If hotels were women then the Eden would be Sophia Loren. Classy, elegant, undeniably glamorous, yet with a dash of showbiz glitz and a fair amount of history. This old palace – close to the then-new Termini station – was acquired in 1889 by a German hotelier, Francesco Nistelweck. He founded the hotel to cater for affluent Europeans swanning about the Continent on Grand Tours as they swapped horse-drawn carriages for rail travel.

Over the ensuing century it saw plenty of action. The great wartime protagonists, Rommel and Montgomery, both feature in the visitors' book – after the Second World War it became the headquarters for Britain's military command. Various royal weddings are immortalised in period photographs, but these days you're more likely to stumble across screen royalty (Gwyneth Paltrow, Tom Cruise, Isabella Rossellini and Ralph Fiennes).

The foyer is unostentatious opulence; cool cream marble warmed by antiques, oils on the walls and large Persian rugs. But for the Eden experience take the lift up to the sixth-floor terrace for a glass of champagne as the sun sets over Rome's skyline. Film director Federico Fellini loved the view so much he held all his interviews here. Expect an utterly decadent experience – especially when you get the bill. Ours was 120,000 lire (about £40) for four glasses of champagne.

Location, location, location

The Hotel Eden is at Via Ludovisi, 49, Rome 00187, Italy (00 39 06 47 81 21, www.hotel-eden.it, or for reservations contact The Leading Hotels of the World, 0800 181123, www.lhw.com/edenrome). It borders the lush Borghese Gardens in the exclusive Ludovisi district, close to the unexclusive Spanish Steps.

Time to international airport: the hotel is about an hour (roughly 30km) from both Fiumicino and Ciampino airports by car. The Eden can arrange private transfers for approximately 130,000 lire. Alternatively the airport express train from Fiumicino costs 17,000 lire and takes about 45 minutes to the Termini Station, 2km from the hotel. A cab for the final stretch costs about 15,000 lire.

From Ciampino catch the airport bus to Anagnina metro station and then the train up to Barberini which is the metro stop just 500 metres from the hotel, for 3500 lire.

Are you lying comfortably?

You should be, tucked up between the crisp linen sheets, head sinking into downy feather pillows after a bittersweet chocolate nightcap left on the turn down. The hotel has 121 bedrooms including the sixth-floor Penthouse suite with mosaics in the marble bathrooms based on the ancient baths of Rome. Our room wasn't quite as spacious, but the wooden floor was covered with a large oriental rug and the crystal chandelier and laurel wreath stucco work on the ceiling gave it a touch of grandeur. But the pièces de résistance were the curtains – or rather curtain; an enormous swathe of rich brown and sage green silk taffeta with a sheath of bunched silk draped across the top. The marble bathroom was almost as big as the bedroom.

Freebies: a bowl of fruit and luxurious Hermès bathroom products in jade packaging with a sensuous orange perfume.

Keeping in touch: two phone lines, in-room fax and PC connections, internet access via the TV.

The bottom line

Rooms start at around £380 per room per night. The Penthouse suite comes in at almost £1,750.

I'm not paying that: the Hotel Locarno (00 39 06 361 0841) has doubles starting from 360,000 lire (about £120).