Rome is a glorious mess. Its patched and tangled urban fabric reflects its millennia of history: A 16th-century palace caps the 2,000-year-old Theatre of Marcellus, and the nearby church of San Nicola in Carcere incorporates columns from the Temple of Janus. Even modern apartment buildings occasionally have chunks of ancient masonry protruding from them. Rome may have been a capital of the classical era, but it is hardly a classical city. After being sacked and rebuilt and reconfigured numerous times, untidy Rome is a place for romantics. I find it irresistible.
I was inspired to return to the city by the recent opening of several new hideaways. A highlight of the Grand Tour for centuries, Rome has no shortage of larger luxury hotels, including the Hotel de Russie, the Hotel Eden and the Hassler Roma. But on this visit, I tried out four new boutique properties that had opened since my previous visit two years ago, as well as a new grand hotel that has been earning extravagant plaudits in the travel press. I also took time to check up on a longtime recommendation about which we’d received a number of complaints.
The most dazzling of the new hideaways proved to be the 18-room Hotel Vilòn, which opened last year on a quiet street between the Spanish Steps and the Piazza Navona. In fact, the one-way Via dell’Arancio was narrow enough to be blocked by a garbage truck, preventing my taxi from reaching the hotel entrance, so I rolled our bags the short distance to the discreet door, where a bellman immediately relieved me of the luggage.