Just Back from Rome

Hotels and museums

The Forum Suite (Suite 203) at the Hotel Hassler is gorgeous. This hotel, Rome's most famous, has too many dated rooms that don't live up to the hotel's reputation, but one by one, they're being refreshed. This room was finished in April. Regal and plush, it has mahogany paneling; antique Chinese vases; a 19th-century Veronese marquetry secretary; and walls, chairs, and a fourposter bed covered in rich gold silk produced by a studio in Casserta that once created fabrics for the Italian kings. Plus the view that is the hotel's signature—over the Spanish steps to the rooftops of Rome and St. Peter's beyond. The only caveat: intense street noise in this heavily trafficked location. $1,500. 6 Trinità dei Monti, Rome; 800-223-6800; 39-06-699-340; fax 39-06-678-9991.
— Laurie Werner

Rachel Kaplan is an indefatigable museumgoer. Her recent book, Little-Known Museums In and Around Rome (Abrams, $19.95), is the fourth in a series (following Paris, London, and Berlin). Each book contains companionable essays on (and photographs of) 30 different institutions. Being a museum in itself, Rome must have posed a challenge. Kaplan includes some renowned addresses and others, like the Palazzo Massimo and the Altemps, that have been anticipated for years—even centuries—as new homes for the art that keeps turning up in the city. But who has heard of the Museum of the Swiss Cottage of the Owls (for lovers of stained-glass windows of birds), or seen the original chariot from Ben Hur, or taken a trip out to the Museum of Roman Ships at Fiumicino to contemplate uncovered ancient vessels? Rome has institutions devoted to De Chirico, Napoleon, Tibetan art, ceramics, criminology, Mario Praz, and olive oil. Kaplan is good company wherever she goes, providing helpful translations and serving up easily-digested history.
— Mary Norris

A Forte's Hotel
With the opening of Sir Rocco Forte's Hotel de Russie in April, Rome now has small luxury accommodations to counter the traditional grand hotels. The lowdown:

The views:
Piazza del Popolo; a terraced garden originally designed by the 18th-century architect Valadier; assorted rooftops of Rome (from the sixth floor).

The style:
Sleek, high-backed velour settees in the lobby; apple-green walls, drapes, chairs in the rooms.

Best rooms:
501, the Vaselli suite, for its large terrace overlooking the garden; 606, the Popolo suite, for its view of the Santa Maria Montesanto cathedral; 608, a light-blue studio room witha gilded bedframe, a small terrace, and the cathedral view.

Best hotel addition:
The sparkling blue full-service spa with pool.

Convenient feature:
Proximity to shopping. Piazza di Spagna and Via Condotti are a short walk away.

One drawback:
Like many boutique hotels, the rooms are comparatively small (seek out a terraced room).

Rates $385-$1,450.

9 Via del Babuino, Rome; 800-323-7500; 39-06-328-881; fax 39-06-328-88888.
— Laurie Werner