Rome’s new wave of five-star hotels to bring investment, jobs and high-end luxury to Italian capital.
With its tropical beach resorts and soothing spas, Bangkok-based hotel brand Six Senses has made a name for itself by offering affluent guests some distinct needs of the modern age: tranquillity, well-being, and, for what it's worth, a sense of sustainability.
It would be hard to guess then that the brand would choose Rome - a city usually skirting the fringes of urban and ecological breakdown - for its next major European venture. But next spring, the Six Senses is opening its doors in the city, taking over the old headquarters of what used to be the Bank of Rome on Piazza S. Marcello, off Via del Corso.
It is an ambitious launch, consisting of a 96-room hotel; a ground floor food-court, serving up Roman and health-focused classics; a 700-sqm roof terrace: and even a botanical garden. With its creamy pared-back design, organic textiles and recycled wood features, the hotel wants to be a cocoon of serenity amid the hustle and bustle of central Rome.
Six Senses is just one of a constellation of five-star hotels opening up in the city in the next two years. There are at least seven new sites arriving in the capital: from Nobu rekindling the long-lost glamour of Via Veneto, to the Four Seasons in Piazza S. Silvestro. According to Il Messaggero newspaper, these hotels could bring up to 4,000 new jobs.
The openings not only mark the changing of fortune for Rome's embattled tourism sector but they are also set to give the city a contemporary and high-end sheen.
Francesca Tozzi, general manager of Six Senses Rome, is optimistic: "My hope is Rome is finally becoming a cosmopolitan city, which can be appreciated not just for its marvellous culture but as a meeting spot… a place that is more international than it has been before."
The five-star boom is taking hold as Rome prepares to host a number of key events, predicted to draw millions of visitors to the city: the Ryder Cup, a biennial golf competition between teams from Europe and the United States, will be held in the city next September; in 2025, Rome will host the Catholic Church’s Jubilee Year, and there is still hope of winning the bid for the World Expo in 2030.
These events could be transformative, boosting infrastructure and the international profile of the city, as well as the revenues of the hospitality sector. The question is whether Rome will be able to pull it together in time. It seems the new hotels are eager to help out.
On the northern edge of the historic city centre, the fashion house Bulgari is converting a Mussolini-era public ministry into its first hotel in the capital. The site is an impressive structure of travertine marble and roman brick with a fascist sense-of scale. It overlooks two of the city's most iconic monuments, the Ara Pacis and the Mausoleum of Augustus.
The Bulgari brand has donated thousands of euro to help restore Rome's monuments, including a €120,000 investment in the Ara Pacis museum's new lighting system. It also funded several major restorations in the capital, from the Spanish Steps to the archaeological site at Largo di Torre Argentina.
Across town on Via Veneto, once an artery of culture and the high-and-mighty, now a symbol of Rome’s languidness, is being given new life by luxury chains Nobu and Rosewood. The latter, which is set to open in 2024, is restoring the former headquarters of Italy’s Banca Nazionale del Lavoro, to include a lobby bar and café and an elegant rooftop terrace.
The conversion of defunct bank buildings and public administrative offices is a theme of the new wave of luxury hotels. Historically, Rome, unlike Milan, has failed to attract international brands partly because of the lack of real estate large enough to host them. But the increasing availability of empty palazzi offers fresh opportunities for high-end brands while giving the city-scape a shiny modern rehabilitation.
Back on Via del Corso, the Six Senses is also planning to play its part in supporting the city’s urban renewal: in part, by promoting sustainability, as well as education and awareness around the topic. Laudably, for instance, the hotel is aiming to eliminate single-use plastics, such as bottles in rooms, and ban polyester in staff uniforms. It has also set up an “Earth Lab'' that will host seminars for guests and locals on environmental topics.
Part of the hotel's revenues will be dedicated to impactful projects across the neighbourhood, starting with cleaning up the facade of the adjacent church, Chiesa di S. Marcello al Corso. “We want to show what is possible, even if it makes our life harder,” says Tozzi.
Recently, Six Senses installed a large food composter in the hotel’s basement capable of processing 70 kg of waste per day. “We’ll be ‘competing’ with AMA'' says Tozzi drolly, referring to Rome's notorious municipal refuse collection agency.
by Charles Seymour
Ph: wonderlandmagazine . com
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