When in Rome with Pets

Kick back on Karl Lagerfeld’s couch at Rome Cavalieri!

By Si Si Penaloza

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Ah, Rome Cavalieri Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts. We hear Leo himself loves to stay here. After all, where else could the world’s most celebrated bachelor/actor take up residence in a Penthouse Suite sumptuously appointed with a gorgeous sofa once graced by the world’s most pampered feline? We’re talking Choupette here. This $16,000-a-night Penthouse Suite is spread over two floors and features original Andy Warhol paintings, Swarovski crystal fittings, private wine cellar and a sofa originally commissioned for Karl Lagerfeld’s Parisian home. We imagine Choupette spent many an afternoon sunbathing on this divine, Sauterne-hued gem. The ultimate cool factor comes courtesy of a hidden staircase that leads to a secret glass ceiling. And with the push of a button, it all slides open 007 style to reveal a private roof terrace with solarium, Jacuzzi and view of St Peter’s iconic dome.

Nestled within a 15 acre private park on the hill of Monte Mario, with sweeping views over Vatican City, this five-star hotel has welcomed a steady stream of celebrity guests to the Eternal City, including Fred Astaire, Marcello Mastroianni, John Travolta, and George Clooney, alongside heads of state and royalty. The best story goes, Julia Roberts visited the hotel for a meeting while filming Eat, Pray, Love. Utterly spellbound, the Oscar winner swiftly moved her family from a private villa into the hotel that very same day to stay for the month-long shoot. And we don’t blame her. I mean, there’s even a pillow menu with over 15 options. Other welcome touches include a nightly turn-down service and luxe toiletries from Salvatore Ferragamo.

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Italians can be funny when it comes to dogs. Not as doting as the French, and not as frisky as the Spanish, Romans seem to keep pets in their proper place, at the foot of the family table (perhaps with a scrap or two of pancetta for good behavior). So it comes as no surprise that it’s hard to find an upscale hotel in Rome with a North American attitude towards our furry friends. We should know, we’ve searched far and wide.

But all that changes at Rome Cavalieri. They see no reason to banish beloved pets to the kennels just because you want to spend a few nights in a luxury Rome hotel. Not only is your small canine companion most welcome, but they’ll be treated in style with the Rome Cavalieri’s VIP (Very Important Pet) service. Imagine special doggy menus offering a variety of dining options including tuna, game and a healthy rice, meat and vegetable soup.

Personalized cashmere doggy jumpers can be ordered with your pet’s name spelled out in rhinestones. Sprawling acres of parkland offer plenty of room to roam. Should you be busy with sightseeing or shopping, there is a dog-walking service as well as a dog-sitting service. While you indulge in the award-winning Grand Spa, the hotel’s pet staff can accompany your pet to an appointment at La Domus Aventina. This nearby doggy spa specializes in shampooing, massage, skin treatments and stylish blow-outs. How perfectly civilized.

This is the pinnacle of doggie decadence, designed for travelers whose pampered pets demand the best. Furry guests at Rome Cavalieri can enjoy a full day of spa treatments, customized cashmere Dog Haute Couture and a four-course meal artfully served on red, Gucci-designed serving dishes. Other drool-worthy amenities? Think doggy bathrobes, an escorted fitness run, and an Aloe Vera massage.

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General Manager, Alessandro Cabella, says the program was born out of an earnest attempt to exceed the demands of the hotel’s dog-loving guests: “Our guests who frequently travel consider their pets members of the family. We go to great lengths to make our visitors feel comfortable and cared for; it follows that we would extend this service to all who stay with us.”

The Rome Cavalieri has a spectacular private art collection dating from the 17th century including paintings, tapestries, statues and period furniture. They are mighty proud of it, so borrow an iPod from the concierge with a preloaded podcast and tour the treasures on your own. In the main lobby, admire three works by Giovanni Battista Tiepolo and a rare 1725 Beauvais Tapestry. Antiques and fine art fill the hallways – oh look Nureyev’s ballet costumes in shadow boxes! Then, at the next turn, a Robert Indiana series. It doesn’t get better than this for an art aficionado. Indeed, the hotel has one of the largest private art collections in the world, anchored by magnificent and massive (not to mention priceless) Tiepolos.

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For a culinary epiphany to remember, book in to dine at La Pergola where German chef, Heinz Beck, runs the only three Michelin-star restaurant in Rome. Admire the enviable views while feasting on Fagottelli La Pergola – basically handmade pasta flavor bombs. We hear First Lady Michelle Obama loved this Beck specialty so much during the 2009 G8 Summit she requested the recipe and the restaurant happily obliged. We imagine the delegates also enjoyed tapping the hotel’s legendary 53,000-bottle wine cellar.

If you’re not staying here but want a taste of la dolce vita, join in-the-know locals who flock to Sunday brunch at the poolside L’Uliveto restaurant. The buffet offers roast meats carved to order, platters of beef carpaccio, langoustine when in season, and balls upon balls of tender burrata. It’s a top people-watching spot in Rome and best of all, includes use of the pool in the price.

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