Hotel Raphael is inexperienced from the surface in, pairing the recent World grace of its wisteria and bougainvillea-covered façade with a brand new Millennium environmental sensibility. The elegant eatertopedificeis that the end result of this eco-luxe philosophy and sets the quality for organic fine-dining in Rome. Overlooking a small square just behind Piazza Navona, the hotel is a stone’s throw from some of the most famous sights in the Eternal City.
When you’ve had your fill of the crowds, it’s easy to duck back into your quiet room or head to the hotel’s rooftop to nurse a cocktail while savoring the 360-degree vistas across the domes and bell towers of Rome’s historic center. Hotel Raphael’s style is somewhat mercurial, juxtaposing classic Italian opulence with streamlined modern design—beginning with the hotel’s artworks drawn from founder Spartaco Vannoni’s personal collection spanning classical Rome to Picasso.
Ornate antique furniture is offset by rather uninviting taupe and tobacco leather chairs and sofas in the lobby and tables in the dining room closer to something a budget conference hotel; perhaps in an attempt to focus attention on the art. Some may find these contrasting styles jarring, but everyone can get behind the ecological conscience of this certified bio-hotel, with its focus on natural cleaning and bath products, organic vegetarian fare and sustainable energy.
No matter that the lobby décor can feel rather unwelcoming; the focal point of Hotel Raphael is its rooftop terrace. With a view that stretches from the Church of Santa Maria della Pace – the dome so close you feel as if you could reach across and touch it – to St Peter’s Basilica on the horizon, this is the perfect perch for guests (and Romans in the know) to gather for a cocktail or dinner on balmy summer evenings. The hotel also has a small but well-equipped gym and a library.
The attentive service proves Hotel Raphael’s five-star chops, with 24-hour concierge/reception staff and porter, nightly turndown and all-day room service.
This hotel made the bold choice of tapping Richard Meier to rework two floors of its 51 rooms and suites, and his trademark blond wood, clean lines and deft use of natural light is a refreshing departure from the traditional style of many of Rome’s top-shelf hotels. Meier’s corner and private terrace suites are particularly awash with light, and all of his rooms have comfortable split-king adjustable beds.
If you lean towards old-school luxe, opt for the classically fitted-out rooms and suites, with their burgundy-and-gold velvet and fine antiques. Both categories have spacious bathrooms, top-of-the-line natural bath products, soundproof doors and windows, and a minibar stocked with organic treats.
Vegetarians, vegans and even carnivores who appreciate Haute yet healthy cuisine should rejoice at the most exciting thing happening at Hotel Raphael: the rooftop Mater Terrae restaurant, run by Sicilian chef Ettore Moliterno. Moliterno is a protégé of Pietro Leeman, founder of the first vegetarian restaurant in Europe to be awarded a Michelin star, and together they developed a menu that presents organic, biodynamic and gluten-free dishes with fine-dining precision and finesse.
Though Molitor is still getting his sea legs – a few selections decidedly outshine others – with the support of an impeccable staff and the passion of sommelier Gianmarco Boscolo Canaletto, who has created a wine list that highlights below-the-radar organic and biodynamic labels, the ship is sure to steady. Highlights included pumpkin ravioli, wild mushroom terrine, and vegan Sicilian cannoli. In addition to the restaurant, the rooftop bar is open from 11 am to 11 pm.
The full buffet breakfast is also focused on the organic fare, though there is bacon, sausages, and charcuterie along with an egg station, juice station, assorted baked goods and coffee made to order. The hotel has rooms that comply with accessibility standards, though the rooftop terrace is not accessible by lift.