Napoleon III suite, Palazzo Ruspoli

Where is it?

Where is it?

Perfectly located for fashionisti, on the via Condotti, Rome's most exclusive shopping street. It is also part of the home of the Ruspoli family; they and their forebears have inhabited the palazzo since the 18th century. Signora Letizia Ruspoli is the friendly (and very chic) landlady who lives upstairs with her husband and family; it is she who will meet you in your suite and explain its many charms and surprises. The welcome pack includes fresh fruit and Chianti from the vineyard at the Ruspolis' Tuscany estate.

What's it like?

The poshest, most elegant bed and breakfast you will ever see: a cavernous first-floor apartment reached via 12-foot wide marble stairs or a tiny wooden elevator behind wrought-iron gates. This suite costs from €775 (£517) a night, and clearly it is in a different league from your average b&b.

What's its USP?

History. You are in rooms in which both Napoleon III and a member of the infamous Borgia family once stayed. In these secluded rooms it is easy to let your imagination run away with you and feel quite at home among the Roman nobility: each time I stepped through the 30ft-high courtyard gates I was shot through with a sense of ruthless superiority. (A Napoleon complex, perhaps?) This is the perfect bolt-hole for a wealthy eccentric.


You have your own personal butler; silent, deferential and discreet. While we went for an early evening stroll, he lit a log fire, turned down the bed linen, dimmed the lights and left fragrant candles burning in the exquisite but tiny marble bathroom.


There are two apartments: we stayed in the Napoleon III suite, three vast rooms with parquet floors and exquisitely painted wooden ceilings. Décor is classical but eclectic, encompassing influences from the 16th, 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, with hand-stencilled walls, marquetry and luxurious drapery. Vast oil paintings in the Renaissance and Baroque styles adorn the rooms: behind two of them you will find doors to a tiny kitchen with stove, espresso machine, kettle and minibar, and to the bathroom. Americans may baulk at the poky ablutions, without a separate shower cubicle: Ruspoli wins on charm, not chain-hotel convenience. Discreetly hidden are a CD player, TV and video. Did you come to Rome to watch movies? No. All life is outside your door.


As if by magic (but actually thanks to the soft-footed butler), breakfast appears in the morning, at a large dining table laid with damask linen, flowers and candelabra. Serve yourself coffee, tea or hot chocolate from silver pots, which accompanies a basket of croissants and little bread rolls, with jam that looks home-made. A full English breakfast is €26 (£17) extra; to do as the Romans do, go and breakfast on a cappuccino at any local café.


Wealthy couples and business tycoons seeking top-drawer privacy. Style mavens who adore "la bella figura", and shopaholics.

Things to do?

Try not to spend the entire weekend languishing in your luxurious accommodation. Descend the broad marble stairs to street level, past a fine collection of busts of all the Roman emperors on display in the alcoves, and sweep grandly through the gates on to the via Condotti to join the early evening "l'ora di passaggiata" (hour of strolling). Dress up to fit in with the exceptionally good-looking Romans.


Palazzo Ruspoli, Largo Goldoni 56, 00186 Rome (00 39 347 733 7098;