Alberto Moncada di Paternò opens the door of a boutique hotel where one discovers a world of art, history and culture, but also a world of love for travel in an esoteric manner.
"My grandfather rented one of his studios to Picasso" with these words I started my chat with Alberto in Via Margutta 54. Located in the heart of Rome, of art, history, beauty, and of antique shops...this street lives forever in the many songs that describe it. It lives in works of art created by artists that from here were able to find inspiration.
On the street one can find an antique iron-gate surrounded by rich vegetation. Walking inside the gate the scenario changes completely. The local street life and character subsides and one can discover a large courtyard and a world of tranquility. As you walk you can hear the gentle crackling of the cobblestones under your shoes, and the water streaming down a small fountain, which is used to maintain the local trees and plants.
Alberto Moncada's family has been living in this marvelous palace for many centuries. He descends from noble Catalan origins the first to conquer Sicily for the kingdom was my ancestor Guglielmo Raimondo, Count of Malta and Gozzo in 1290" Alberto explains. From Sicily the family moved to Rome and Via Margutta. The magnificence of Rome and a strong interest for art ("my sister has a contemporary art gallery right here next to the house I live in") brought Alberto's ancestors to create an art center inside this property. An antique marble plaque on the façade placed by his great grandfather reads: "Art and sculpture studios". Since then and for over a century the complex became a center for the arts where artists like Picasso, Musicians like Puccini and Mascagni retreated to create immortal works of art. Picasso in his studio here created two important masterpieces: " The Italian and the Arlecchino" and " The Woman with a Necklace".
The walls of the Palazzo surrounding the courtyard tell the story of a family that has still a strong desire to communicate " beauty" and to show art of both famous and upcoming artists to everyone interested. With this spirit in mind the Moncada family opened " Galleria Valentina Moncada" an art gallery where one can admire local and international contemporary artists. Next door Alberto also recently created four unique and exceptional suites, "where a traveler can have a different experience - away from stereotype postcard memories"
Visiting the suites one can immediately see that this is an innovative and winning idea: a visitor can live as a Roman, away from being a tourist, having the independence of experiencing living as in his own home in Rome. Every Suite is like an apartment. It has all the comforts one would expect. And if there is something missing there is a butler available to solve any wish one may have. He can shop for food, organize an in-room lunch or dinner, or recommend one of Alberto's favorite local restaurants or place to visit.
"Margutta 54 is not a Hotel - it is a place where people can feel they are staying as my guests" This seems as a marketing line for journalists and reader, but is this hospitality formula working I asked Alberto: " I would say it is, we have done no advertising and quickly we have reached high levels of occupancy. People who stay with us tell their friends, and this is how we are building our client base. This project is working so well that "we are adding other charming properties in the historical center of Rome: on Via Mario de Fiori 37 and on Via del Babuino 181.
Are you choosing Rome to create these boutique hotels, you must love this city? "How can I not? Rome is a wonderful city, not perfect - but unique. For over 17 years I lived in different places: Boston, New York, London, in Switzerland and across Asia. When I returned to Rome I found the city changed, less provincial, more open to other cultures, more modern. But Rome has areas where improvements are needed. We have so much culture to offer but the services are not as organized as in other city capitals. You said " less provincial", does this mean that you find Rome somewhat provincial? " Unfortunately yes! A simple example, we have great Roman restaurants, but we are missing high quality ethnic restaurants, unthinkable in other important cities around the world.
This international passion is reflected in the loft where Alberto lives with his family. Throught the three floor one can see beautiful renaissance paintings and oriental objects, which remind the visitor of the years Alberto spent in Asia.
Our visit comes to an end - unfortunately. Leaving the magical courtyard as we slowly walked to the front gate we left behind the sense of peace, tranquility and history. Immediately we were absorbed into the life of Via Margutta, a street, which is still today considered an oasis, compared to the bustling busy streets of the historical center of the Rome.... It is indeed nice to have discovered a magical place where one can retreat stay and experience!