Editor's Note: This is the latest in our series on exciting new hotels, The New Room with a View.
As many have, when I was an undergraduate art history student, I studied abroad in Italy. Rome was home, and for four months I learned the intricate cobblestone streets, wandering all over the city, back and forth across the Tiber, sustaining myself with rich pasta, wine, and history. Over the course of my time there, I learned a word that is one I shall never forget: Palimpsest.
A palimpsest is by definition a page or scroll, an intensely historic manuscript, that has been written upon, wiped clean, and written upon again, yet traces of the original remain. It has its origins in ancient libraries when parchment was scarce, and texts needed to be recorded on top of existing work. Having first heard the word within The Eternal City of Rome, it has come to define the city for me, as well.
Rome is a palimpsest of all that has come before, a diverse layered city from ancient to modern, that is constantly rewriting itself, and building upon the foundations set in place for centuries.
To that effect, Rome is a city that never changes, but also one that has new ventures springing up all over the place to shift the tide of the city once again. That was my experience this past May with the opening of the brand new Chapter Roma Hotel in the Regola District of Rome.
If there’s one thing that hasn’t changed, it’s the fact that tourists flock to Rome. Hotels here seethe with them during the summer high season, and many options are on opposite ends of the spectrum of ultra high luxury, or charming, but crumbling. Chapter Roma is filling a void in the market by bringing a gritty yet sophisticated edge to offer the educated urban traveler an option that feels contemporary and yet rooted to the culture of the city.
The building that houses the 42 room modern hotel is from the 1880s, and for the past 60 years, a family owned barber shop took up the main floor space where the lobby and bar are situated now.
The undertaking is spearheaded by Roman native Marco Cilia, who has done work with Hotel Americano in New York City previously, and has now set his sights on enlivening his hometown for the contemporary tourist.
In true Roman fashion, the hotel itself is also a palimpsest, writing over what was there before, leaving traces, but bringing into sharp focus the newness and vibrancy of the architectural endeavor. In a literal sense, the second floor landing of the hotel has a large wooden door that looks dated and out of place where one would expect a hallway to extend to. And behind it? A hold-out. An old woman who wasn’t quite ready to sell when the rest of the building was purchased, and the hotel renovation took place around her for nine months. She now happily (according to the hotel) lives on the second floor, taking the stairs up from the chic lobby to her time portal of an apartment door.
Cilia partnered with South African interior designer Tristan du Plessis of Studio A for a vibe that is industrial-chic, with sultry, rich elements. Exposed brick arches, steel panels, and brass pipes mingle with jewel-tone velvets, lush wainscotting, and mood lighting throughout. High design choices are in abundance. Tom Dixon pendant lights, a lipstick mirror by Maurizio Cattelan and Pierpaolo Ferrari, and custom italian made furniture fill the rooms, lobby, and bar areas.
The lobby also includes artwork from famous Roman street artist, Alice Pasquini, and caligraphic painting throughout the stairwell by Warios, adding an element of authentic Roman artisan work to the sleek hotel.
Each of the 42 rooms are slightly different. The 2nd floor rooms have extremely tall ceilings, a remnant from the 1880’s structure of the building. A single spiral staircase connects all the floors. The rooms all have showers (no bathtubs), and custom made industrial wardrobes and green velvet headboards that the hotel staff admits they have had multiple purchase inquiries for. Each room also features an upholstered seating area as opposed to a desk, a generous mini-bar, and a Marshall speaker.
The hotel only recently opened, and part of Cilia’s larger plan is to open up one wall of the lobby to connect to a forthcoming juice bar/salad place lunch option that will also have access off the street, helping to enliven and modernize the Regola district. Rome is definitely a city in which you want to indulge in pasta and carbs, but a healthy option is always welcome. A Mexican restaurant is also in the process of being added on the ground floor.
Each morning, the hotel breakfast includes the standard European options of eggs, meats, fruits, and cheeses, but also a local speciality of crostata ricotta e visciole, a Roman sour cherry cheesecake that is really only made in the Jewish Ghetto nearby. I was delighted every morning to indulge.
Ultimately, the Chapter Roma Hotel hopes to be the first of a long line of hotels in Italy, with branches springing up all over the country in major destinations. Venice, Florence, and Milan might all be next on Cilia’s list.