls in shades of red and gold.
The room was very comfortable and I loved the extra space, with coffee table and arm chairs by the window.
Since it was very hot in Rome that weekend and my parents don’t have A/C in their house, I welcomed the opportunity to sleep in the cool room at the Westin Excelsior. We checked-in the hotel in the early afternoon and I spent an hour swimming and relaxing in the pool, while my husband took a nap in the bedroom.
I loved the large marble bathroom with double sink and plenty of space to leave all my toiletries.
The walk-in wardrobe room was my favourite thing in the room! I have never had one of these in any hotel I have stayed before, so it was such a treat!
My weekend trip to Rome was also the perfect occasion to test my new Samsonite’s B-Lite 3 trolley.
I received a sample from Samsonite just before going to Italy and I have been using it on all my short trips ever since.
What makes this suitcase special and so elegant are the Liberty fabric inserts (featured outside and inside the bag). Samsonite teamed up with London-based textile company Liberty Art Fabrics to release a limited edition floral collection that evokes quintessential British style. The June’s Meadow print was inspired by flora found in Tresco’s Abbey Gardens in Cornwall.
The B-Lite 3 is made from highly resistant trim material and triple 360° injected corner protection. I have used several Samsonite luggage over the years and I know they are resistant and long-lasting.
My review of the Westin Excelsior Hotel couldn’t be complete without a mention of their breakfast, which is served at Café Doney on the ground floor of the hotel. The café can be accessed from the lobby or directly from Via Veneto.
The breakfast buffet was fantastic, with a large selection of fresh pastries, breads, cold and hot food, cereals and fruits. There was a chef taking orders for eggs (scrambled or fried) which is something I love about Westin Hotels (I stayed at Westin Grand Hotel Berlin a few months ago). There was also a table set up with a juicer and lots of fresh fruits, which guests can use to make their own juices!
I particularly loved the fresh ricotta cheese, so delicious and tasty! And the Capri-style cake: a flourless, almond-based, chocolate cake.
The cappuccino was disappointing though. If you follow me on Twitter you know I often rant about the poor coffee quality in Italy. Italian espresso is considered one of the best in the world, I don’t like the dark-roasted, robusta coffee beans used to make espresso in Italy. I find that the quality of our coffee is slowly decreasing while other European countries are getting so much better at it.
I hope our (Italian) approach to coffee will change soon, it would be a shame to lose our long tradition in coffee making. I think that a bigger effort should be placed by cafés to source good quality beans and train baristas on grinding and brewing techniques. It will take years to change people attitude towards coffee, but I am starting to see positive signs from a few Italian roasters and coffee producers (see my review of Taglio in Milan).
Before breakfast I had somehow summoned the will to drag myself out of bed and go for a run. While it was hard to leave the comfort of the Westin Heavenly® Bed, I couldn’t miss the opportunity to run in Villa Borghese, one of Rome’s most beautiful parks.
I ran all the way to Pincio Gardens to see the panoramic view of the city from the balustraded Pincio Terrace. I have always been there at busy times, but that morning it was just me and another runner.
He turned to me and commented in English: “stunning, isn’t it?”.
There is no other place in the world like Rome!
Disclaimer: I was a guest of Westin Excelsior Hotel for one night including breakfast. I received a press sample of the B-Lite 3 suitcase from Samsonite. All opinions are my own.