It’s an odd person who goes to Rome and decides to stay somewhere called Hotel England. That insular urge for home comforts while abroad smacks of egg and chips on the Costa del Sol or New York’s Tea & Sympathy – a dreadful establishment serving overpriced scones on Royal wedding commemorative china.
So it was a relief to discover that this classic example of elegance, bang in the centre of Rome, is nothing of the sort and owes its name to the simple fact that it was well loved by the British in the early 19th century – including by Byron and Keats.
Sitting comfortably on the corner of a cobbled street that houses Gucci, Stella McCartney and a Ladurée tea room, Hotel d’Inghilterra blasts out an air of unapologetic grandeur – from the gold-legged tables and burnished baroque mirrors to the mini pairs of black and gold lamps strung along its bedroom corridors.
And yet it feels like home – albeit the home of a very wealthy aunt and uncle who never had children. Downstairs the living rooms are furnished with deep rust- and pistachio-coloured silk sofas, portly lamps and bunny-soft carpets, all of which are starkly outlined by black wood doorframes, skirting boards and bookshelves. The Bond bar features squeaking black leather, black marble floors and bar tops lined with martini glasses so fitting to its namesake you can almost smell the chauvinism.
Each bedroom is unique, ranging from small, bright and functional with embroidered headboards and white duvets to the kind of suites filled with mirrors, swirls and silks that would make Marie-Antoinette grin from ear to ear.
Bathrooms are marble-floored and fun to play in, with a letter-box style faucet that gushes water into the sunken tubs. But beware the mirror that doubles up as a TV and entertainment system – you might just find yourself presented with a bill for One Direction’s new album as I was, despite having no idea that I’d pressed any wrong buttons. Honest.
Lovely though it is to lounge in the living rooms, thumbing through the bookshelves, and hiding from the Roman heat, the sweetest spot of Hotel d’Inghilterra is Café Romano which spills out onto the street and attracts everyone from accordion players squeezing out My Way to couples walking hand in hand and enviously eyeing diners twirling lobster linguini around forks.
It’s a much coveted spot, with only a few tulip-topped tables outside, and the food is served in typically enormous portions. The linguine came with meaty hunks of lobster, lightly flavoured with a kick of chilli, and the herb-crusted lamb loin came with a crisp surface that cracked open to reveal a pink centre that shone in the candlelight.
Having salivated my way across to Italy, waiting for a proper tiramisu, I was amply rewarded with a huge cappuccino cup of pudding so fresh and light without that soaked and alcoholicky-tasting sponge of lazy chefs that I didn’t need any kind of after dinner stroll.
You could wander around the corner to the Spanish Steps, but a word of advice: duck inside, away from the crowds, and head to the rooftop terrace for an amaretto sour and a private view of Rome’s moonlit skyline.