Fancy an Italian holiday but can't quite summon up the energy to hop on a plane? Kensington's Baglioni Hotel might just be the answer. The most over-the-top creation this side of Nancy Dell'Olio, what makes it feel so authentically Italian is the way it takes its flouncing so seriously. Amid sparkling glass chandeliers and enough velvet to keep Merchant Ivory in costumes for the next 10 years, the lobby is home to so many black-clad staff that they almost out-number the heavily made-up women parading their assets at the bar, or the crowd of big-spending businessmen doing deals over four-course dinners in the neighbouring Brunello restaurant.
Don't be put off by that though. The Baglioni may not be an ideal destination to get away from the excesses of city life but, as a place to spend a decadent weekend, it's a whole lot of fun, especially in the evening, when the theatrical decor really comes into its own (on sunny days both the bedrooms and the public spaces can feel a little too dark).
While the hotel's Caroli health club isn't quite the pampering experience it's cracked up to be (when I went to use the steam room I was told to come back in 20 minutes when they'd switched it on and, even then, it was only lukewarm), the glam, underground nightclub seems to have no trouble pulling in the crowds. Definitely one for the party set.
The Baglioni Hotel, 60 Hyde Park Gate, London (020-7368 5700; www.baglionihotellondon.com). So close to Hyde Park you can almost smell the grass, it's just down the road from the Royal Albert Hall and under 10 minutes walk from both High Street Kensington and Gloucester Road Tube stations. Not to mention some of west London's best shops.
Time to international airport: about 40 minutes to Heathrow on the Piccadilly line, or 30 minutes via the Circle/District lines and the Heathrow Express.
That's hardly the point. These are rooms for playing in rather than sleeping. The bathrooms are a playboy's, or girl's, fantasy with lots of marble, rich dark wood and sinks formed from deep silver drums. And, with their dark purple, red and gold colour schemes, giant brass urns by the bedside and glossy black floors the bedrooms, too, are all about experiencing, as the brochure puts it, "the Italian way of life". Unfortunately, that also includes listening in on whatever the neighbours are up to, thanks to some rather thin walls. Still, despite all the pomp, there is one very practical feature that sticks out in these rooms - the beds. Once you've dug your way through a mountain of silk cushions and shimmery bedspreads, you'll find huge, king-size mattresses with simple, white linen sheets and pillows of just the right plumpness.
Freebies: trendy Voss mineral water and a napkin-full of fruit and biscotti. There are also some very snazzy Illy espresso machines in the rooms. The one disappointment is the toiletries, which are boring, own-brand.
Keeping in touch: rooms come with flat-screen TVs and there's unlimited broadband and Wi-Fi internet access throughout the hotel. Guests can also download an impressively up-to-date selection of free films.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Double rooms start from £247 per night, without breakfast.
I'm not paying that: fans of elaborate architecture should try the three-star Holland House youth hostel in nearby Holland Park; one wing encompasses a former Jacobean mansion. Dorm beds start from £21.60, including breakfast (0870 770 5866; www.yha.org.uk).Reuse content