Monday, 22 December 2014
Italy: Il Cavalieri, Roma
On my birthday, we hopped in our hire car and hot-footed it up to Brindisi airport for our flight to Rome. It was only half full so we both got window seats, which allowed us both the exciting view of Italy racing away beneath us on the short flight. A train into Rome, a walk in the blistering heat with our cases and a taxi ride later, we found ourselves in the very lap of luxury.
The taxi driver told us we were staying at the best hotel in the city and he wasn't kidding. It's a way out - about 10 minutes' drive from the Vatican, although they run an hourly shuttle to and from Bernini Square - but it is totally worth it. We agreed we would splash out on a stay here and we were not disappointed. Particularly not Tutt: I don't know if I've ever seen her look so happy.
Little things in the room gave away the quality - two stands for suitcases instead of just one; the biggest, comfiest beds with huge marshmallow duvets; a wardrobe with a light inside; a three pin plug socket; a pillow menu; complimentary bottled water; a turn down service with a sweet on the pillow every night; a concierge who sent a maintenance man up immediately when, on the third night, I couldn't work out how to turn out the light illuminating one of the paintings and didn't want to us the kill switch and have to walk back to my bed in the dark; a bathroom with a marble floor and counters; a big mirrored door that pulled shut between the bedroom and the front door to cut down the noise from the corridor; and, my favourite, shutters that could be switched off and on from the bed.
Every morning we ate breakfast by the pool, from quite possibly the biggest breakfast buffet I've ever seen; on day three we shared this space with Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond, who were planning that ill-fated trip to Argentina that was on the news this autumn. We perused the art collection, only a tiny amount of which is on display in the lobbies....I quite liked this one of a woman scaring a cat with a bird, in the ladies' toilet.
The ladies' toilet was like the hall of mirrors.
And the spa! Oh, the spa. I couldn't cope. It was just epic. There were separate saunas in each changing room, and a huge steam room with a freezing cold plunge pool, separated from a large jacuzzi by a screen of smoked glass. We went there on my birthday afternoon and eventually ended up, wrapped in our enormous fluffy robes, reclining on couches in a darkened relaxation room, with lemon water and a skiing program on the TV. Absolute heaven. On the next day, when we were sweltering on the open top bus and gingerly strolling around the Coliseum, trying to stay in the shade, all I could think about was getting back to the spa so I could enjoy the freezing cold plunge pool and do some yoga stretches in the steam room where it was too steamy for anybody to notice.
They have an indoor and outdoor pool, too; the indoor one was closed for maintenance but Tutt took a dip in the outdoor one. The website suggests that this costs but it only really costs if you want to use a sun lounger. The spa was half price on the first day and free when I went the following day, presumably because we went in the afternoon and then I went an hour before closing. Excellent value. On the last day I had a La Prairie facial which was very relaxing. They have a fully equipped gym which we looked at but did not use; I did go for a bit of a jog round the grounds and use some of the equipment on their fit trail, though.
I think the thing that impressed me most about it was how many things were included - services that we thought we might be charged for, like the porter bringing our luggage to and from our room. When the bill came at the end, it was not as eye-watering as I had feared, thanks to things like the spa being discounted. Tutt was quite horrified at being presented with a bill for 24 euros for 2 orange juices in the lobby; tea was much better value at 7, served in a silver teapot on a silver tray. So, I guess it wasn't what you would call cheap. But it was nice having the bottled water replaced daily, there was free wifi in the public spaces, and the breakfast being included made a huge difference to the overall cost.
We've now decided that we must try all the Waldorf Astorias in the world, for comparison. I can't see how any of them could measure up to this, mind you.