Senior editor Felicity Long visited the Hotel Hassler in Rome. Her report follows:

ROME -- Clients swayed by first impressions will probably find the swank Hotel Hassler to their liking. What's not to like?

Situated at the top of Rome's famous Spanish Steps, the hotel boasts what could be the best location in Rome, picture-postcard views and elegant rooms filled with original antiques and art.

Hotel HasslerDuring a recent visit, we arrived in the late afternoon after a dizzying 10-hour tour of the Eternal City.

It was with relief, after such a day, to wind our way via taxi up the narrow Via Sistina toward the serenity of the hotel.

The air of calm that the Hassler exudes is surprising considering that it is in such a popular spot.

For those unfamiliar with the city, the Spanish Steps comprise a steep staircase connecting the Piazza di Spagna to the Trinita dei Monti church high above.

Throngs of tourists and locals sit on the steps or at the fountain in the square, especially on sunny days, or climb to the top to catch the view of the city below.

The Hassler sits directly adjacent to the church, which overlooks the crowded scene.

The streets leading to the property are small and winding and boast pricey boutiques and antique shops.

Once inside, the five-star hotel presents an Old World charm replete with uniformed doormen, gilt mirrors, gleaming wood and sepia paintings and maps on the walls.

Actually, the doormen turned out to be a blessing as we discovered later while trying to hail a taxi.

There are simply not enough taxis to go around in Rome, and we found the hotel staff fearless and aggressive in their efforts to snare one for us. At one point, we had four staff members in the narrow street in front of the hotel, one on a cell phone angrily calling the cab company, one on a moped preparing to speed down the hill to find a taxi at a stand below and two in the street waving and blowing whistles with abandon.

Needless to say, they were successful, leaving other hopefuls in the dust with their expertise.

The service inside is equally attentive, with cleaning staff all but curtsying when guests pass them as they furiously polish brass fixtures in the halls.

Our room was pretty fancy, offering a view of the city that included St. Peter's famous dome, which is lighted at night in the summer months.

We had two bathrooms, a sitting room and hand-painted murals depicting scenes from the Tuscan countryside.

In all, there are 85 rooms, 23 deluxe suites and two presidential suites.

The public rooms include a tea room; five elegant conference rooms; the Hassler Bar, which is used in the winter, and the beautiful Palm Court garden, offering open-air bar service in the warmer months.

The garden is notable for ancient artifacts that were uncovered over the years during ongoing renovations and that decorate the walls of the courtyard.

From the garden, I also heard the voices of small children coming from the windows of the Sacred Heart school next door.

Not surprisingly, the property attracts celebrities, drawn by the location, privacy and attentive service.

During our visit, I managed to bump into Giorgio Armani and Caroline Kennedy in the lobby, both of whom failed to recognize me.

The hotel's president and general manager, Roberto Wirth, has a scrapbook of dozens of movie stars and political figures who have posed with him during his 20 years at the helm.

Of course, all this luxury comes with a price.

Rooms start at about $386 for a standard double room and go up to about $572 for an ultra-deluxe double.

Although expensive, deals are available, particularly for special occasions, according to manager of public relations Sabina Galdiolo.

Honeymoon packages are a specialty, Galdiolo said, and the hotel also will assist with wedding arrangements.

"We cannot handle the paperwork for the wedding, but we can arrange a specific church, hairdressers, flowers and decorations."

In addition to set packages, the property also can create customized stays for a variety of special interests.

"We are a private property rather than a chain, and therefore we are flexible," Galdiolo said.

"People ask us to arrange special tours or entrance to exhibits, and we do," she said, adding that private drivers are available.

No discussion of the Hassler would be complete without a word about the Rooftop Restaurant, where we ate breakfast and where guests also can eat lunch and dinner as well as Sunday brunch.

Hotel He+

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