When in Rome, it is best to assume an air of grandeur. The Romans save their humility for church (notwithstanding their propensity for worshipping in fur and cashmere). It's an entirely understandable attitude when, even if you're just popping out for an espresso and a fag, you are surrounded by totems of ancient history and Christianity. Not to mention all those designer shops on the Via Condotti.

The five-star Exedra, which opened in 2003, was renovated from an ancient papal granary and is now one of the upmarket Boscolo hotels. It has 238 rooms and nine suites, whose decor is inspired by Classical Rome but rendered in as many shades of beige as there are at Armani. The 20ft-high window in my suite offered a direct view of the Piazza della Repubblica - once I'd worked out how to draw back the huge muslin curtains without garroting myself.

Among the Exedra's selling points are the deluxe fourth-floor spa and a bijou rooftop swimming-pool, which has great views but is not recommended for vertigo sufferers thanks to the sheer drop visible over the edge. The roof also houses a stylish bar. If you prefer to stay earthbound, dine at La Frustra, the gloomily chic restaurant that pays homage to Fellini's 8 1/2. To see and be seen have an early evening drink at La Tazio, the terrace brasserie in front of the hotel.

LOCATION Piazza della Repubblica 47, 00185 Rome, Italy (00 39 06 48 93 81; www.boscolohotels.com). It could hardly be more prominent. Exedra's white-marble colonnade curves round Piazza della Repubblica, facing the ruins of the pre-Christian era Diocletian baths and Michelangelo's 16th-century Santa Maria degli Angeli basilica. The immaculate red carpet covering Exedra's steps is a flourish designed to impart an A-list thrill every time you cross the threshold. Inside, the vast marble lobby is palatial, enhanced by some lavish floral arrangements.

Time from international airport: It's less than an hour's drive from Ciampino or Fiumicino airports. From Termini station, Exedra is a ten- minute walk. But if you're reluctant to arrive on foot, cheeky cabbies outside the station will try to sting you for a Û12 (pounds 8.50) flat fare to cross the piazza and deposit you into the white-gloved hands of the doormen. So go by taxi if that appeals, but insist that the driver switches on the meter first - and be prepared for an argument.

COMFORTABLE?

Yes, but I didn't like having to negotiate a steep flight of polished wooden stairs to visit the bathroom in the middle of the night, especially as I hadn't quite mastered the high-tech system of remote-control light switches. The bedroom in my suite was a mezzanine, built under the soaring ceiling of the sitting room. The bed was king-size and very firm, with Frette linen and assorted pillows of varying sizes.

Freebies: lots of Etro toiletries in the spacious mahogany and marble bathroom; a welcome tray of fruit, sweets and water

Keeping in touch: two large-screen televisions with English-language news channels; radio; telephone and fax; high-speed internet connection

THE BOTTOM LINE

Doubles from Û449 (pounds 321) without breakfast, although there are often promotional deals available if you call or check the website.

I'm not paying that: then try the nearby 19th-century Residenza Cellini (via Modena 5, 00184 Rome; 00 39 6 4782 5204; www.residenzacellini.it), a B&B where superior doubles cost Û145 (pounds 100).

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