Rome's Empire Palace meshes old with the new

ROME -- Rome has plenty of hotels with traditional furnishings and decor.

But a new hotel, the Empire Palace, is one of the few that combines traditional Roman style with artistic modern elements.

The hotel's neo-Gothic building was constructed in 1870 as the Roman residence of a noble Venetian family.

It originally contained 25 apartments plus a warehouse, carriage shelter and stables.

One year of work has converted the building into a 115-room hotel, which opened in September 1999.

Located a few blocks from the Via Veneto, a cafe-lined thoroughfare where tourists congregate, it offers modern comforts in a quiet part of the city.

The hotel's renovation incorporates contemporary works of art amid Old World elegance.

The hotel's public spaces feature an astral theme, with the ceiling of the vaulted reception area painted a deep blue.

Golden metal suns hang in the reception lounge area.

Venetian glass sconces provide lighting throughout the public areas.

Beyond the lounge is the American Bar, set in what had once been the building's stables.

Indirect lighting creates a soothing atmosphere to relax on one of the high-back sofas originally designed by architect Philippe Starck for the Metropolitan Hotel in New York.

The restaurant Aureliana is small and elegant, with a menu that changes with the seasons.

The restaurant also features an extensive wine selection.

During warm weather, the restaurant serves meals in the inside courtyard of the building, which is marked by a marble fountain.

Aureliana also serves an extensive buffet breakfast each morning.

The hotel has a small but well-equipped gym.

The 110 guest rooms and five junior suites are furnished with pieces in light cherry wood.

All rooms have data ports for Internet access and are equipped with satellite TV, a minibar, a safe and a hair dryer.

The hotel has a conference room that seats up to 50 people.

By the end of this year, two additional conference rooms will be opened next to the roof garden.

The hotel offers meetings packages for gatherings of a minimum of 10 people.

The Empire Palace is a member of the Charming Hotels and TOP International Hotels, bookable through all the CRSs.

Rates begin at approximately $205, double.

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