Rome’s Palazzo Ripetta: a heavenly stay

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This article is part of a guide to Rome from FT Globetrotter

Long known as the Conservatory of Divine Providence, this 17th-century palazzo on the Via Ripetta — the western border of the triangle that makes up Rome’s famous Tridente precinct of shops, cafés and street life — was once a convent overseen by the Sisters of Santa Dorotea. They took in unmarried or orphaned girls and young women (of whom Dorotea was a patron saint), teaching them tailoring and other useful skills. As centuries passed, the women’s number increased and the curricula expanded to include music, gymnastics and the fine arts, among other disciplines. The Conservatory moved over the river to Trastevere in the 1950s, and the palazzo’s new owners enlisted the eminent architect Luigi Moretti to renovate the entire building — grand ground-floor spaces, upper residence floors, courtyard and all — as a luxury residence, then a four-star hotel and conference centre. 

The orange-yellow facade of the Palazzo Ripetta, in front of which a man is cycling along a cobbled street
The Palazzo Ripetta is housed in a former convent © Hotel Photography srl

A few years ago, the Crisci family, descendants of those first private owners, undertook another renovation with the help of Fausta Gaetani, who is responsible for the exquisite interiors at Le Sirenuse and Il San Pietro, Positano’s two flagship five-star hotels. The result is an elegant and chromatically bold series of spaces. Modern and contemporary artworks — from Warhol silkscreens to canvases by New York graffiti artist and Keith Haring protégé Angel Ortiz — are found throughout the bar, sitting rooms and hallways. But so are stunning early-20th-century Art Deco details, such as the three-metre-tall mirrors and inlaid panels in the Foyer. Today, the Conservatory’s chapel, added in the early 18th century, is the hotel’s (very grand) meeting and events space — still graced with original frescoes by Giacomo Triga and a marble bust of Pope Innocent XI from the same era.

The hotel’s Foyer, with inlaid panels depicting geese at flight, three-metre-tall mirrors a black chandelier and orange-velvet sofas
The hotel’s Foyer © Hotel Photography

The rooms and suites vary widely in size and configuration, but even the standard-est of doubles feels spacious thanks to the palace’s uniformly high ceilings and large windows. A few of the bigger suites have hydro pools and steam-sauna showers, as well as sun-saturated balconies. Gaetani, never one to shy away from bright colours, has incorporated some lovely Pierre Frey fabrics in royal purple and acid green, inspired by embroidered Suzani textiles; elsewhere are turquoise and rust combinations that are softer but no less stylish. 

My two-level suite (most accommodations on the first and second floors have mezzanines or second levels) had an enormous picture window overlooking the leafy citrus-filled courtyard, and skewed to red; the sitting room, tucked up on the second floor, was papered in a charming contemporary toile of Roman landscapes, with sconces of scarlet Venetian glass.

One of the rooms in Palazzo Ripetta, with a red velvet armchair by the bed and abstract geometric coloured prints on the walls
One of the rooms in Palazzo Ripetta

The artworks in most rooms are a mix of classical 18th-century prints of Roman urns and contemporary lithographs. The bathrooms, while unremarkable — marble and glass, all the mod cons — are extremely comfortable, with amenities from Sue Townsend’s Florence-based Ortigia line, renowned for its heady, gorgeous fragrances.

As for the restaurants, the hero here is San Baylon, which has its own entrance for outside guests, at Via Ripetta 232. The interiors, by local architect Roberto Liorni, are warm and inviting, channelling the charms of an older-school Roman establishment (leather banquettes, burnished wood panelling, framed artworks from the Crisci family’s private collection hung densely along the walls), filtered through a more contemporary lens (the lighting — something Italians tend to get serially, risibly wrong — is, here, laudably diffuse and flattering). 

A bowl of mozzarella and pomodoro at the hotel’s San Baylon restaurant
Buffalo mozzarella bottoncini at San Baylon
The hotel’s San Baylon restaurant, with leather banquettes, burnished wood panelling and framed artworks from the Crisci family’s private collection on the wall
The hotel’s San Baylon restaurant ‘channels the charms of an older-school Roman establishment’

Chef Marco Ciccotelli — who also oversees the menu for Piazza Ripetta, the all-day courtyard dining venue — deftly balances refined presentation and soothing comfort-food standards. The handmade bottoncini, filled with fresh mozzarella di bufala and served room temperature on a bed of sweet minced raw tomatoes, were beyond pleasurable on a 38C day. Likewise, the salty-tangy vitello tonnato, studded with huge Sicilian capers. To finish, an airy zabaglione is served in a tiny coupe with the chef’s compliments, in honour of the restaurant’s namesake — the Franciscan lay brother popularly considered the patron saint of pastry chefs, including Giuseppe Solfrizzi from Trastevere’s cult-favourite bakery Le Levain, who dreamt up the dessert menu.

At a glance

  • Good for: Just about anyone who can afford it. Great location, good (if trad-skewing) design, food and service — and easy proximity to the retail pleasures of Via del Corso and Via del Babuino

  • Not so good for: The hipster on the hunt for a serious sui generis vibe, à la Hotel Locarno, which is just a couple of blocks away. At only 10 months old, Palazzo Ripetta is still shaping its atmosphere somewhat

  • FYI: The menu at the hotel’s Baylon bar is a collaboration with the Jerry Thomas Project, which has previously been named as one of the world’s 50 best bars

  • Rooms and suites: 78, including 27 suites

  • Spa: No

  • Gym: No

  • Doubles: From €888

  • Address: Via di Ripetta 231, 00186 Rome

  • Website; Directions

Maria Shollenbarger was a guest of Palazzo Ripetta

What’s your favourite place to stay in Rome? Tell us in the comments below. And follow FT Globetrotter on Instagram at @FTGlobetrotter

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