Not so long ago hotels began to hesitate about neon signs and too opulent front porches. Doormen in livery, revolving doors, stuffy flavor of lilies and tuberoses in the lobby, according to which a professional nose can evaluate the expenses for florist, – all mentioned has already gone to past. And what is left? Heavy silence of marble floors and a bored porter, by whom you can immediately understand, that there were better times and more generous guests.
Nowadays advanced travelers prefer to open doors above which there are not any signs except the building number. But there is one problem: even experienced taxi drivers do not know these unnamed hotels hidden in thickness of streets.
- Which number? – the driver asks me, when we arrive to the Babuino street in Rome.
- 181, - I answer, brokenly peering into numbers of floating buildings.
This is one of the busiest streets leading straightly towards Piazza del Popolo, which was considered a gala entry to the Eternal City for many years. All the roads led to this place, and the way lay in two directions afterwards: Hotel de Russie and Hotel d’ Inghilterra. There were no more places for respectable people to stay at. Choosing from these two, Hotel de Russie is certainly situated closer, on the Babuino street as well. It is easily recognized by scarlet Russian double eagle and a bored doorman.
In contrast to it, nobody meets you at Babuino 181. It looks like a simple dwelling-house with a desk concierge willing to oblige. Everything is democratic and simple. Only after entering the room you realize the owner saved money on flowers and carpets, but did not stint on furnishing and comfort of the rooms. According to Roman standards they are really huge: spacious bathrooms, immense beds, comfortable sofas and impressive wardrobes. This is likely a conception of luxury apartments where you are supposed to stay longer than 2-3 standard nights. It is a place where you want to live for a long period in an unhurried way, to spend mornings wrapping yourself up in Frette bathrobes, to synchronize counterclockwise with bell-ringing of Santa Maria del Popolo, to enjoy a cup of coffee on the terrace, which looks like a cosy bamboo thicket, growing just on the roof, where noise from nearby streets almost does not reach.
It is the peculiarity of Babuino 181. Even those rooms which do not look to the roadway are surprisingly quiet. The age-old problem of Rome, sleepless klaxons, blusterous passion of waiters and dishware-ringing from a nearby café, - is solved for ever and ever: double blackout curtains, double window frames, jalousie and a superb conditioner.
However, let’s be sincere, the center of Rome is badly adapted to those who appreciate peace and quiet best of all. It is expected that people come here usually not for it. Especially in spring, when the Piazza di Spagna with famous Spanish steps, leading towards the church Trinità dei Monti, is luxuriant with flowers and a merry smart crowd smoothly moves on Via del Corso street from one show-window to another. And when multilingual voices of the street merge with the sound of permanently springing fountains, at the bottom of which copper and silver placer of coins from different countries peacefully reposes. It is a great pleasure to come back here, to walk one more time across these heated pavements, which do not have time to cool down even till night, to breathe hot air with bitter-sweet taste of espresso and blossoming magnolias. It takes about 5-10 minutes of slow walking to reach the main sights: the gardens Villa Borghese, the Pantheon, the Trevi fountain and the Navon square. There is even no need to spend money on a guidebook: seigneur Alberto Moncada, the owner of the hotel, created interesting routes along local streets with a detailed plan and precise instructions.
Young-looking, stylish, somehow similar to an Englishman Colin Firth, he cheerfully drives around Rome on a scooter and knows all the secret places. His family owned a vast collection of real estate since the dawn of time. There were cardinals, merchants and developers in the lineage. In fact, his great-great-grandfather, seigneur Francesco Patrizi, began the process of turning quite a demotic Via Margutta street into a worldwide district for artists. Lots of people settled here in hope of inspiration: Stravinsky, Puccini, Picasso and others. The artists were attracted by royal footage and high ceilings of their studios, composers – by rural silence. It is hard to say why did great Federico Fellini like Via Margutta. Probably, the reason was in close position to the Piazza del Popolo, where he liked to make appointments in the Canova restaurant and celebrate premieres of his films. Nowadays it is a touristic trail with a variety of art galleries and antique shops. Besides, there are some restaurants. Now artists cannot afford to live here. In the buildings where former studios and workshops were situated now tourists can find boutique hotels. One of them is named Margutta 19.
- Is it yours? – I ask Alberto.
- Yes, that is mine – he responds proudly. My great-grandfather built it. This is our family nest. I wanted to leave everything here without global reconstruction and changes but at the same time to try to give it a new contemporary life. Here are just four big rooms. I wish our guests had the feeling that they arrive not to the hotel but a Roman villa, where everything is familiar, comfortable, well-thought-out and even with a small garden with old trees. I remember them since childhood. It was the time when I kept an eye on life of our famous neighbors with curiosity. The place was crammed with different celebrities and paparazzi at that time.
- And what happened to them?
At first, great people became old and died. Then Italian cinematography went away and at the same time ended dolce vita famed by our neighbor Federico Fellini. What is left yet are just memories. But Rome is called the Eternal City not without a reason. It will never be dead. Life will no doubt abound in vitality here. So, it is necessary to have some suitable places in reserve. At least, you already have two: Babuino 181 and Margutta 19.