WHAT'S IT LIKE? Formerly the headquarters of Dresdner Bank and subsequently the home of the Central Bank of the Democratic Republic from 1945 until the country's reunification, the Hotel de Rome is a heavyweight addition to Berlin's luxury hotel market, in every sense of the word. Thick stone walls and seemingly immovable wooden doors give the hotel an imperious feel that extends to the solid-looking interiors and steel-inspired furniture in the bedrooms. At first sight it can seem a touch soulless, although Sir Rocco and co have done their best to warm things up with dozens of red candles lit in the central feature of the foyer during the evening, surrounded by four huge curved black sofas. The hotel's somewhat confusing name is taken from the city's first luxury hotel of the same name, located a couple of blocks away during the 19th century.
WHERE IS IT? Hotel de Rome is situated squarely in the former East Berlin overlooking the Bebelplatz, the site of the infamous book burnings of 1933 where more than 20,000 "un-German" tomes by the likes of Karl Marx and Hemmingway were piled into a huge bonfire by the Nazis. Now an attractive square which is also the location of the distinctively green-domed Deutsche Staatsoper (Berlin's state opera house), Humboldt University and St Hedwig's cathedral, Bebelplatz's significance in history has not been forgotten, with a glass paving slab in the middle of the square revealing an empty bookcase below. The bustling Unter den Linden on the far side of the square leads straight down to the Brandenburg Gate and the Reichstag.
HOW MANY ROOMS? 146 rooms, of which 72 are classic, 29 deluxe, 32 junior suites, nine executive suites, three deluxe suites and one presidential suite.
ROOM FACILITIES As with other recent additions to the Rocco Forte brand (see Business Traveller's review of Frankfurt's Villa Kennedy, May 2006), the in-room facilities are top class, with flatscreen interactive TVs from which you can access music and movie libraries as well as a city guide and details of the hotel's services, a comfortable bed with thick Italian linen, large desk with wired internet access (although no wifi due to the thickness of the walls – this is available in the hotel's public and meeting areas), laptop safe, two telephones, minibar and striking steel and wood furniture. Colour schemes in the rooms are either "Pompeii red", "dove blue" or the somewhat unfairly named "mud beige". The bathrooms are equally impressive, with large walk-in showers and mosaic walls around the baths. My room was on the second floor overlooking the opera house, and was bright with high ceilings – due to the former nature of the building not all of the rooms are a standard size or height, but classic rooms start at 38 sqm and deluxe at 40 sqm. Also worth a mention are the historic suites, one of which is decked out in original wood panelling, while another bears the scars of bullet marks from the Second World War.
RESTAURANTS AND BARS The hotel's Bebel bar had a lot to live up to after Villa Kennedy's superb JFK bar, and while comfortable and welcoming it didn't quite have the cosy buzz of its Frankfurt counterpart – having said that, the signature Berry Virginia cocktail was wonderful. Parioli restaurant serves high-quality Italian fare, and there is also the Opera Court lounge area just beyond the main foyer where afternoon tea is served.
BUSINESS AND MEETING FACILITIES Five meeting rooms with capacities ranging from 14 boardroom-style up to 80 theatre-style, along with the impressive double-heighted ballroom (formally the bank's two-storey cashier hall), which can hold up to 220 for a reception. This room features the original mosaic floor and replica chandeliers – all rooms have wifi internet access and air conditioning, and several have LCD projection screens. There is also a small business centre located by the concierge.
LEISURE FACILITIES Fantastic as usual – Sir Rocco's healthy outlook means leisure facilities are always high on his agenda. The 20-metre swimming pool is housed in the former jewel vault of the bank, a fact which inspired the myriad of coloured glass mosaic pieces shimmering under the water. Add to this a Finnish sauna and steam room, well-equipped gym, and five spa treatment rooms, and you can see why the leisure facilities are a big draw for Forte guests.
VERDICT Great location, comfortable rooms, good food and impressive leisure facilities – Hotel de Rome has all the attributes a business traveller could want in a five-star hotel. For me it doesn't quite hit the heights of the group's last opening, but it's a worthy addition to this growing brand – next stop Munich this summer.
PRICES Flexible rates for a midweek stay in mid April start from €250, room only.
CONTACT Hotel de Rome, Behrenstrasse 37, 10117 Berlin, tel +49 30 460 60 90, roccofortehotels.com.