We arrived by train from Venice, bearing roller suitcases and a garment bag. It was hot. Once we got our bearings outside the Roma Termini railway station, we caught a side-view glimpse of our destination: the new, or rather newly rebranded, Anantara Palazzo Naiadi Rome Hotel.
The walk from the Termini took perhaps four minutes. That alone is enough to recommend a hotel. But the full-frontal statement the Palazzo Naiadi makes as you draw close to it is something else altogether: We found ourselves walking into a mighty, crescent-shaped, 19th-century neoclassical building that wraps itself almost halfway around Rome’s Piazza della Repubblica. Quite the wow factor. Rome is full of tucked-away pensiones that reveal their charms and views only upon entry. But sometimes, hey, whatsa matta with wow factor?
The Palazzo Naiadi Hotel is, quite simply, colossal: 238 rooms, a double-height lobby, a curved portico whose multiple archways are tall and wide enough to ride an elephant through. This scale carries over to the rooms, all of which have high ceilings and tufted, nap-friendly chairs. If you’re claustrophobic and/or have spent too much time in poky accommodations elsewhere in Italy, this is your place to exhale.
My wife and I found the room we’d been assigned to be, arguably, too big. It was a duplex that offered commanding views of the Fontana della Naidi — the bronze “fountain of the nymphs” that occupies the island in the center of the piazza — but the room’s sleeping area was up a flight of stairs from its huge, well-appointed bathroom. We are, alas, no longer young, and have reached the point in our lives where navigating unfamiliar stairs in the middle of the night, should the necessity arrive, is potentially dangerous. Fortunately, this explanation, relayed in maybe slightly less detail, was more than enough to convince the lovely, accommodating staff at the front desk to relocate us to a single-level room every bit as airy.
The piazza-facing rooms come with floor-to-ceiling doors that open onto little marble terraces. These terraces are, in fact, part of the buiding’s statuary-encrusted façade, and they come with chairs set around a little glass-topped iron table. In the mornings, I found our terrace to be an ideal vantage point from which to have my coffee and Zen out to the sight of cars and buses slowly whirling around the traffic circle, like an establishing shot in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis.
A quick confession: We were celebrating a milestone anniversary and were originally looking to splurge on one of Rome’s grande-dame hotels, e.g. the Hassler or the Hotel de Russie. These remain great hotels, but in high season, their rooms start in the low four figures per night (both in dollars and Euros), which put the kibosh on even our splurgiest interpretation of a splurge. When I consulted with the team at Fathom, I was encouraged to look at Palazzo Naialdi.
The Palazzo Naiadi is by no means inexpensive, but because comparable rooms and suites start in the mid-to-upper three figures, it’s a fantastic value (as far as splurges go). You get all of the aforementioned space, tastefully decorated rooms (my wife adored the wallpaper in ours: big vertical stripes in muted shades), and the amenities you expect of an urban luxury hotel, e.g., helpful, friendly footmen who hail you cabs, a lavish breakfast buffet (included in most reservation packages), crackerjack concierges (ours secured us same-day tickets to the sold-out Borghese Gallery), and a handsome lobby bar whose bartenders know how to mix a drink.
Now let’s talk location. When I told some Rome-versed friends where I was staying, a few said, “Not ideal, but you’ll be fine.” In retrospect, I find this puzzling. The purported knock is that the Palazzo Naiadi is not as centrally situated as the more established hotels in its class. True enough, but in a city as small and eminently walkable as Rome, this is hairsplitting. It took us fifteen minutes to walk to the Spanish Steps. And the walk back from our carb-rich dinner at Dal Bolognese, on a pleasant night weather-wise, took a little over twenty minutes, which amounted to ideal postprandial exercise. And even if you’re not in the mood or it’s raining, the hotel is just a short Uber ride back.
Besides, we enjoyed being situated on the Piazza della Repubblica, where the fountain gurgles soothingly and there is a bona fide tourist attraction right across the way from the hotel: the Baths of Diocletian, which were enjoyed by Romans from the fourth to the sixth centuries. The baths’ ruins, along with the cloister of a Michelangelo-designed church later built on the site, are open to visitors and proved a nice inaugural outing after we’d gotten settled in our room. And then there is that wonderful proximity to the Termini for those traveling to or coming from points outside of Rome.
We stayed at the Palazzo Naiadi during its soft opening, when, with the exception of the lobby bar and La Fontana, the breakfast spot, its restaurants were not yet open. Since that time, a then-dormant area of the lobby has been converted to a fine-dining restaurant called Ineo (overseen by the native Roman chef Heros de Agostinis) and the preexisting rooftop pool area is now abutted by a SEEN by Olivier restaurant and bar, the latest in the Portuguese chef Olivia da Costa’s line of groovy, site-specific dining venues that make use of outdoor space. (Da Costa’s preexisting SEEN restaurants are in Nice, Lisbon, São Paulo, and Bangkok.)
The Palazzao Naiadi is the first venture in Rome by Anantara Hotels, Resorts &Spas, a Bangkok-based hotel operator making a big push into the European market after twenty years of running swanky properties in Asia. They’ve done a nice job of respecting the bones of a historic property and improving upon its previous incarnation without imposing a generic-luxe design philosophy. The new, improved rooftop pool area only just reopened and is available to guests from 10 a.m. to midnight, May through September. I’m looking forward to returning and taking the plunge.