- The Washington Times - Friday, June 20, 2003

The Rome Cavalieri Hilton came to the hilltop, and there it reigns in a world of comfort. It has been doing so for 40 years.

The Cavalieri is quiet, which may sound rare in noisy Rome. No bustling traffic nearby, no horns up there on Monte Mario, the highest hill in the city. It is a cross between a country club and an urban resort. There is no golf course on the 15 acres of Mediterranean gardens and lawn, but one is available for guests eight miles away; three miles from the hotel are stables for visitors who want to ride horses on park trails.

The garden contains several of the tall, spectacular pines for which Rome is famous.

Although the Cavalieri Hilton is on a hilltop, it does not stick out for viewers below, for the building is faced with a textured dark brick. It is in a residential area, two miles from St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Museum and four miles from the center of Rome. The hotel operates a complimentary shuttle service to the center of the city, but taxis are plentiful and not outrageously expensive.

The Cavalieri has the two largest hotel pools in Rome; the larger is outdoors and is surrounded by lounges for sunning and tables for breakfast and lunch; the indoor pool has a glass dome and, on one side, a wood-burning fireplace for guests who like to dry off in style after a few laps. There also is a separate pool for children.

The pool area is on the side of the hotel with the superb view of Rome and its many historic treasures. The dome of St. Peter’s is easily visible, as are other monuments, including the immense white-marble memorial to King Victor Emmanuel II.

The best of all views of Rome from the Cavalieri is from the rooftop terrace outside La Pergola, which is one of the highest-rated restaurants in Rome — and Italy — by the folks at Michelin. For three years, chef Heinz Beck and his staff have received two stars from Michelin.

La Pergola has a loyal following and delights guests with Mr. Beck’s creative cuisine five nights a week — but not on Sunday and Monday. In summer, guests may dine on the terrace outside the restaurant for what can be a most romantic evening with a backdrop of lights of the city looking like a galaxy of stars beyond the hotel grounds.

The view of the city is also free of charge from the balconies of the guest rooms — and each room has a terrace.

During the hotel’s three-year, $35 million renovation, completed in March, most of the guest rooms were reconfigured so that the deluxe guest rooms are more similar to what usually are called junior suites. Two new 2,150-square-foot supersuites have been added to the executive floors, which are the seventh and eighth floors of the hotel.

These two floors have special elevator service and check-in areas, as well as the Clubroom that is typical on executive floors, especially in Asia; the Hilton made the executive floors a first for Rome. In the Clubroom, open from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., guests may have breakfast, snacks and drinks and, in the late afternoons, a proper tea. Executive-floor guests also may use the adjacent business center, and they receive complimentary access to the hotel’s health and fitness center.

Other attractions to the Clubroom are the lounge area and a telescope for zooming in on the buildings of Rome spread out below and beyond.

The Clubroom serves as an additional place in which guests may meet and relax in the hotel but not in their rooms.

For a little more money, the executive floors add to the comfort and convenience of the club atmosphere. It is most welcome after a day of sightseeing or shopping at the major boutiques near the foot of the Spanish Steps.

Another addition to the hotel grounds during the renovation was the conversion of a parking area in front of the hotel into a gardenlike setting, adding drama to the entrance.

The Cavalieri Hilton has a fully equipped 21,520-square-foot fitness center with the latest Technogym equipment for cardiovascular, aerobic and isometric workouts. Other features include a sauna, whirlpool and Turkish bath and beauty treatments using the La Prarie line of products. The Cavalieri has two clay tennis courts and a 1,904-yard nature path with 11 exercise stations with equipment and instructions.

The helipad has been used by a jewelry baron who flies in from his estate outside Rome, goes into the hotel to use the health club and after his workout is picked up by his chauffeur and whisked down Monte Mario to his business headquarters in the city.

The jeweler is not alone as a local with a membership in the health club, for, as with many other Hilton International hotels, there is a preference among the local citizenry who regard their Hilton as a venue for weddings, receptions, dinner, business meetings, swimming and sauna.

The staff — from reception to waiters — could not have been more professional or more polite and cheerful. The Cavalieri Hilton operates Roman style, friendly and not stuffy.

It is not easy to fall in love with a hotel — and I have stayed in many — but I am hooked on the Cavalieri Hilton. It is in that rare group of hotels that make guests feel as if they are home again when they arrive. I wondered why I had not stayed there on all my other trips to Rome. I know better now. Before I stayed there, a travel writer gave me her aloof opinion: “It’s nice, but it’s not convenient.”

Not convenient? Get real. I had no problem getting taxis to and from the Cavalieri as visitors do at other hotels, and the complimentary shuttle to the city center works well. I have heard only praise from friends who have stayed there on my recommendation. And I still miss looking down on Rome from my hilltop haven.

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