Wrapping up a long stay in Rome, at the Marriott Grand Hotel Flora, just inside the city walls, and basically opposite the exquisite Villa Borghese. Yeah, yeah, it was a work trip, and my stop here was after the better part of a week in Mumbai (at the Four Seasons, and, frankly, that was quite nice), before which I was in Manila , where I stayed at Midas Hotel - and casino, although I never entered the casino (and, for the aviation geeks, I had brief stopovers, in Seoul, Bangkok, and Munich). And, yes, I missed TIPPLE 2 in my own back yard!!! In any event, I'm ready to be home again...
Anyway, while I ate a lot of (really) good food, I must say I've savored/enjoyed the food more in Tuscany (but, again, I'm not complaining, just comparing), Rome is history and tourist eye candy and more eye candy. Everyone's eye is different, but here's my favorite shot - this fella, guarding the Villa Borghese, pushed all of my buttons.
Of course, I took a peek at Piazza San Pietro (why we call it St. Peter's square, I dunno, because it's obviously a CIRCLE), and I admit I enjoyed the spectacle of the Vatican. Here's the Benediction Loggia (or "the balcony" from which the pope offers his first blessing to the city and the world ) at the Lateran Palace (of course or alas, without the pope or any of the red draperies or bunting that would normally wrap the columns and festoon the balcony).
It also pleased me to see the gendarms cruisin' (or doing crowd control) in style at the Vatican.
Yup, that's a low emissions BMW i3 (MSRP $45-50k) noiselessly rolling over the cobblestones in St. Peter's Square (which sure felt ROUND to me, but what do I know?). My sense is that it's not actually a Vatican police (Corps of Gendarmerie of Vatican City) vehicle; the coloring/livery suggests it's an Italian police car, which makes sense since they also have two Lamborghini Huracans in the motor pool...
And then, of course, among so many other things, there's the Colosseum. Oh my...
And, turn your head, and there's the arch, and the arch is stunning!!!
There's just so much detail - OK, here's an example:
Oh, and, of course, there's a rose garden too ... and not just any rose garden.
But I digress. But come back with me to the Villa Borghese. It's a totally different animal than, say, NYC's Central Park or London's Hyde Park or Munich's English Gardens... There's so much eye candy... OK, one more that I really liked was this one:
It's (literally) the kind of place where, even the REPRODUCTION POND ORNAMENTS are stunning - seriously, don't take my word for it (check out this modern reproduction in the boating pond):
And it's not just in the park ... it's everywhere ... you can't walk more than a block or two, and then ... well ... there's not room in this post for the sights on every corner, and don't miss the little things ... you could (easily) produce a coffee table book focusing exclusively on doors, windows, door knockers (frankly, I think this would be a splendid book), or other ornaments ... it's outrageous....
and that's true in the city and at the Vatican ... where a clock atop the building is not just a clock, and bell not just a bell...
and, well I could go on... but ... since everyone (and I mean everyone) loves the Trevi fountain - OK, it's a legitimate tourist attraction madhouse, a scene of mayhem and chaos but, well, when you see it, you can kind of understand...
For experienced Rome travelers, I did happen upon (professionally) one hidden gem - if you can finagle your way in, it's worth checking out the exquisite Center for American Studies - a truly remarkable building (with a stunning library and research center) - here's the ceiling (only a phone pic) in the large conference room:
The interior courtyard was heavily populated with very impressive busts - and look carefully at the bottom right - that's a piano tuner preparing for the concert/recital they were setting up for that evening in the courtyard:
Tip of the iceberg on the incredible collection of busts:
and a view from the opposite side of the balcony:
Anyway, you get the idea - the place was exquisite!!!!
As for Marriott Grand Flora, I leave with mixed feelings. There were many positives:
- The location was superb (for me) - convenient to (directly across the street from) the METRO, which I used regularly, next to the Villa Borghese, a long (but do-able) walk from the Termini (train station), surrounded by restaurants, gelato and coffee bars, etc.;
- The breakfast ... ah, the roof top breakfast room (and balcony) ... mere words ... nah, forget words, check out the view from the balcony, overlooking the Villa Borghese and the city walls - only a phone pic, but you get the idea;
- polite and professional staff;
- comfortable, attractive room (but no upgrade);
- pillow menu - you can ask at the front desk for (very nice) large, foam pillows;
- turn down service nightly, with a (really, really yummy) chocolate treat on the bed...
- nice (full size) umbrellas readily available from the front door staff (who are polite and professional);
- satisfactory gym (but ... for folks who use exercise bikes ... no pedal straps ... ah, well, nothing like turning an expensive piece of equipment into a decoration ... bizarre); and
- special bonus - my points (and it was a lot of points) posted within 24 hours!!!
On a less positive note:
- objectively substandard internet/wireless.Really? In this day and age? At a hotel this expensive (in a major, metropolitan center in a European city)? You can't provide consistent, reliable internet? ...
- And you compound it by using customized complex usernames AND passwords(not the guest's name, not the guest's room number, not something than a normal person could memorize) - so every time you get booted out, you have to log in again with a 14-character username and 4-digit alphanumeric password - just to be reminded that it's a bigger irritant than necessary???
- It's hard to explain how irritating this is - particularly for a long stay (when you're trying to get work done). Inexplicable (and, to my mind, inexcusable); and
- No concierge lounge, and no place to get (for example) an evening snack or (non-instant) cup of coffee or a bottle of mineral water in the hotel (other than the (very) expensive restaurant/bar) - if there's a vending machine in the hotel, I didn't find it;
- Ah, the toiletries ... not my cup of tea ... but, alas, high on my peeve list (and increasingly irritating over the course of a week) are (admittedly attractive) little shampoo (and bath gel and conditioner) two-piece bottles that (1) are difficult to open/close when your hands are wet and (2) difficult/slow to pour, so that 50 percent of the product remains in the bottle, generating incalculable amounts of unnecessary waste. Frustrating, yes, but not nearly on the scale of lousy internet service.
Still - on location alone, I might return to this hotel, but, next year (after the merger), I expect I'll take a good hard look at the St. Regis (closer to the Termini - train station) or the Westin Excelsior.
And, once again, my apologies for missing out on TIPPLE 2 - I hope my Insiders colleagues - bejacob, brightlybob, communitymanagers, erc, iahflyr, nationwide, razorbackfan, vaboywnder - and so many others (sorry, I didn't memorize the guest list) - will accept this photographic token as a penance for my absence..... NEXT TIME!!!