InterContinental Rome: inside the new ‘ambassadors’ palace’ hotel

By John O’Ceallaigh

Sometimes, staying in a city hotel that is ‘central’ is markedly better than one that is ‘right in the centre’. That proved to be the case over my two-part stay during one baking-hot long weekend in Rome: first a friend and I stayed in a residence that took us in moments to the Castel Sant’Angelo and the Vatican. Beautiful though those landmarks are, we were inundated by crowds the moment we ventured beyond our doorstep – all those people and all that heat, I found it exhausting. Then we moved to the new InterContinental Rome Ambasciatori Palace on the top of the sloping Via Veneto, near Villa Borghese park and an easy downhill walk to the Spanish Steps and the Trevi Fountain. Suddenly things felt much more peaceful.

The exterior of the InterContinental Rome Ambasciatori Palace hotel on Via Veneto

It was interesting to visit the property just as Rome seems to be enjoying a revival in its fortunes, at least as far as the opening of top-class hotels go. Its IHG sibling, Six Senses Rome also opened this summer, as did the Bulgari Rome; a Rosewood hotel will open just across the street in the coming year. That setting is significant. Via Veneto is where much of La Dolce Vita was filmed (I would have expected to see more emphasis on this in the hotel’s on-site branding, décor and storytelling, it doesn’t get much of a mention) and it was long a magnet for artists and actors alongside dignitaries and the wealthy. After a more recent fallow period, the street and its surroundings are now regaining stature and feature a notably high concentration of upmarket hotels – right now it feels upmarket without being haughty, it’s a nice balance.

The building itself has a notable heritage, too, which admittedly seems to be the case with every building in Rome so perhaps that should be seen as a minimum requirement to open a standout hotel in this city. It dates from 1900 and was originally used to house ambassadors visiting the city, before serving as the American Embassy Library from 1946 (that embassy is still just across the road) and then operating as a hotel before it was taken over and renovated by IHG.

They have opened a 160-key property where original architectural details in the lobby contrast with rooms that feel fresh and modern: they’re typically finished in crisp whites or with swashes of pale navy and often come with balconies – they’re tranquil and residential, and we slept very soundly on extremely comfortable bedding (my companion resolved to overhaul theirs back home in an effort to replicate that level of serenity). We were generally very happy, though there were a few tech glitches that needed attention, and travellers who enjoy taking baths after a long day’s sightseeing should know that prohibitions on altering rooms’ compositions meant it wasn’t possible to integrate tubs into every room category. (I didn’t care about this, but my partner did; however, we were both big fans of the amenities from Scandinavian brand Byredo, which are now provided in every InterContinental property.)

Another thing I liked more than I’d anticipated before my stay was the hotel’s restaurant Scarpetta. Scarpetta is an Italian-style restaurant brand that began its life in New York in 2008 before gaining traction globally, and it seemed strange that an Italian property would import an Italian-like dining concept from abroad rather than introducing its own or collaborating with a local partner. But it works very well: for all its exceptionally positive attributes, Rome isn’t a diverse dining destination and on any given walk through the city you’ll find a slew of indistinct Italian restaurants. Scarpetta delivers what is in fact a really solid Italian menu for any first-time visitor who understandably expects their Rome hotel to deliver a local dining experience, while also providing a digression from the ordinary for repeat visitors and residents.

To that end, the restaurant’s staff pointed out how unusual it would be to see a cocktail bar embedded in a typical Roman restaurant – Scarpetta’s is a beautiful centrepiece that serves excellent Aperol margharitas and also ensures the place feels lively. I was surprised by how busy and buzzy it was when we dined there at the end of a relaxed Sunday.

Service was excellent, too, and sophisticated. A skilled sommelier takes care of the wine selection (alongside Italian and American wines, I was surprised to see he had added some French labels to the menu: “For me, there’s no rivalry between Italian and French wines; what’s important is that I provide what’s most enjoyable for the guest so of course I wanted to include some French options. Even if Italian wines are the best.) Diners who want to deviate from the more conventional Italian options can choose from a generous range of steaks, but my favourite dish was the signature Scarpetta pasta – handmade spaghetti and a perfectly prepared tomato sauce that really does burst with intense, delicious flavour. I wouldn’t have ordered it had the waiter not recommended it, but I was wowed.

Away from Scarpetta, the hotel’s primary bar Anita serves drinks throughout the day. To describe it as a lobby bar isn’t quite right – it occupies an expansive room set back beyond the main entrance and was quiet throughout my visit. I was more taken with Charlie’s, the sixth-floor rooftop bar nicely placed to catch the sunset and a pretty view of the domes and pine trees that so distinctly form the silhouette of this immensely beautiful city. We ordered cocktails (served, we were happy to discover, with complimentary aperitivo) so we could take it all in at our leisure. Again we appreciated how nice it was to be within touching distance of all of the best of the city, without all the intensity.

Rooms at InterContinental Rome Ambasciatori Palace start from €700 per night.
If you’re looking to book a stay at InterContinental Rome Ambasciatori Palace or other luxury hotels in Rome and beyond, LUTE can provide additional privileges and benefits to enhance your holiday (think upgrades, complimentary dining credits, and more), at the best-available room rate. Email for more information or to make a booking.

LUTE is a luxury-travel consultant and content agency that works with hotel groups, tour operators, tourist boards, airlines and more. You can learn more about LUTE hereFor frequent luxury-travel updates, follow LUTE and LUTE founder John O’Ceallaigh on Instagram.

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