Originally opened in 1894 by legendary hotelier César Ritz, the St. Regis Rome has undergone a $45 million renovation with the goal of “casting light on a new era”—both for the glamorous grand hotel and onto the ancient city in which it resides. Renowned international design firm Pierre-Yves Rochon Inc. has reimagined the luxurious public and private spaces in a new palate of pastel azures, creamy hues, and monochromatic marbles that evoke neoclassical paintings, juxtaposed by a new partnership with Galleria Continua to bring contemporary art into the old world bastion via a rotating display of imaginative and thoroughly modern exhibitions.
But perhaps the most compelling manifestation of the St. Regis’ new chapter is in a collaboration its created with IF Unique Art Experiences, a boutique organization founded by an art historian couple that offers astutely informed access to an unseen Rome—one that remains safe from the guide books and touristic droves that have taken over the ancient city. Led by founders Filippo Cosmelli and Daniela Bianco, and in collaboration with the Museo Nazionale Romano, professional art historians, and archeologists lead St. Regis guests on private visits to myriad secret locations with in-depth explanation about the art historical and cultural significance of the rarely seen works.
Just steps from the St. Regis (which itself sits beside the Fountain of Moses and overlooks Piazza de la Republica), all guests are welcome for the Evolution of a District experience, starting with a virtual reality tour through time of the creation of Diocletian’s Baths, where, in 298 A.D., Emperor Diocletian built a 36-acre “palace for the people,” a complex including hot water pools, tubs, gymnasiums, libraries, and gardens. The state-of-the-art experience, which takes place in the octagonal aula, one of the numerous remaining structures, tells the story of the project, over which Michelangelo eventually erected Basilica S.Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri in the 1560s, a paradigm of the repurposing and layering that’s central to Rome’s history.
For those St. Regis guests who want to take further advantage of the exceptional access that the collaboration with IF Unique Art Experiences and Museo Nazionale Romano provides—and frankly, it would be a shame not to—they may elect to participate in Exploring Rome under a New Light, visiting four usually inaccessible destinations. Through a back entrance, an IF-appointed art historian ushers guests to a private thermal bath within the famous Palazzo Doria Pamphilj. Created in 1838 by Prince Doria Pamphilj as a wedding gift for his British bride, Lady Mary Talbot, and decorated in a Pompeiian style, the serene secret room offers a taste of the opulence on offer for a member of Roman’s highest society. Guests are guided through Biblioteca Casanatense, a 15th-century library, and privy to an uncrowded, peaceful visit to and explanation of Caravaggio’s seminal triptych depicting allegories of Saint Matthew in the perpetually packed San Luigi di Francesi. Most breathtaking and illustrative of Rome’s perpetual layering and repurposing is the tour of secret 16th-century frescoes hidden behind a wall in the south transept of Santi XII Apostoli, one of Rome’s most visited Neo-Classical churches.
In all cases, the expert knowledge and passion for the subject matter exhibited by the guides is contagious, and taken with the beauty and power of the art—seen up close and with such careful explanation—infects guests with rapturous childlike wonder. This sensation of awe is why we love and long to visit Rome, though in recent years it’s been thwarted by the throngs of tourists and the hagglers that follow them. Thanks to the St. Regis’ commitment to preserving the city’s artwork and offering spectacular access to its hidden treasures, a visit to the Italian capital is informed by a new paradigm of luxury and light.