A Four Seasons Rome near Vatican City is possible, as Four Seasons negotiates with the Catholic Church over a property close to St. Peter's Basilica. The potential deal is controversial, and the deal may not happen, similar to the proposed Four Seasons Venice Danieli, which was nixed after the hotel's owner refinanced. If it does go forward, Four Seasons Rome would likely be the fourth or fifth Four Seasons in Italy after Four Seasons Florence, Four Seasons Milan, and Sicily's Four Seasons Taormina San Domenico Palace. Another Four Seasons in Italy, the Four Seasons Puglia, has been announced but doesn't yet have an opening date.
Four Seasons Rome Location and Building
The Four Seasons Rome would be a restoration and renovation of the Palazzo della Rovere, located at Via della Conciliazione, which is a mere four minute walk from St. Peter's Basilica in Vatican City. It's a prime location, with no other 5-star hotels in the immediate vicinity; the closest are the Portrait Roma and J.K. Place Roma, across the Tiber River.
The building, which dates from the Renaissance and previously was owned by Jesuits, is now owned by the Catholic Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem and serves as the Order's global headquarters. The order's mandate is to “support the Christian presence in the Holy Land” and its sovereign is the pope. Building features include a turret, large courtyard, and ancient frescoes by Italian artist Pinturicchio. Until the pandemic, much of the building was run as a family hotel, which has since closed; only the Order's offices remain open.
Four Seasons Rome Proposed Rooms and Amenities
If it goes forward, the plan is for the Four Seasons Rome to have 77 rooms, including 11 Executive Suites and two specialty suites. The hotel would have restaurants, a gym, and spa, although no swimming pool given the constraints of the historical building.
According to Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera, at the end of 2020, the Order's Grand Master, Italian Cardinal Fernando Filoni agreed to a tender for the property, with the stipulation that it was for hotels rated four stars or fewer. Within weeks after the tender opened, sixty offers were made, with finalists reduced to ten companies. In Summer 2021, the Order reduced the final list to three candidates, eliminating major companies such as Marriott and Hilton. If the Four Seasons offer is successful, it would be for a 27-year contract entail with an annual rent of just over $1 million, and additional millions would be spent on the property's reconstruction and the restoration of the frescoes. While we have no knowledge of these particular negotiations, we wouldn't be surprised if Four Seasons is being strongly considered due to its experience with meticulous historical restorations, for example San Domenico Palace, Taormina; where Four Seasons was charged with restoring all the works of art, paintings, frescos and statues, as well as the period features of the Hotel, such as its columns, arcades and vaulted ceilings, everything under the supervision of the local council, which is highly protective of Sicily’s artistic heritage. Other restorations of historic buildings include the Four Seasons London at Ten Trinity Square; and the Four Seasons Hotel Lion Palace in St. Petersburg.
But some of the companies that lost the bid, such as Radisson, are considering lodging a formal complaint with the Vatican and have threatened a class action suit, noting Four Seasons entered the tender late and is a five-star chain that shouldn't qualify given the tender's stipulation of properties of four-stars or fewer.
The Order of the Holy Sepulcher defended their decision-making process in a May 18 statement: “Like a faithful and prudent administrator…has a duty to take care of everything that has been entrusted to it and that it manages with transparency.”
The Order said an important consideration is a company that can do the necessary restoration work in keeping with the city of Rome's regulations.
Other critics of the decision point out that having such a luxurious hotel on property owned by the Catholic church runs is hypocritical given the current pope's vision of a “poor church for the poor.” The hotel would be located near where a number of homeless sleep at night, under the cover of several buildings just outside St. Peter’s Square.
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