Roman rooftops from the Hotel de Russie
Friday, 6:15 p.m. – The view from the window of my large bedroom gives onto the Baroque Piazza del Popolo, consisting of the Flaminio Obelisk, three churches and two fountains. I am in Rome alright, 300 metres from the Villa Borghese. I take this opportunity for lying around for two minutes in my favourite king size bed, striking a pose similar to Pauline Borghese's (Napoleon I's favourite young sister) as depicted by Antonio Canova.
In 1917, Jean Cocteau already described the Hotel de Russie as a paradise on earth. Here, bedrooms and living areas take on delicate hues, from aquamarine and ivory-sand to more sophisticated shades of amethyst... This neutral neoclassical Eden also displays varied furniture that elegantly blends styles.
Hotel de Russie
Via del Babuino, 9
Cocktails with a giant of Italian cuisine
6:45 p.m. – I just had the time to powder my nose and change my sneakers and jeans for a lovely springtime dress, a wolly cardigan and a pair of heels and here I am, at the very chic Stravinskij Bar. Choosing my drink, I go for a delicious Spritz, mixing Aperol, an aperitif originating from Padua, Prosecco and fizzy water. I am honoured to chat with a giant of Italian cuisine, elusive and enigmatic luxury chef Fulvio Pierangelini. Assisted by Nazzareno Menghini, he renewed the creative menu of the Jardin de Russie. On the beautiful and perfumed terrace, lilacs are already in bloom.
Via del Babuino, 9
Gastronomic and pop opera at Romeo e Giulietta Bowerman
8:00 p.m. – Starred-chef Cristina Bowerman was the ambassador of the 2015 Milan World Fair. Tonight is the moment to try out her eagerly awaited new restaurant, Romeo & Giulietta. Opened on March 13th, 2017 it is located in an impressive space of 2,000 sqm that was formerly a car dealership, and is comprised of a restaurant, a bakery and an ice cream parlour. Here, Shakespeare's plot does not bring together the Capulet and Montague families, but rather California and Italian lands (Roman and pink-haired, Cristina Bowerman is from the Apulia region). This marriage results in surprising pop recipes, such as oxtail with celery coulis and chocolate crumble!
Romeo e Giulietta Bowerman
Piazza dell'Emporio, 28
Immersion in Augustus' Peace Altar
10:30 p.m. – Along the Tiber River in the Campo Marzio, I stand in front of the Ara Pacis (Peace Altar), built between years 13 and 9 BC during the reign of Emperor Augustus. Few monuments convey with such panache the beliefs, ideals and ambitions of a ruling class at the height of their power. I can relive the past history with a headset that plunges me in the Ara Com'Era multimedia project, offering an immersive and multisensory visit in which characters and animals come alive in 3D to brilliantly illustrate the origins of Ancient Rome.
Back in my palace, I fancy myself wearing pearl sandals, a long gown that covers my feet and tightens at the waist, and a large shawl called palla.
Museo dell'Ara Pacis
Lungotevere in Augusta
Saturday, 9:30 a.m. – This morning, I'm on my way to discover two of the most prestigious workshops of the city. 15 minutes away from the hotel by foot on Via Francesco Crispi, I slip into the famous Marini designer shoe shop.
Marini Calzature got off the ground in the Roman golden age (the 1950s and 60s), fitting Marcello Mastroianni, Gregory Peck in Roman Holiday, Anna Magnani, Sergio Leone, and later Gianni Agnelli, Queen Elizabeth II, the President of the United Arab Emirates and Robert de Niro. Since the beginning of time, everything ever started here with a measuring tape, pen and paper.
300 feet away, I walk in another temple of Roman elegance, tailor Gaetano Aloisio's workshop. Italian designer fashion spreads over three floors to please a rather foreign customer base. The ambiance is of the utmost classicism, entirely devoted to the high precision level of style and measuring. Everything is produced in house by a staff of 25 people.
Via Francesco Crispi, 97
Via di Porta Pinciana, 1
Street food in the Eternal City
11:30 a.m. – 15 minutes by taxi (or 30 minutes by foot) are necessary to reach this brand new temple of street food, located alongside the Tiber. Open on November 13th, 2016 by four friends, the Pianostrada Laboratorio di Cucina offers cooking classes. I learnt how to prepare Roman focaccia as well as delicious spaghetonni (some spaghetti with a thicker aspect).
One hour after, I enjoy a taste of the real Rome. This reinterpretation of traditional recipes uses ingredients of unrivalled freshness.
Pianostrada Laboratorio di Cucina
Via delle Zoccolette, 22
A walk alongside the Tiber River
2:00 p.m. – As I walked out of the restaurant, I headed towards the quays (at the level of the Sisto bridge) to see the ephemeral art of South-African artist William Kentridge, who decorated the banks of the Tiber River. Over more than 500 metres, more than 80 characters (some of which are up to 10-metre high) tell the story of Rome from the myths of the ancient times till now. Titled Triumphs and Laments, the work pairs triumph with pain as there is always one loser in every battle. The murder of Remo by Remolo, the murder of Pasolini and, closer to us, the death by drowning of the refugees in Lampedusa are all stencilled in an ephemeral manner – akin to our fading memory – onto the walls of the Eternal City. Four or five years from now, the work will have disappeared, covered by layers of pollution.
Triumphs and Laments
The Olivetti effect at CasaCau
3:00 p.m. – After this enlightening stroll along the Tiber, it is time to head back to the Hotel de Russie. I spent one night in this beautiful palace, but I now move to the nearby CasaCau, close to the Trevi Fountain. I'm lucky as the 49 sqm of the Right Corner Apartment on the 2nd floor are vacant and have my preference (space is luxury). The large bathroom offers a Turkish bath and the headboard reproduces part of a Roman fresco found in the Villa Livia, a locus amoenus (idyllic place) that will help me find sleep. On the dining room table, I find an Olivetti typewriter. I find myself plunged into Michel Butor's 1957 awarded novel A Change of Heart, generally associated with the Nouveau Roman. I do not succumb to the character's head spin, breaking the rules between real life and fiction while in Rome. I quickly make my way back out to contemplate now the genuine Villa Livia frescoes.
Via in Arcione 94
The Villa Livia's underground nymphaeum
5:00 p.m. – Very close to the Piazza della Repubblica, enclosed in the Palazzo Massimo alle Terme, you'll find Rome's archaeological museum (from the 16th century, rebuilt in the 19th century). I climb the stairs four steps at a time up to the second floor and head for the room dedicated to that famous underground nymphaeum located in the Villa Livia. The fresco dates back to 40 to 20 years BC. This trompe l'oeil displays a landscape painting behind a thin reed railing, conveying the deep and impressive nature of a garden on the four walls of a room. There, under the blue hues of a sky, all the seasons have their rightful place, dressed with a few fruit-hungry birds. In this full-size poetic universe, bay laurels are of course present, as they were necessary to acquire and celebrate victories. I am sitting in front of the fresco, almost feeling the cool breeze of the garden, and I try to identify all botanical elements. I feel sucked in this landscape, probably dedicated to Venus before its blind and underground walls were detached from the Villa of Livia to be preserved here, since 1951. A true masterpiece!
Palazzo Massimo alle Terme
Muzeo Nazionale Romano
Largo Villa Peretti, 67
Naples, in a Roman plate
7:30 p.m. – They say all roads lead to Rome, especially the one to Cinecittà! I am meeting my Neapolitan friend Raffaella near the legendary film sets to have dinner at the Loffredo pizzeria. She guarantees that the atmosphere is always friendly and joyful and the pizzas are delicious, like in Naples. A bit later, we head back to my place for a drink. We choose a Frascati, the best white wine of the region. With compliments of the CasaCau's concierge lodge, famous for these kinds of charming attentions.
Via Vestricio Spurinna, 53
Stazione Termini with De Sica
Sunday, 12:00 a.m. – It is time to pack and go home. For once, I choose to use public transportation while leaving Rome as I wish to relive a few cinematographic moments close to my heart. I walk up the Via in Arcione towards the bus stop. Like Jennifer Jones in Vittorio De Sica's Indiscretion of an American Wife (1953), I hop on bus 85. Nine minutes later, I turn up at the Rome-Termini station, from where I'll reach the airport (30 kilometres away) in only 30 minutes using the Leonardo Express train.
I just love the long canopy that covers the most visited of all Italian stations. Its 1950s look is due to architects Montuori and Vitellozzi, and offers a striking contrast with the straight lines of the building itself. Romans have named it the Dinosaur. I find myself in the same setting as Jennifer Jones, torn by her love for a handsome Italian (played by Montgomery Clift in De Sica's film). I find myself like in the belly of the beast under the concrete ribs of the canopy. I have to leave the Eternal City, but cannot wait to come back, yet another time...
Rome-Termini Station (Stazione di Roma Termini)
Piazza dei Cinquecento, 1