Leaving the family home can be a wrench. Home comforts are hard to beat, whether it’s the familiar odours coming from the kitchen, the just-right furniture worn into just the right shape, or the voices and faces that cheer you up every day. Flying the nest is hard. It’s even harder when that home is an early 20th Century villa, separated from the Palazzo del Quirinale by only 50m of walled gardens. Your neighbour there used to be the Pope; now it’s just the President of Italy.
At the crest of the Quirinale, you’re a short walk from Rome’s most famous fountains, recently renovated for a cool £1.4m by Fendi; from la Fontana di Trevi it’s a short walk to the Spanish steps, which owe their current fine condition to a £1.3m spruce-up from Bulgari. Inside Villa Spalletti there are centuries-old tapestries hung next to original artworks, surrounded by beautiful antiques. This is not your average family home, but it is an extremely, preposterously above-average hotel.
The Spalletti clan are not your average hoteliers either; the family can trace an aristocratic lineage back through to Countess Gabriella Rasponi, one-time President of the Council of Italian women. Descendants in the meantime have included dignitaries of the Court of Queen Marie José of Belgium. Ultimately Giangiacomo Spalletti Trivelli and his wife Susanna converted the family residence into a discreet, luxurious hotel, now helmed by son and daughter Andrea and Raymonda.
The experience is much more of a family home – albeit a resplendent one where the drawing room is bigger than my entire flat – than a hotel. Your minibar is complimentary; the drinks downstairs are complimentary; you won’t be signing receipts every time you sink a Fernet Branca. You wouldn’t at home, so why should you here?
You can take the lived-in experience to its highest level by renting the apartment across the gardens – it’s yours to live and host in, but you can conjure up food, drink, even show cooking if you like. Back at the main house there is of course a gym and a pretty beefy spa for a hotel with so few rooms, if you’d like to loosen up before dinner.
Food in the hotel is the kind of high-life fare that makes you wonder how the Italians do it – pasta and meat for lunch every day doesn’t seem sustainable, but the locals seem to handle it just fine, and the dining is so pleasant that even a quick lunch willingly becomes a languorous, tipsy affair. For an evening meal we head out to la Taverna dei Fori Imperiali nearby; its enduring popularity is underscored by the dozens of framed photos of celebrity visitors on the wall, including honorary Italians Messrs Pacino and De Niro. The cacao and pepe with black truffle is a rich, dangerous pile of pleasure that obliges me to transition from content to uncomfortably full (no regrets). My photo doesn’t make the wall, amidst the astronauts and politicians, but this Taverna will always have a place on my personal truffle wall.
The next morning we roll out through Rome’s shadowy morning streets and leave the city behind for the Spalletti country retreat. Pomario is the family’s winery and olive grove, on the Umbria/Tuscany border. The operation is heavily focused on biodiversity and organic production, yielding a red, a white, a rosé and the delightful organic dessert wine, ‘Muffato’. The olive oil derives from olives cold-pressed within three hours of harvest.
Our happy band agree to sample the lot at a fireside lunch overlooking the autumn-tinged estate – a would-be heavy meal made light and fresh by the invigorating wines. The feeling of joining a relaxed family meal is never far away – Mr and Mrs Spalletti (senior) potter around the vineyards and the country house, but Andrea and Raymonda are always on hand to share stories from previous Spalletti adventures, as well as making sure your stay is as meticulously pleasant as it should be.
For dinner that night we try something a little less pasta-and-meat centric and pitch up at Mater Matuta, a fine dining destination renowned for its unparalleled expertise in all things fish-related. It’s a bright, white, airy spot, complementing the tasting menu that is a feast for the eyes as much as the taste buds. Eight courses come and go, and we fight over which was best – the tuna tartare with the soft egg was beyond reproach and dispatched too quickly, but the cardamom cream that adorned the roast octopus was my personal favourite. We manage to sink eight courses and yet feel fresh enough for some self-crafted post-prandials by the fire back at the villa; the restaurant was lovely but it’s great to be home.
Before we leave on Sunday there’s time for a walking tour of Rome, as beautiful as ever with her hills, fountains, palaces and casually magnificent ruins. You can never tire of these tiny streets and gorgeous views, but if you do, it’s nice to have a family home like Villa Spalletti to fall back on. If you grew up here you’d never leave home either, even with the splendour of Rome outside.
For more information about Villa Spalletti, including details of its history and private events and excursions, visit www.villaspalletti.it.