What is marriage? Marriage is knowing that your wife must arrive at the airport at least 17 hours before your flight in order that she not have a panic attack. As Mr Cassels and I set off at silly o'clock on a Thursday morning, I smiled (not just because we were embarking on a two-night, child-free break) but because it's those little things accepting each other's foibles without comment or complaint that make a marriage. And arriving at Hotel Eden a few hours later (admittedly a few more than necessary due to the afore-mentioned over-zealous punctuality), not only made me feel like a honeymooner all over again but also further reflect on those all-important little things that lead to lifelong love.
For the exceptional luxury and comfort (and believe me, I have been privileged enough to stay in a LOT of luxury hotels so when I say exceptional, I mean it) at Hotel Eden comes not from the gleaming marble bath that's large enough for a party, the capacious walk-in-wardrobe, the welcome feast of chocolates, fruit and prosecco laid out in the sitting room of our suite or even the cloud-like mattress although all those things were present and correct. Nor is it found in the impeccable yet approachable service as we were folded into the bosom of this Italian family. No, it's in the tiniest of touches, the barely discernible moments that elevate cossetting and indulgence into an art form. My room key was handed to me in a keepsake leather holder, with my initials stamped on for posterity, a bookmark was placed in my book every night at turndown, a cleaning cloth tucked underneath my sunglasses
Just as well, for despite having booked a November break with zero expectation that it would be anything but cold and a little grey at best, the weather was exceptional throughout our stay. Indeed, checked in, we decided to take a gentle wander around the city in the hours that remained before dinner and it wasn't long before we were shedding layers like onions.
Thanks to the hotel's superb location, but a few minutes' walk from the Spanish steps, it also wasn't long before we were ticking off the key monuments, one by one Piazza di Spagna, the Pantheon, Piazza Navona, the Trevi fountain, plus an exhibition of Miles Hyman's drawings of the city that we ducked into en route. Oh, and naturally an ice cream. When in Rome, as the saying goes.
Back at the hotel, there was just time for a glass of prosecco in that incredible bath before dinner. The hotel's Michelin-starred fine-dining restaurant, La Terrazza, is world-renowned but on this occasion, we opted for the more relaxed Il Giardino ideal after a day's travel. Both benefit from simply stunning views the whole of Rome twinkled before us and the maitre'd was more than happy to point out all the major landmarks. It wasn't long, however, before our heads were turned by the menu. Finding it hard to narrow down my choices, I opted for a dish of stuffed pumpkin flowers with ricotta, taleggio, black olives and cherry tomatoes on our waiter's recommendation, followed by Roman specialty Mezzi rigatoni all'Amatriciana (pasta with a tomato, bacon and pecorino sauce) while hubby dearest chose carpaccio di manzo with parmesan and a pumpkin and taleggio risotto. Eyes sparkling almost as much as the spumante we washed everything down with as dish after dish delighted, we were too full to do justice to the pudding selection opting instead for a scoop of pistachio ice cream before we carried our stomachs to bed.
And with a solid eight hours chalked up thanks to the king-size bed and distinct lack of toddler, we were soon back admiring the view once more this time in daylight and with Francesco, our friendly waiter, catering to my caffeine habit and Mr Cassels' immense love of breakfast foods. It was just as well, then, that we'd scheduled in a brief pause post primacolazione for a tour of the hotel's spa (me) and a peruse of the day's news in the elegant lobby (hubby) before a run. Smug, us much? Yes, the hotel's proximity to the Villa Borghese gardens, Rome's third largest public park, was too much to resist and we clocked up a quick 5K between the umbrella pines before heading out for the day.
At the Miles Hyman exhibition the previous day, a sketch of Trastevere, a neighbourhood I'd not explored on past visits to the city, caught my eye so we headed for the river, past the Forum's ruins and Colosseum's towering arches. Staring into the city's origins, its monuments' past opened up for all to see bought to mind the ages of our marriage a foundation of optimistic newlyweds, walls battered by birth and death but still standing, shored up with the mortar of kindness here, thoughtfulness there preserving all for another day. To me, that is romance. It's no coincidence that Rome shares the same letters.
Trastevere delivered a locality on a smaller scale with its cobbled streets, strung with washing and ochre facades glowing in the November sunshine. We stopped for pizza al fresco all the better to enjoy the glorious autumn day. On we walked, mounting a steep hill that winds around the contours of the botanic gardens to the Vatican. Admittedly, there may have been a slight competitive edge to our step count but Rome had us spellbound. We walked hand in hand, we stopped for ice creams, admired leather handbags and bought a Christmas decoration (a family tradition) before diving into a tiny neighbourhood bar just minutes from our hotel for beers, an impressive antipasto platter groaning with grilled vegetables, cheese and cured meat and spaghetti carbonara. Our Roman holiday was over but the overwhelming feeling that life together is indeed sweet has endured. Hence the very title of this piece. La Dolce Vita lives on at Hotel Eden.
Rates at Hotel Eden start at 600 per night, excluding taxes and fees. For more information, or to book, visit www.dorchestercollection.com
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