Rome Travel Guide

Rome Architecture, History, Art, Museums, Galleries, Fashion, Music, Photos, Walking and Hiking Itineraries, Neighborhoods, News and Social Commentary, Politics, Things to Do in Rome and Environs. Over 900 posts

Friday, July 2, 2010

Albergo Mediterraneo and Radisson BLU: Two Rooftop Bars and a Walk on the Wild Side

For our penultimate evening in Rome, we imagined ascending to the roofs of two of Rome’s fanciest hotels, to enjoy a glass of wine and the views, provided the rooftop bars were there and open. Hoping to impress desk clerks, bellhops, and others we thought might keep us out, we dressed up: no jeans (Dianne removed hers [they were under her skirt], rather awkwardly, between scooters, and with a bunch of guys standing around talking on cell phones paying no attention), Bill in black sport coat (but with scuffed brown shoes that for Italians marked him as a pretender to elite status).

The first stop: Albergo Mediterraneo, on via Cavour (#15) near Termini. We’d seen the striking lobby a few days before, with its sign for a rooftop bar. We took the elevator to the 10th floor, asked if the bar was available to the public for a glass of wine (it was) and were seated at one of 12 cloth-covered tables. We ordered a glass of Frascati for E5 (it was small) and a bottle of water for E2 and enjoyed the peanuts and pretzel mix that came with the drinks. Of the four occupied tables, one had 8 Asians (probably Chinese), another 5 Brits including a guy in shorts--so much for the dress code--and a third a lone black man having two beers. Later, a very tall white guy with freshly-washed, shoulder-length hair showed up.

It’s a pleasant and intimate space. One side, toward Termini station, is dense with potted plants, there to obstruct a view of the air conditioning equipment on the tall building next door. The view opens up on the south and west (where the sun was going down as we sipped), and it is expansive if not particularly compelling or romantic, though the Coliseum, the monument to Vittorio Emanuele II, and St. Peter’s are all visible, albeit not close enough to inspire. At the west end there’s a gate leading to a metal deck that could be a fire escape. You can open the gate and use the deck, as we did.

Our second stop was the Radisson BLU, only about 7 blocks away, on the same side of the station, at via Filippo Turati, 171--a straight shot, we thought. After 10 minutes on the scooter amid the area’s one-way streets and construction projects, we decided that the Radisson was unreachable by motor vehicle, and we parked several blocks away, in a dimly lit area that made me glad I had brought my fake billfold, and walked along the forbidding, impenetrable sides of the hotel, searching for what turned out to be its only convivial entrance: on via Turati. To the left as we entered were the remains of a Roman road, and ahead the main desk (see photo),
assembled from canvas and wire, and lit from behind; a set for the next Bond film.

We used the mirrored elevator to mitigate the frazzled “helmet hair” look and found ourselves on an enormous deck—inside, outside, a pool and all, wooden slats, high modernist fixtures—that we shared for an hour with a gathering of Merck Italia employees and their spouses and few of their children, nuzzling up to mommy after a long day on the tour bus. We thought about joining Merck's food line and thought better of the idea, for fear of getting caught. But thanks to Merck, we were entertained by a single sax player doing the American songbook. Again thanks to Merck, the service was lousy, but we passed the time walking the long perimeter, which on one side looked down on the train platforms and over at the delicious modernist towers that mark the end of the station and the entrance to San Lorenzo.
We would call the views intriguing rather than exceptional, but we loved the space and the feel of the place, and the restrooms were nice, too (don't miss our Best Restrooms post, coming up). All the wines by the glass are E8, with chips and those dry, slightly salty donut-shaped cracker/cookies that only Italians can appreciate. Despite the cookies, we recommend the rooftop bar at the Radisson BLU. But take a taxi.


1 comment:

Eleonora Baldwin said...

I'm assuming the donut crackers were taralli, which if improperly stored can become quite easily stale and cement-like in texture when chewed on.

Is the BLU what used to be the ES hotel on via Turati? I swore never to set foot there again after paying E6 for a rather bland espresso. At the counter.

The Mediterraneo sounds nice.

Aglio, Olio e