Presstrip to Rome, Italy. Contributed by Jens Hoffmann.
A fantastic trip to the Italian Capital. It was 25 degress when We landed at Fiumicino – Leonardo da Vinci International Airport, one of the three airports in Rome which are in service.
A quick taxi ride through the great Empire and finally the check-in at the nice Hotel Westin Excelsior.
The lobby is predictably palatial. Bellissiomo.
Brilliant chandeliers hang from soaring ceilings, floors are gleaming marble, windows are draped with rich golden fabric and Roman shades.
It is hard to believe that the last century this thoroughfare was a quiet road on the outskirts of the city that carriages crossed to connect from one larger byway to another and the Romans used for games of bocce. The Excelsior openined its doors in 1906. Since that time, The Westin Excelsior Rome has hosted celebrities, statesmen and artists visiting the Eternal City. Movie stars from the time of “La Dolce Vita” like Anita Ekbert and Audrey Hepburn were regular guests. Furthermore the Excelsior served as headquarters of the American Allied Forces headed by General Clark at the end of World War II. That all made it a legend and one of famous hotels worldide. During the elections, the US television channels checked in here. All the Americans in Rome came to see the coverage. Madeline Albright, Collin Powell have been here along with many important political figures and probably the NSA. To make it short the Hotel is one of the cities most imposing palaces, rich in history and located on one of the most celebrated and talked about streets of Rome, close to the main attractions in Rome like the legendary Via Veneto, Spanish steps and the Borghese Gardens.
The sun was shining and we had a beautiful day in lovely Rome, standing on the corner of Via Veneto and Via Boncompagni, across the way from the pink villa that houses the US Embassy and just in front of the beautiful white palace that is the Westin Excelsior Hotel. Bellissimo.
A beaux arts building with a single corner dome, the Excelsior embodies the very essence of the fashionable boulevard that is Via Veneto.
Despite expectations, the hotel was an almost instant success and over the decades evolved into one of the great hotels of the world. By the post war years, the one-time sleepy country road had been transformed into a glittering byway frequented by an international crowd of the cognosotti with paparazzi in their wake, immortalized as the mythic byway of high style and modernity in Fellini’s “La Dolce Vita.” But it was the Excelsior Hotel, standing at the apex of a triangle with the Borghese Gardens and Spanish Steps at either end, that brought the world to this crossroads of Rome. Here you will find Imperial, Baroque and Modern Rome. It is epitomized by Via Veneto, and the Excelsior Hotel is at its heart.
Luxurious Empire furnishings are arranged into comfortable seating areas. The ambience is one of gracious informality, the lovely seating areas underscore a mood of gracious hospitality.
Palatial interior at the Westin Excelsior Hotel At the Excelsior, the change in attitude was spurred by a change in ownership when Starwood Hotels and Resorts took over the hotel making it a Westin property, a name familiar to North American visitors. Beyond changing the mood, Starwood invested millions in a project. Obviously the Excelsior was the flagship hotel in Italy, but it was tired and old. It needed to be brought up to date, the personality and décor remains as it was.
That was a fantastic presstrip and our suite had a wrap-around balcony that overlooked Via Veneto and the American Embassy, it seemed like a glorious turn-of-the century apartment, stunning to the very last detail of period furnishings in Roman red and gold. But in terms of communications connections and modern amenities, it was twenty-first century all the way.
Our tour of the regal quarters of the Villa La Cupola on the fifth and sixth floors was followed by a lunch at La Cupola without the Villa on the ground floor. A buffet was set out on a balcony beneath a classical-looking bas relief, we ordered roman style from the a la carte menu, started with Bollinger champagne, caviar with fresh goat cheese and grilled whitefish with artichokes, the heart is stuffed with a paste of parsley, garlic and olive oil and cooked in olive oil with a little water, we finished two bottles of 1997 Turriga from Sardinia a lovely red wine. Yummy.
Later on I had sweet dreams.
Il pui bella di Roma, or the the most beautiful in Rome.
The hotel was named to Condé Nast Traveler’s Gold List 2013.
Resto tip “Pergola” in Rome:
Pergola is within the impressive Hilton Cavalieri hotel, which is perched at the top of a hill overlooking the city. The dining room in on the 9th floor, has fine views out over the city, and is lavishly decorated. The owner of the hotel has a reputedly vast art collection, and the dining room has several pieces on display, including paintings, glassware and furniture. The room has a blue/gold patterned carpet, picture windows and generously spaced tables.
Pergola is laid out along one side of the hotel in which it is situated, the dining room snaking along the top of a hillside overlooking Rome; this layout means that most tables have at least some part of the view, and a spectacular view it is. All of Rome sprawls beneath you, with St Peter’s Basilica just one of the clearly visible landmarks. The dining room itself is lavishly decorated, with mirrors along the rear wall and lovely pieces of art dotted around the room.
Bread is made in the kitchens, Italian rolls with top class olive oil for dipping, with the flatbread being my favourite of those tried. There was even a salt trolley to complement the olive oil, with a wide array of salts from around the world, from Japan, Hawaii and France amongst others; truly the salt of the earth. Perhaps the most intriguing was a Norwegian salt that tasted slightly of pepper, a sort of all in one condiment. I generally prefer French bread to Italian, but this was certainly well made. The wine cellar here is immense, with 3,000 separate wines available and 60,000 bottles.
You know I am a foodie and a fan of the Vaticane.
Salmon with a little fennel salad and tangerine sauce was the introductory taste, and although the combination is perfectly sensible and the fennel was good.
The meal got into its stride with a duck liver terrine with smoked apple, almonds and amaretti. This was spectacularly good dish, the terrine having stunning flavour, the apple providing just enough balancing acidity. Deep fried zucchini flower with caviar on shellfish and saffron sauce was a pretty dish, the courgette flower arranged in a star, the sauce having clean flavours.
First of a trio of pasta dishes was Mezza lune with broccoli, squid and clams. This was delicate, and mix of shellfish and broccoli worked well Fagotelli “La Pergola” is a feature of the menu here, and has remarkably light pasta.
Tangerine risotto with scampi carpaccio and mint was technically skilled and had lovely langoustines.
Following the pasta was a Cannolo of scampi and vegetables, olive sauce and tapioca with Campari.
The langoustines were extremely good, though they are a delicate taste that for us got a little lost amongst the powerful flavour of the olive sauce and the Campari.
Warm emincé of sea bass with vegetables marinated in olive oil was impressive, the fish itself perfectly cooked and with lovely flavour, the excellent vegetables giving a nice light balance to the dish, and a again a sense of the tastes being very clean and pure came through in this dish.
A trolley contained an entirely Italian cheese selection, the cheeses in very good condition. I found a local goat cheese that superficially resembled St Maure was particularly impressive, but the better known cheeses such as Taleggi, Gorgonzola were all delicious. Thats was more than enough. Finally orange jelly with ice cream, it was a very pretty dessert.
The wine list is unbelievable, two large tomes, one for Italian wines, one for the rest of the world. A proper 3 star restaurant. I love.