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Eternal surprises in the Eternal City

Eternal surprises in the Eternal City

What’s the difference between a great hotel and an iconic hotel? This is the eternal question of luxury hospitality.

It might be said that there is no overriding ingredient, rather a series of factors that blend seamlessly to create more than just a stay but an incredible experience.

At Rome’s Hotel Cavalieri that quest to dissect every aspect of the customer experience is being pursued with evangelical vigour by its general manager, Serge Ethuin. And his relentless quest to impress is transforming the Cavalieri into one of the world’s truly iconic hotels.

“Without sounding wildly over-ambitious, my dream is to make the Cavalieri a destination resort within Rome itself,” says Ethuin.

(Above: the Penthouse Suite)

And as impossible as it may sound, that dream seems to be coming true.

For the Cavalieri stands within a class of its own. Set atop one of Rome’s seven hills, it offers a breath-taking vantage point from which to view the Eternal City, including the towering dome of St Peter’s.

(Right: the 2,500m² Cavalieri Grand Spa Club is in the great tradition of Rome baths)

Add to that fifteen acres of lush Mediterranean parklands, a $100 million art collection that outshines many museums, a spa that would be the envy of a prestige health resort, Rome’s only Michelin three-star restaurant, and you begin to see why it is so hard to draw yourself away from this urban oasis, despite it being on the doorstep of the ancient capital.

The Cavalieri first opened in the Sixties, rapidly establishing its seat as Rome’s playground for those with an appetite for understated opulence. But two years ago it was rebranded as a Waldorf=Astoria – a European first for the exclusive chain – which has injected a fresh lease of life, as well as raising the luxury stakes yet another notch.

As one of the rising stars of the Hilton empire, Ethuin was drafted in to facilitate the upgrade. New enhancements include a third outdoor swimming pool, and a new state-of-the-art congress centre.

(Left: the foyer of the new Salone dei Cavalieri)

The rooms here are among the largest in the city. The smallest guestroom is 48m² while the Penthouse and the Planetarium Suite have hosted everyone from Hollywood A-listers to European royalty.

The Grand Spa epitomises the hotel’s engagement with Rome’s history. With 2,500m² of spa and fitness facilities, it is the largest of its kind in the capital. Besides the residents of the hotel, membership is limited to 500 people, including the elite among Roman society, who can be often found in the newly completed Grand Spa café.

“It is like visiting an ancient Roman tepidarium. You can dive into a different age,” says Ethuin.

(Right: St Peter’s - just 2km from the Cavalieri)

Despite his youthful appearance, the Frenchman boasts over a quarter of a century of hospitality experience. After graduating from the Hotel Management School in Strasbourg, he went on to roles within Hilton in Paris, Strasbourg, Barcelona, Rome and London before holding General Manager positions at Hilton Madagascar, Hilton Rome Airport, and most recently Hilton Arc de Triomphe in Paris.

“Some of my fondest memories are from post in Madagascar,” he says. “You can’t compete with Europe or North America on the luxury stakes, so you have to hone the art of service. And it’s that warmth of welcome that no amount of money can buy.”

At the Cavalieri, he is responsible for overseeing all day to day operations, and implementing projects that aim to place the hotels amongst the world elite.

One of these includes the new Salone dei Cavalieri, an ultra-lavish ballroom which combines art and technology, complete with walls adorned with ornate tapestries dating back to the 17th century.

(Left: one of the outdoor pools)

Guests at the hotel can also gain exclusive access to the most exclusive palaces in Rome, which are otherwise closed to the public. The Palazzo Colonna is a treasure trove of extraordinary paintings by artists such as Poussin, Tintoretto, Veronese and Carracci. The Casino dell’Aurora, a magnificent pavilion set in the hidden gardens of the Palazzo Pallavicini, opposite the Italian Presidential Palace.

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