In the heart of Renaissance Rome, the Hotel Raphael occupies an 18th century palazzo painstakingly and faithfully restored by Spartaco Vannoni, a native Florentine who brought his passion for both art and architecture to the project. His vision was to create a prestigious hotel where guests would find the pinnacle of hospitality and comfort. His vision met with unprecedented success and the tradition born at the end of the 1950’s is being carried forward five decades later by his son, Roberto.
Located in the Largo Febo, a piazza whose name plays homage to Phoebus, the sun god, the Raphael Hotel is a heartbeat away from one of Rome’s loveliest squares – the Piazza Navona. From the hotel’s rooftop terrace, guests enjoy a panoramic view of the eternal city. As one gazes upon the city, the cupolas, the bell towers, the graceful palaces and the ancient monuments are awash in colors, shifting and blending ever so softly as if by a watercolorist’s brush. In season, the multi-level terrace, otherwise known as the Roof Garden “Bramante”, named after the nearby Cloister of Bramante, is open for lunch and dinner.
Whether dining on the terrace with its spectacular views or in the ground-floor restaurant “Relais Picasso,” one should not miss the chance to savor the cuisine of Raphael’s noted chef, Jean-Francois Daridon. The restaurant name’s pays tribute to Picasso, whose original ceramic works grace both the dining room and the entrance lounge of the hotel. These precious ceramics are part of a vast art collection of inestimable value, collected by Spartaco Vannoni and now on display at the hotel.
Influenced greatly by Picasso’s style and color palate, the dining table décor is delightful. The chef’s wife, Franca, has created and hand-painted each ceramic dinner plate in vivid colors and whimsical designs, giving an air of festivity and elegance to each table. It is not easy to choose from Jean-Francois’ culinary creations; we selected from his Mediterranean temptations. The “saltimbocca” nearly leaps into one’s mouth as it should, but start, as we did, with his signature fettuccine verdi with mushrooms and peas. And don’t end the evening without trying his famous apple Tarte-Tatin, a dessert that has been on Raphael’s menu for thirteen years.
Returning to one’s room after a day of business or sight-seeing is a pleasure without comparison. We stayed on the third floor, designed by world-renowned architect, Richard Meier, whose many works include the nearby Museum for Ara Pacis, the sacrificial altar dating back to the Rome of the 9th century B.C. The rich, contemporary design and amenities of Meier’s bedroom suites are very much of this century. The hospitality at the Raphael excels beyond one’s expectations – sometimes when a hotel is this amenable and comfortable it takes great deal of effort to get on with the business or the sight-seeing part of one’s stay. Thank you, Roberto!
View from Hotel Raphaël ~ Original watercolor painting by Ginda Simpson
All images and reviews copyright 2015 by Ginda Simpson