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Hotel Raphael
Photos, history, design, architecture, hotel review
Article added on March 15, 2007

Hotel Raphael in Rome

Rome is rich in luxury hotels. Hotel Raphael is a fine example of this. The hotel's location is depicted in a Vatican Museum fresco, which shows the quiet side street Largo Febo already in existence in the sixteenth century, with today's urban structure and its ad imbuto form. Hotel Raphael is situated in the heart of Rome's Renaissance district, just one street away from Piazza Navona.

The hotel founder, Spartaco Vannoni, was born in Florence in 1922. From 1954 to 1963, he restored the historical building, executing a complete reconstruction of the interior spaces, while retaining the 18th century façade, which is a designated national monument. Hotel Raphaël opened in 1963.

Unfortunately, Spartaco Vannoni died prematurely in 1980. Subsequently, his son, Roberto E. Vannoni, took over the hotel, which became famous as the headquarters of the Italian Socialist Party chief and Prime Minister (1983-87) Bettino Craxi. He had his private flat next to the roof terrace, with a private elevator. Craxi stumbled over the corruption and party finance scandal Tangentopoli and, in the context of the anti-corruption investigation and operation by Italian judges called Mani Pulite, he fled to his self-chosen exile in Tunisia, where he died in 2000.

In the early 2000s, Roberto E. Vannoni decided to update the structure and the design of Hotel Raphael. He also introduced a new hotel logo, an "R" inspired by the tradition of epigraphs inscribed on stone, on metal and ceramics. The "R" stands for Raphaël, Rome, Renewal and Restaurant.

In addition to Italian antiquities, many ceramics by Pablo Picasso are on display in the public areas. Therefore, the restaurant with its able French chef Jean-François Daridon is named Relais Picasso. The chef's wife, the ceramic artist Franca Vit, created the bottom plates for the restaurant inspired by Picasso.

Art is very present at Hotel Raphael, especially in the public spaces on the ground floor. In addition to ceramics by Picasso, guests enjoy for instance the display of six leather panels with pastoral or shepherd scenes from a séparée of the late 16th century, two 15th century Carrara marble statues which once decorated the villas of Roman noblemen and two stone statues from the Middle Ages, one from a church representing the hand of Fatima, which served as the container for holy water, the other a fragment of a female statue from a burial chapel.

Rooms designed by Richard Meier

I already stayed twice in Hotel Raphael, once in one of the two top floor suites and once in the Deluxe Executive Room 302 designed by the American architect Richard Meier, who is also the creator of the glass cover of Rome's museum Ara Pacis Augustae, the peace altar of Emperor Augustus created 9 BC, which was inaugurated on April 21, 2006. It was commissioned by the city administration without a competition, creating many heated debates during its seven years of construction, and cost a total of sixteen million Euros, five million over the budget, because higher glass walls, a sound absorbing ceiling and an extra travertine cover were needed. The museum project is not finished yet; an auditorium, a 250 m long underpass of the main road, a roof garden and a fountain are planned too, for a total of thirty-five million Euros.

In 2004, the Pritzker Architecture Prize winner Richard Meier - best-known for the Getty Center in Los Angeles - began to implement his design vision created for Hotel Raphael, trying to preserve the charm and authenticity of the building, while adapting the interior spaces to the needs and the technology of the 21st century.

The third floor was already completed in 2006. The design is puristic, and the rooms are equipped with large flat screen Philips TVs, a Bose entertainment system with a CD/DVD player and a radio. My favorite were the Sky TV channels which offer live Italian and international soccer. The furniture and the floors are in oak wood. Satin, Carrara Statuario marble and transparent glass are used in the bathrooms. This constitutes a break with the older, traditional cosy rooms.

At Hotel Raphael, Richard Meier's reference to his model is the use of chairs and a canapé designed by Le Corbusier (the famous LC2). The colors of the walls in the rooms are in pastel yellow-green and brown-beige, in the common areas in the lobby and on the third floor in "Swiss Coffee", a pastel color between white and beige. The (night table) lamps are Meier 8 FMS. Tempur beds and Simmons mattresses complete the picture. Free broadband internet is available throughout the hotel.

Richard Meier acknowledges to be primarily influenced by the architects Le Corbusier, Alvar Aalto, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Louis I. Kahn and Frank Lloyd Wright. Collage is important to him as a formal exercise. In her book about Richard Meier (get it from, Dana Hutt states: "Central to Meier's abstraction is the use of light as a material." This includes both natural and artificial light. Purity and clarity dominate his concept of space, form and light. Meier himself says: "My goal is presence, not illusion."

The roof top terrace Bramante

One of the best selling points of Hotel Raphael, in addition to the location and service, is its roof terrace Bramante. From March/April to September/October, you can enjoy a 360 degrees panoramic view of the eternal city, together with a glass of Prosecco, a lunch or dinner. Incidentally, even on February 13, 2005 it was sunny enough for the roof terrace to be open around noon.

From the roof top terrace the breathtaking view ranges from St. Peter's to the Castel Sant'Angelo, from the Tiber to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Piazza Venezia, from the Pantheon to San Luigi dei Francesi, from Palazzo Quirinale to Piazza di Spagna.

The roof top terrace is named after Donato d'Angelo Lazzari, better known as Bramante (1444-1514). This Renaissance painter, engineer and architect built the Cloister of Santa Maria della Pace, which is situated just next to Hotel Raphael. In this Chiostro del Bramante, notable exhibitions take place, for instance in 2005 there was one with 200 works by the Italian Impressionist Giuseppe DeNittis. Among Bramante's other important works are Rome's Tempietto di San Pietro in Monitorio and Milan's Christ at the Column in the Brera Gallery.

One street away from Piazza Navona

The 2000-year old Piazzo Navona - or Circus Agonale - traces the shape of the
Stadium of Domitian, which once occupied the piazza and held up to 30,000 spectators. The square unites artworks and architecture ranging from the Antiquity to the Middle Ages, Renaissance and Baroque. Three fountains decorate the square. At the center of Piazza Navona is the Fountain of the Four Rivers (Fontana dei Fiumi) by Gian Lorenzo Bernini, created from 1548 to 1651. Bernini designed the Baroque fountain as the base for the Egyptian obelisk which was brought here from the Circus of Maxentius. The four marble figures represent the Nile, the Danube, the Ganges and the Rio de la Plata.

Around 1650, Piazza Navona was the artstic-architectural battleground between the Bernini from Naples and Borromini from Bissone (today part of Switzerland), who unscrupulously fought for papal commissions. Borromini, a former assistant to Bernini, recreated both the façade and the interior of the Basilica San Agnese in Agone at Piazza Navona.

Unfortunately, after the death of Pope Innozenz X, Borromini fell out of papal favor and, as the loser in the battle with Bernini, killed himself in 1667. Today, with his
return to the Hellenistic and Roman antiquity, Borromini, together with his rival Bernini and with Pietro da Cortona, is considered one of the representatives of Roman Baroque.

On the south side of Piazza Navona is the Fountain of the Moor, designed by Giacomo della Porta between 1571 and 1576. His statues of tritons and masks were later moved to the Giardino del Lago in the Villa Borghese. The present day statues on the fountain are 19th century copies. The name of the fountain derives from the statue of the Moor added by Bernini in the 17th century.

At the north end of Piazza Navona is the Fountain of the Calderari - coppersmiths, who had their workshops in the area - completed only in the 19th century. Here too, some of the original fountain statues were lost.

The Baroque church of Sant'Agnese in Agone is a work by G. Rinaldi and Borromini. It was built on the site where, according to the legend, the virgin was stripped naked before being martyred, and miraculously hair grew to cover her body.

Hotel Raphael Rome in short

In short, Hotel Raphael in Rome offers ancient culture, 20th century art and contemporary design, culinary highlights, attention to service and an oasis of peace in the heart of Italy's busy capital flooded with ordinary Romans, businessmen, politicians, tourists and pilgrims.

he historical façade covered with bougainvillea and ivy. Photo © Hotel Raphael Rome.

A new room by Richard Meier, where I stayed in 2006. Photo © Hotel Raphael, Rome.

A stylish new bathroom by Richard Meier with statuary Carrara marble, two basins, a bathtub, a separate double shower and Bulgari amenities. Photo © Hotel Raphael, Rome.

View of the suite with terrace where I stayed in 2005. My favorite were the Sky TV channels which offer live Italian and international soccer.. Photo © Hotel Raphael, Rome.

The hotel's roof top terrace Bramante. Photo © Hotel Raphael, Rome.
Deutsch Politik Geschichte Kunst Film Musik Lebensart Reisen
English Politics History Art Film Music Lifestyle Travel
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© Copyright  Louis Gerber  All rights reserved.