After two years of staying at home due to Covid, I’d been saving hard to spend a big birthday with friends in Rome. I wanted to treat myself and stay somewhere extra special, but in a city jam-packed with hostelries, however would I start to choose the appropriate ‘albergo’ in which to celebrate in style and make once-in-a-lifetime memories?
I wanted somewhere central yet quiet, luxurious but not ostentatious, boutiquey and family-run rather than huge and corporate. . . Somewhere with an individual, unique charm which would, ideally, mean something to me, personally.
Think of the Eternal City in all its ancient and Renaissance glory, and the humble Singer sewing machine doesn’t immediately spring to mind. Yet there is a fascinating thread which binds the two – namely, the Singer Palace Hotel in Rome. I grew up listening to the hum of my grandma’s – and then my mother’s – Singer sewing machines as they rattled away, fashioning dresses, skirts and blouses from paper patterns on the kitchen table so when I saw there was a hotel in the centre of Rome, housed in what had originally been the 1930s Art Deco European headquarters for Singer, the decision was made for me. The Singer Palace Hotel ticked all my boxes – central yet quiet, luxurious, uniquely charming and family-run. In fact, so welcoming were the staff, I really was made to feel like family.
Where is it?
You couldn’t be more central! The Singer Palace Hotel is minutes away from the Piazza Venezia end of Via del Corso, Rome’s cultural and commercial hub. On arrival at the hotel, I was charmed by the sight of a tasteful display of vintage sewing machines in the wood-panelled foyer – one actually looked like my grandma’s. All were perfectly preserved but then the Singer Palace does preservation quite perfectly.
Incredibly, many original features remain from its Art Deco heyday – wooden and Bakelite fittings, stained glass and, at the heart of the hotel, an awe-inspiring staircase hewn from richly-patterned Cipollino d’Arni marble. I looked up from the bottom before ascending the stairs and gazing down from the top - it was like studying a work of fine art. I posed against the handrail, halfway up, wishing I was dressed in a 1930s-style silk tea dress.
Style and Character
Rome is a city of countless historic curiosities: one of these is that Sir Alexander Douglas, president of the Singer sewing machine company for the first half of the 20th century, commissioned a headquarters in Rome, designed by Mario Loreti and completed in 1930. Though Singer Palace changed hands a number of times over the following decades, the building’s original Art Deco flourishes miraculously remained intact, including a stunner of a marble staircase, elegant entrance and vestibule, panelled round lifts, wooden and Bakelite fittings, and stained glass.
These period details are now the central showpieces of this restored palazzo, carefully preserved by Roman architect Potito Michele Giorgio and paired with Milanese designer Elisa Ferrari’s relaxed contemporary décor, creating a stylishly inviting whole, particularly in the rooftop lounge and dining spaces. Jewel-toned velvet sofas, plucky printed throw pillows, soft leather butterfly chairs and casually placed fresh flowers complete the sophisticated yet lighthearted vibe.
Service and facilities
Many of Rome’s new boutique hotels offer flawlessly chic rooms but a disheartening paucity of common space where guests can unwind at day’s end. The Singer Palace is a standout in this regard, with its spacious rooftop terrace on two levels (large enough to house a speakeasy-inspired cocktail bar), chic restaurant with dining room and terrace seating, and indoor and outdoor lounge areas.
The reception lobby in the building’s historic vestibule is small but not claustrophobic and staffed 24 hours a day by a gracious, multilingual team who are happy to arrange tours, transfers, and bespoke services befitting a five-star property.
Where will I sleep?
There are 30 rooms, including nine suites, at the Singer Palace. All are tastefully decorated in muted, neutral colours to give a feeling of calm and serenity. My bed was the comfiest I’ve ever slept in with uber quality linen and duvets. Luxury touches to the room included a Nespresso machine, bottled water and homemade, free of charge sweet treats. My corner room looked out onto the Via del Corso and Via Speechi – with such a view there was no mistaking that I was in Rome! The bathroom was a vision in chrome and marble, complete with the biggest rain shower I have ever had the pleasure to stand under.
Food and drink
Adjoining the Singer Palace’s chic yet cosy fifth-floor dining room is a spacious, two-levelled roof-top terrace from which la Roma can be viewed in much of her glory. This terrace literally is the hotel’s crowning glory. It was here, amongst the lemon and olive trees, that I enjoyed a cocktail or two from ‘Jim’s Bar’ the jazz-age inspired cocktail bar, courtesy of mixologist extraordinaire Frederica, before eating a birthday dinner that has since become one of my ‘Desert Island’ dish memories.
I started with a delicious beef carpaccio, fennel and bergamot citronette dish. Next, I feasted on Baccala, a Roman culinary classic of salted cod and spicy paprika potatoes before indulging in a chocolate fondant pudding with a molten centre. Mmmmmm.
Breakfast the next morning was just as delicious – boasting a magnificent buffet of fresh fruits, myriad types of bread, cold meats and cheeses in addition to freshly prepared-to-order cooked breakfast items. After supping on fresh figs, I opted for freshly prepared poached eggs before feasting on light, flaky croissants and Rome’s famous maritozzi - gorgeous Italian brioche-style buns filled with sweetened whipped cream. To. Die. For.
What is there to do in Rome?
Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither is it possible to pack in all the Eternal City’s attractions into one short trip. However, with the city being a pedestrian-friendly, relatively small capital and what with the Singer Palace being so central, you can experience ‘multo’ in a relatively short space of time. Set between the ancient sites on and near the Palatine Hill and the elegant Baroque treasures of the historic centre, the hotel is within striking distance of some of Rome’s most famous landmarks. The Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, Column of Marcus Aurelius and Faustina which stands in Piazza Colonna, and the Palazzo Venezia are just a few minutes’ walk away; the Pantheon 10 minutes; and half an hour’s easy stroll takes you to the Coliseum.
Also nearby is the Jewish Ghetto of Rome. This is one of the city’s hidden treasures with a rich archaeological, cultural and religious heritage while also being renowned for culinary specialities such as carciofi alla giudia (Jewish-style, deep-fried artichokes), fiori di zucca (fried zucchini flowers stuffed with mozzarella), and aliciotti e indivia (anchovies with endive) that have significantly inspired traditional Roman cuisine.
I always love a walking tour with a local guide when visiting a historic capital and the Eyes of Rome walking tours company did not disappoint. In addition to throwing coins in the Trevi Fountain and visiting the Pantheon, we discovered little known attractions such as the Baroque Church of St. Ignatius with its magnificent painted ceiling. We also stopped off for a cheeky Expresso at the best coffee shop in Rome – the Sant’ Eustachio Il Caffè – which Romans themselves frequent for their caffeine hit. For longer stays in the Eternal City, a visit to the Vatican, the Sistine Chapel and St Peter’s are a must.
What it costs
Double rooms from £352 per night. Breakfast included. Free Wi-Fi.
How to get there
Flights to Rome’s two airports from British airports start from £7 one way.
The Singer Palace Hotel’s luxury status, central location, five-star service and attention to detail is reflected in the price. However, for a special occasion or big birthday, it’s well worth pushing the boat out.