This New Hotel in Rome Is Breathing New Life Into One of the City's Most Iconic Streets
The InterContinental Rome Ambasciatori Palace is one of a wave of luxe new hotels aiming to revamp the street famously featured in 'La Dolce Vita.'
When Federico Fellini’s cinematic masterpiece "La Dolce Vita" came out in 1960, Rome’s Via Veneto became the symbol of sybaritic indulgence. It was the epicenter of the city’s hedonistic nightlife, where elegant Romans packed into tables at sidewalk cafes and in nightclubs and paparazzi chased down starlets. It’s been a long time since Via Veneto’s 1960s heyday, though, and over the following decades the street became a sad shadow of its former self.
Now, however, a crop of new luxury hotels is aiming to bring some of the glamor back to the famed street. Last year, the W Rome opened in the neighborhood, creating buzz with its rooftop lounge and ground-floor restaurant by Michelin-starred Sicilian chef Ciccio Sultano. But when the InterContinental Rome Ambasciatori Palace swung open its doors on May 1, it became the first new hotel to open directly on Via Veneto in years.
A stone’s throw from the American Embassy, the building was originally constructed in 1900 as a residence for visiting ambassadors. It served as a library for the American Embassy in the 1940s, before becoming a family-owned hotel. In 2018, IHG Hotels & Resorts took over to usher the property into a new era.
To that end, IHG partnered with LDV Hospitality founded by John Meadow, whose family traces its roots back to Venice, to open an outpost of his celebrated restaurant Scarpetta — and a rooftop bar called Charlie’s. Called Scarpetta NYC, the restaurant brings a bit of New York to the Eternal City with steaks from LDV’s other signature restaurant, American Cut. Inspired by the jazz clubs of East Harlem, Charlie’s greets guests getting off the elevator with a gallery wall of black-and-white photos of New York City and a playful neon sign that says, “Nothing but a good time Charlie." Thanks to its glass-walled enclosure, the rooftop bar can stay open all year-round, serving craft cocktails with panoramic views. There’s also a ground-floor bar called Anita’s as an homage to Anita Ekberg, the star of "La Dolce Vita."
As an American living in Rome and a huge Fellini fan, I decided to check in for a staycation, curious to see how the hotel will contribute to the street’s comeback. After indulging at Scarpetta and Charlie’s, I retreated to the peace and quiet of my junior suite. The understated design features arches inspired by ancient Roman architecture, crisp white walls, plush beds, and luxe bathrooms outfitted with Byredo bath products. The rooms come equipped with Illy espresso machines and minibars stocked with soft drinks and Italian wine.
“My approach for any of our projects is mainly to reuse and work around the existing features, so we walked in and yes, it was dark, it was old, it was dated in a way. It had never been refurbished, but the box was there with these beautiful gold ceilings and columns,” explains Veronica Givone of IA Architects, who designed the lobby, Anita’s Bar, the corridors, and the 160 rooms. It was important to her to keep as many historic elements as possible, including the grand marble staircase and gold coffered ceilings in the lobby. Rome-based American designer Anton Cristell is behind the luxe, colorful interiors of Scarpetta NYC and Charlie’s, the rooftop bar. The two collaborated to make the spaces flow, adding a bronze door from the lobby into the restaurant.
“Our name LDV Hospitality is a nod to ‘la dolce vita,’ a way of life that centered on the iconic Via Veneto in Rome,” Meadow explains, adding, “Both symbolic and fortuitous, opening Scarpetta in the InterContinental Ambasciatori Palace on this very street has been nothing short of a dream.”
There’s lots more coming to Via Veneto and the surrounding area, including a soon-to-open location of Ian Schrager’s Edition Hotels. Next year, Nobu and Rosewood will open hotels on Via Veneto, and Baccarat has taken over the historic Hotel Majestic with plans to open it in 2025. The opening of the InterContinental Ambasciatori Palace is an exciting start — whether the street will have a true renaissance remains to be seen.
Rooms at InterContinental Ambasciatori Palace start at $892 a night, and you can book at intercontinental.com.
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