From the Hideaway Report
May 2011 Hideaway Report
Located in the heart of Rome just five minutes' walk from the Pantheon, the Casa Manni is housed on the top floor of a 17th-century palazzo. Created in 2009 by filmmaker and olive oil producer Armando Manni, it is an exceptionally attractive, full-service 900-square-foot penthouse apartment, comprising a living room, bedroom, full kitchen and terrace.
Even before arriving at its large green doors, we had enjoyed a long relationship with the property. Within days of our making a reservation, a list of favored restaurants and possible tours had arrived, along with other suggested "Experiences." These included an olive oil tasting with Manni himself — his organic Tuscan oil is regularly rated among the best in the world — treatments at Rome's chicest day spa, a guided shopping tour, a pasta-making lesson and an at-home dinner cooked by a top Roman chef. In addition, we were offered a choice of bedding, plus a list of wines from Manni's private cellar that could be stocked prior to our arrival. This impressively detailed correspondence was initiated by American Maureen Fant, Casa Manni's "Experiences" manager, who doubles as a Rome-based writer for The New York Times.
On our arrival, Cristina Cellini, the delightful house manager, was waiting to welcome us and to escort us upstairs. Having showed us how to work the various electronic gadgets, including the remarkably well-equipped kitchen complete with washer/dryer, she went over the itineraries and restaurant reservations we had requested. She also provided us with the cell phone numbers and email addresses of the four principal staff members.
Created by acclaimed New York-based interior architect and designer Adam Tihany, whose many projects include Per Se in Manhattan and the new Heston Blumenthal restaurant at London's Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, the apartment is an imaginative blend of contemporary and traditional Roman design. Set on a travertine floor, a brocade sofa was draped with a Pratesi oyster-colored cashmere throw that Mrs. Harper instantly fell in love with — be warned, it costs as much as a small car — facing a coffee table on which a silver tray came stocked with a 15-year-old Dalwhinnie single malt and a sublime Santa Teresa 1796 Ron Antiguo de Solera rum from Venezuela. The walls were adorned with an appealing mixture of traditional oil paintings and modern art. And an adjacent dining area featured a glass-topped table, handsome Biedermeier-style chairs and a vase of fresh roses.
The kitchen offered every possible implement necessary to prepare the most ambitious of meals. And the fridge came stocked with mineral water, milk, prosciutto, eggs and other basic provisions. We also discovered an espresso maker, an ice machine, a full service of La Tavola white bone china, Sambonet tableware, Riedel stemware, a box of superb black truffle-flavored Caponi tagliolini and a tempting (if pricey) selection of wines, including a bottle of wonderful 1990 Castel Giocondo Brunello Riserva.
A hallway with spacious built-in closets led to the well-lit marble-clad bath, where a mosaic-lined stall shower provided a splendid view of the second-century Column of Marcus Aurelius. We appreciated both the Pratesi towels and organic Tuscan toiletries, but regretted the absence of a bathtub.
The bedroom came with a cathedral ceiling, a writing desk and a bed made up with Pratesi sheets, as well as the pillows we had pre-selected. French doors led to an ivy-covered and lavender-planted terrace, which afforded views over the terra-cotta-tiled rooftops of Rome. On a warm evening, we sat outside to sample the "reasonably priced and good-value" Italian white wine I had asked Armando Manni to choose for us from his private cellar.
He had selected a delicious St. Michael Eppan Sanct Valentin 2003 Sauvignon from the Südtirol district of the Alto Adige, and we sipped it appreciatively as swallows streaked across a rose-pink sky. During our stay, we also took breakfast on the terrace, where coffee and freshly baked croissants were delivered to us each morning.
Both of the excursions that the "Experiences" team arranged for us were outstanding. One afternoon we had a guided tour of the Vatican Museums, and the following day we made a trip by private car to Hadrian's Villa and the Tivoli gardens. Our guide was the utterly charming Paolo Lenzi, a trained archaeologist who speaks perfect English. Extremely comfortable, quiet and attractive the Casa Manni may be, but it was these curated experiences, plus access to the property's "black book" of Rome's best shops and restaurants, that made our stay so delightful.
Casa Manni provides a magical experience for sophisticated independent travelers, but might not suit those who need 24-hour room service or the convenience of an in-house laundry. On the other hand, if you've always wanted to live like a real Roman and quite like the idea of rustling up a meal on your own after a tour through one of the city's wonderful markets, you'll be very happy here indeed.
Suite, from $1,360 (lower midweek rates available).
Rates include daily breakfast selections, selected snacks and Wi-Fi.
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