One of my favourite cities in the world, we’d not visited Rome since the fluxlings were born. Add to that a bit of a Colosseum obsession from fluxling#1, and no more excuses were required.

To make sure there were no opportunities to sidetrack our plans, flights were booked in January for a summer holiday to the eternal city, via a week by the Italian seaside at San Felice Circeo (just perfect by the way – long sandy beaches, enchanting old town, wonderful food!).



Three days of pure tourist sight-seeing ahead of us, we left the beaches behind, took a taxi then a train back north to Rome arriving at Termini. A drive takes you past archaeological sites that in any other city would be the prime attraction but in Rome are a sideshow to the iconic list of breathtaking views.

We were lucky enough to be staying at the Hotel de Russie. This icon of the Rocco Forte hotel group is situated in the heart of Rome between the Spanish Steps and the Piazza del Popolo. The approach to the luxury 5 star residence is along the Via del Bambuino – a paradise of high end boutiques, antique stores and art galleries.

In the midst of the hustle of a steaming August Rome with thermometers hitting the high 30s, the hotel is a heavenly oasis. Unique to the city, the hotel grounds encompass a glorious ‘Secret Garden’ – a multi-tiered cascade of fountains, greenery, palm trees and even a grotto straight out of a fairy-tale. We immediately set off to explore the many terraces and steps as we cooled down after a hard morning’s travelling. It was hard to pull ourselves away when we were informed that our room was now ready.

The rooms at the Hotel de Russie are suitably sumptuous with muted lighting and soft colours creating a contemporary relaxed ambience. We were given a generous and comfortable suite that overlooked the tiered garden. The service here is exceptional – our little girl was worried as her extra bed was not made up when we first arrived but after lunch the sofa bed had been magically transformed into a suitably grand bed for one complete with toy frog to cuddle up to.

Lunch at the Hotel’s Le Jardin de Russie restaurant was a relaxed but refined affair taken on one of the levels that form part of the tiered gardens. The hotel is clearly on the luxury end of the market, but does not feel stiff or restrictive. Children are welcome to run around and explore the gardens for themselves, with the fluxlings inventing a monster game chasing around above us as we finished up. A century ago the hotel was loved by modernist artists and poets and today keeps that link with Mapplethorpe photography adorning its walls, although nowadays you’re more likely to spot one Hollywood’s finest hiding out amongst the palms.

Rome of course is a treat at anytime of year, and we filled our three days easily with visits to the main tourist spots – the Colosseum, wandering the pedestrianised pathways past the Pantheon and the Trevi Fountain, braving the heat of the magical Spanish Steps, climbing on lions at the Piazze dei Popolo and eating ice-cream at the Piazza Navona. We’ll need to go back of course, there’s so much to see!

On the last night, we ate out in the evening and arrived back at the hotel with the kids armed with some of Rome’s finest ice-cream. The garden illuminated with lighting on each level looked totally magical. The bar and restaurant were humming with laid back chatter and the garden with its flowing streams and fountains was ours alone to enjoy. We took found a peaceful spot as the children polished off their chocolate and raspberry scoops and we indulged in a nightcap. There were people enjoying the lower levels but the atmosphere was so relaxed our spot amongst the flowers and running water felt like our own little sanctum.

The Hotel De Russie and its secret Garden was a revelation. A green oasis amongst the heat and bustle of central Rome. It’s a stone’s throw way from the Spanish Steps and all the action but a world away as you sip your drink surrounded by palm trees and murmuring fountains.

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