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As one of Europe’s top tourist destinations, Rome is well-equipped to welcome all manner of travelers. Of its estimated 14 million annual visitors, many are students of history, if not of an actual university. Their curiosities are catered to in a place where streets often exist as much as a museum as they do a thoroughfare. And everywhere you look, the hospitality is the stuff of legend. Budget-friendly boutiques are sandwiched between the lively bars and cafes of the piazze. The Eternal City is especially receptive to the luxury set, offering dozens of five-star properties peppered across its seven hills. Into this dense landscape the Hotel De’ Ricci opened at the end of last year, with a competitive advantage: Rome’s first bespoke wine hotel. Oenophiles have a new destination, designed just for them. Here’s what awaits them when they arrive.
The property sits at the edge of its eponymous courtyard, recognizable by its straw-yellow facade just a block east of the River Tiber. You’ll have no trouble spotting it from outside. But the true discovery occurs upon check-in, when the General Manager—a certified Sommelier—welcomes newcomers with a glass of Italy’s finest fermented liquids.
“It is a standard of the hotel, upon reservation, that we ask you your preferences so that we can customize your in-suite wine cellar,” explained proprietor Lorenzo Lisi. “I studied wine for many, many years, but I believe the most valuable thing is listening to clients’ taste and feedback.”
Suites here range from 30 to 70 square meters. Most of them hold their own private terrace overlooking the square and its 500-year-old architecture. Inside the room, wine forms the central theme of design. A fully-stocked, stainless steel mini-fridge is just the start. On the walls are framed mockups of vintage Italian labels. Atop the desk is a wooden wine crate, holding food and drink menus. The coffee table is lined with hardback texts devoted to the country’s legendary wine regions. A vintage cart carries glass chalices suspended from trivets.
“The suite becomes an active part of your vacation,” according to Lisi. “It’s not just a place to sleep and wash. You can organize a wine tasting here, seated in your comfortable sofa, or on your balcony enjoying the calm of our neighborhood—with 16th-century buildings all around us.”
The on-staff sommeliers will craft up to eight different ‘routes’ to navigate the world of wine. The journey commences with an exploration of native grapes—everything from the Barolos and Barbarescos of Piedmont, down through the Brunellos and Chiantis of Tuscany, and into the crisp, mineral-driven Grillos of Sicily.
Lisi views his hotel as a sort of ‘Disney World for wine lovers.’ And it will surely elicit a commensurate level of excitement from the intended crowd. But De’ Ricci provides far more serenity than any standard theme park allows. Four stories worth of secluded guest space sits atop the property’s true treasure: one of Rome’s most extensive cellars, featuring more than 2,000 labels of liquid from around the world. Some of the most storied bottles include a vertical of Chateau Mouton-Rothschild vintages spanning the last half-century; 500 bottles of Sassicaia from 1988 through 2016; the last eight vintages of Romanèe Conti, La Tache, Richebourg and St. Vivant by Domaine de la Romanèe Conti; and a massive assortment of exclusive juice from Gaia.
It would present as an impressive assortment for any establishment, let alone for such a new space. But even though the hotel is less than a year in age, Lisi’s family has been operating the nearby Pierluigi restaurant for over 80 years. It is commonly regarded as one of Rome’s premier seafood dining destinations. “As the owner, I have direct contacts with some of the most iconic wine producers of the world,” noted Lisi. “I participate in so many wine tastings and events all around the globe, constantly building special vintages and collectors edition bottles” along the way. An outsized allotment of that liquid can be enjoyed by the glass, thanks to ample use of the Coravin—a syringe-like instrument which extracts wine from the bottle without lifting the cork.
Lisi and staff also host wine producers in a monthly tasting series. And Hotel De’ Ricci is licensed to ship some of its American guests’ favorite discoveries back home, where they’ll be waiting after vacation’s end.
US visitors have been frequent thanks to Lisi’s longstanding friendship with Simone Amorico. He runs a luxury tour operation called Access Italy. “Both of our companies are second generation family-run businesses,” said Amorico. “So we had no trouble developing a beautiful synergy. Access Italy can provide world-class cooking classes at Pierluigi and also personalized wine tastings in De’ Ricci’s award-winning cellar. Our clients love the element of exclusivity. But, selfishly, I’m always thrilled when they choose this experience because I am a wine lover. And Lorenzo owns one of the best cellars in all of Rome.”
Rates fluctuate depending on suite size and time of year (peak season is from mid-June through the end of August). But you can typically expect to shell out around €600 ($680) per night to secure your stay here. It seems a fair price to pay for a growing number of high-end travelers who expect more than just a fancy bed in exchange. “The world of hospitality is changing and shifting,” said Lisi. “Luxury is more and more focusing on experiences and exclusivity and we summarize this new trend. I believe it’s different for every guest. So you’d have to come to fully appreciate what it is for you.” When in Rome, of course.