Vistiing Rome can be a tricky experience during the summer, when temperatures can rise into the 90s and the baking heat of the city’s concrete and stone sidewalks and streets creates a dry, brick-oven effect. When we docked in Civitavecchia the day after our visit to Sarande, however, we were encouraged by an early morning breeze that wafted over the Crystal Serenity’s decks. Because we’d already been to Rome several times over the past two years, we’d decided to take Crystal’s roundtrip motorcoach transport into the city and enjoy the day on our own.
Note: For those clients who have not been to Rome, insist they sign up for a shore excursion that treats them to an overview of the city. On our first visit to the Eternal City two years ago, we wandered around the hot city streets in search of some, in fact, any, attractions of note, to no avail. Last year, while on a tour with Adventures by Disney, our group enjoyed an entire day with a guide who showed us nearly everything of note, from the Colosseum to the Pantheon, to the Spanish Steps to the Via Veneto. We even visited the area around the Vatican and managed to have some pizza, Chianti and gelato along the way.
Crystal’s roundtrip motorcoach transfer to Rome took a little more than an hour and left us at the Piazzo del Popolo. Along the way, we enjoyed the narration of an experienced guide, who filled us in on the ins and outs of our destinations and, when we arrived, we were delighted to find that our drop-off destination put us close to many of the city’s main attractions. In fact, one of the Piazza’s main arteries, Via del Babuino, led straight to the Spanish Steps. Along the way, we were able to peek in at some of the city’s most fashionable couture shops. After paying homage to this major Roman attraction, which is also very close to several of the city’s most famous shopping streets, we continued along our way and gave a nod to the Trevi Fountain, which was teeming with large groups from all over the world, and wandered down a shady street that was lined with cafes. Upon emerging from the shade we were amazed to find ourselves at the Pantheon.
Le Jardin de Russie restaurant at the Hotel de Russie
Even though our past, comprehensive visits to Rome had allowed us on this trip to simply wander, we did have an appointment, and that was to visit the Hotel de Russie, a Rocco Forte hotel. Amazingly, this luxury hotel is located at Via del Babuino 9, just steps away from Piazza del Popolo and from the location where we were to meet our group leader at 4 p.m. Since our reservation at the hotel’s famed Le Jardin de Russie restaurant was for 1 p.m., we had several hours to enjoy some of the best cuisine we’d ever enjoyed– which says a lot considering we were on a Crystal Cruise, where the quality level of the food is extremely high.
We dined al fresco at the restaurant, which is now overseen by Michelin-starred Chef Fulvio Pierangelini, who is famous for his work at his seafood restaurant, Il Gambero Rosso in San Vincenzo in Livorno. We spent several hours enjoying views of the hotel’s charming terraced gardens, with the focal point being a beautiful fountain elegantly spewing water upwards into the hot Roman sunshine. We even spotted a big brown duck and her ducklings ambling around in the distance.
Note: Advise your clients to ask their head waiter to select wines to accompany each course; they’ll be more than delighted. Our multi-course extravaganza was highlighted by our sea bass entrée, followed by a dessert of “traditional baba with Chantilly and wild strawberries.” While these two selections were extremely special, we have to admit we were overwhelmed with the amazing quality of a most simple first course of spaghetti with tomato and basil. When you’re in the presence of experts, there’s no such thing as average food.
The highlight of our visit to Hotel de Russie was a chance to catch up with General Manager Elena Bruno, who is one of the most dynamic hotel executives we’ve ever met. Having met her in New York on past occasions, we were more than delighted to see her on her own territory, where she has the responsibility of running of Rome’s top hotels. We also met with Dedy Ferrari Clerici, who handles public relations for both the Hotel de Russie and Hotel Savoy in Florence, yet another member of the Rocco Forte Collection.
Through sheer serendipity, we realized that guests aboard the Crystal Serenity would be well served if they reserved a seat at Le Jardin during their day in the city. They can sit and dine in one of Rome’s top restaurants and be close to their eventual meeting place when it's time to return to the ship.