The word doesn’t quite roll of the tongue like it does for our contemporaries, the Francophiles and the Anglophiles, but those of us who have a soft spot for all things Italian, Rome is the epicentre of our fascination.
The heart of Italy, there’s a trove of history on every street corner, a wealth of beauty around every cobbled bend.
The chance to revisit the eternal city was impossible to resist, but this time I wanted to go off the beaten track and explore the Rome you don’t get to see on the cover of travel guides.
But in comfort and luxury, of course. We’re staying at Rome Cavalieri Waldorf Astoria Hotel, a five-star resort which is home to a three-star Michelin restaurant.
The bustle of Rome paired with the Mediterranean heat can really take it out of a peely-wally Scottish tourist like me, so having the chance to take some time away from the busy streets of the capital to relax by a luxe pool or have a treatment at a state-of-the-art spa sounds perfect to me.
I know beforehand that Rome Cavalieri is going to be pretty plush, but it isn’t until we walk through its doors and into the shinning lobby that I really take in the extent of its beauty.
Chandeliers glimmer as far as the eye can see, and the handsome marble floors and pillars give the hotel a sense of stunning grandiosity.
Not to mention that Rome Cavalieri is positively dripping in priceless artwork – every time we turn a corner we bump into a classic sculpture or come face-to-face with a stunning portrait.
The jewel in the crown of the hotel’s art collection is a trilogy of paintings by 18th Century master Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, depicting various scenes from Greek mythology. A must see for any art lover, the paintings grandly overlook Rome Cavalieri’s lobby.
We relax in the hotel’s Imperial Club Lounge, only available to guests staying on the hotel’s Imperial Floor, where delicious food and Prosecco are complimentary.
Then we head to our room with its own private balcony and a truly unbelievable view.
The hotel sits on Monte Mario, the highest hill in Rome, and has unrivalled panoramas of the city.
My friend, who knows Rome well, points out its most famous landmarks – the Colosseum, the Pantheon, St. Peter’s Basilica – we can see it all from up here.
We spend the rest of the day relaxing in the spa and then have a lovely meal in the hotel’s L’Uliveto restaurant.
When we wake up the next day, we’re completely rejuvenated and ready to take in the big city.
It’s not our first time at the Roman rodeo, so when we hop on the complimentary shuttle bus to the city centre, we’re committed to seeing another side of the Italian capital.
First, we go to Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore, a lesser known but remarkable Roman Catholic church which is free to enter and only €5 to tour.
The art within its walls is magnificent, and our tour guide tells us the ornate ceiling is gilded in gold.
A crypt within the church is said to hold the fragments of wood from the crib of Jesus Christ and the basilica has its own Sistine Chapel where the Pope himself often comes to pray.
We then head to Piazza del Popolo and slip into the Cerasi Chapel, which holds two remarkable Caravaggio paintings, the Crucifixion of Saint Peter and the Conversion on the Way to Damascus, both priceless masterpieces.
In the summer months, the festival of Lungo Il Tevere di Roma pops up along the River Tiber, and consists of an array stalls, eateries, bars and galleries, and is home to a vibrant and lively celebration of modern Italian culture.
We stop here, have a drink and some pasta, and take in the beauty of Rome from the banks of its iconic river.
We head back to the hotel and on the way stop for a selfie at the Trevi Fountain – we’re only tourists, after all! – and before we know it we’re back on our private balcony, looking out at the city as it winks and twinkles under the night sky.
I know that I’m not done with Rome and that Rome isn’t done with me, and even though I haven’t even left yet, I can’t wait to come back to this beautiful city.