He designed shoes for the likes of Audrey Hepburn, Brigitte Bardot, Madonna and even invented the cork wedge heel for Judy Garland in the 1930s.
And the Salvatore Ferragamo brand is still going strong today with celebrities like Jennifer Aniston, Cameron Diaz and Angelina Jolie sporting designs recently on the Hollywood red carpet.
But it is one thing to design the footwear of the rich and famous and quite another to create a stylish hotel – so can the Portrait Roma pull it off?
Relax: The Portrait Roma is situated in the heart of the Italian capital with terrace views opening up onto the Spanish Steps
The central Rome accommodation is one of a handful of contemporary hotels owned by the Ferragamo family, headed up by Salvatore’s son, Leonardo, and marketed as a tribute to the history, elegance and refined craftsmanship of the designer.
The Rome hotel is a stone’s throw from the iconic Spanish Steps, and walking straight down the road parallel you’re greeted with what can only be described as the city’s answer to London’s Mayfair.
There’s row upon row of designer shops and nestled between Hermes and Burberry on a corner of Via Condotti is the Salvatore Ferragamo store.
A discreetly placed door to its side takes you to the ground floor of the town house accommodation where a concierge calls for the lift.
Panoramic: From the hotel’s rooftop terrace views stretch as far as Vatican City and the Villa Borghese. In the evenings you can cuddle up the log fire and enjoy cocktails from the ‘honour’ bar
Luxury: The bedroom has a flat screen TV with Sky, an iPad and a variety of choices of bedding and pillows
Discreet entrance: Gemma stands outside the doors to the Portrait Roma, located to the side of the Salvatore Ferragamo store in Rome’s main fashion district
Like every other hotel I’ve been in before, when the door opens I expect to see a front desk. Instead my boyfriend and I are welcomed into what looks like a living room and invited to take a seat in one of the plush armchairs.
Ahead of our stay I was sent a survey to fill out which asked various questions, from the type of pillows I wanted (wellness allergic, down, memory foam, neck, pure bamboo, reading) and sheets (Egyptian cotton or pure linen) to what temperature I’d like the room on arrival.
For the nightly turn down it asked what music we’d like (I picked classical) and which complimentary treatment we would prefer from a list of potions including face cream, lip balm and cleansing towels.
So when a member of the ‘lifestyle team’ greeted us it felt like they already knew us. They checked us in with an iPad and even used it to take pictures of our passports for their records, as opposed to what now seems old fashioned – a photocopier.
Gloss: The huge marble bathrooms come complete with a bath, robes and Salvatore Ferragamo products
Reception: One of the hotel’s ‘lifestyle team’ greeted us as we arrived at the hotel and checked us in with an iPad as we sat around a table drinking teas and coffee (above)
Artistic: The room comes with a huge minibar, that also has a dishwasher, microwaves and hobs (left) and each room is adorned with pieces of Salvatore’s work (right)
Shopping: The Portrait Roma is located above Rome’s Salvatore Ferragamo store on the trendy Via Condotti
Taking the lift to the top floor we stepped out onto the rooftop terrace and where we were met by breathtaking views of the Eternal City.
To the left was the spectacular Spanish Steps and the right the tip of the Sistine Chapel at Vatican City is visible amongst the traditional Italian rooftops.
Everything is well within walking distance – no more than 20 to 30 minutes to each main tourist attraction – and this was a fantastic way to get our bearings.
The terrace itself has various seating options, as well as a log burning fire by comfy sofas and table sets where breakfast can be served on warmer mornings.
When it comes to flights, Norwegian Airlines, which has one of the youngest fleets with an average age of just four years, fly directly from London Gatwick to Rome Fiumicino.
The airline, which is the third largest at Gatwick, also has free wifi on board all planes.
Flights in April start from as little as £26 and can be booked from www.norwegian.com.
Heading back downstairs past portraits and pieces of Ferragamo’s work hanging on the walls, our room was ready and the lifestyle assistant continued his tour, showing us every aspect the suite – just one of the hotel’s 14 – had to offer.
Designed by elegant Florentine architect, Michele Bonan – who wanted to pay tribute to Salvatore – the room has a definite chic feeling, and looks more like a trendy apartment than a hotel room.
On walking into the room the first thing that hits you is a black set of floor to ceiling cupboards. Nothing out of the ordinary but when the lifestyle assistant pulls them open to reveal the ‘minibar’ – essentially a full kitchenette, I’m in awe. It even has a dishwasher.
Plush: The rooms are decorated with Salvatore’s designs, including curtains lined with horeshoes and shoes on the wall
Moving round the corner into the main part of the room is a huge bed with a gorgeous white, pink and grey colour scheme to match the interesting curtains, which are lined with a horseshoe pattern.
Opposite the bed is a log effect wall below a flat screen television, fully tuned with Sky TV, and table and chairs with complimentary chocolate and nuts.
The Spanish Steps are conveniently located a short walk in one direction and the trendy shopping district in the other
There’s also a nifty charging device, which meant no need to get mine out of the bag as it had a socket for everything – iPhone, Android, Blackberry.
Next to the bed is possibly the coolest thing – our own iPad, pre-loaded with all the content you would need for a stay in the Italian capital, from options for where is best for dinner to various attractions, including the theatre and ballet.
The tablet comes with 3G so it can be taken out and about and still receives internet signal – great for us tourists who are constantly relying on where we can get wi-fi.
Speaking of wi-fi, the whole building is covered so no need to log in with a new password every day. Your phone will automatically connect every time you come back in.
In a contrast to the nifty gadgets, the walls are adorned with images of 1950s Rome shot by Magnum photographers, as well as drawings, sketches and even the original shoe designs requested by some of the great Hollywood actors Salvatore worked with.
The bathroom is another nod to the luxurious feel of the suite, with a huge sink and mirror – complete with complimentary Salvatore Ferragamo products.
In the bedroom drawer is a whole overnight kit so I needn’t have packed my toiletries.
There’s also a walk-in wardrobe with decent straighteners and a hairdryer (not like those ones that come stuck to the wall that never dry your hair), so I definitely could have saved on a few kilograms at the airport.
Before turning in for the night we had to fill out a form for breakfast, where you are given the option of having brought to you (who doesn’t want breakfast in bed?) or to the roof terrace.
We opted for the room service as it was still mildly cold and ticked just about every box for the food and drink options.
In the morning like clockwork (we asked for an 11am breakfast as we had a long day ahead) the maid arrived wheeling in a huge trolley of culinary delights – from baked pastries and breads to cereals and yoghurts.
The night before we had asked if we could check out any later, and given the popularity of the hotel and the small amount of rooms, we weren’t expecting much. But it was no trouble and we were allowed to stay as long as we needed before our 10pm flight.
So are there any downsides to the Portrait Roma? It doesn’t have a restaurant so all lunches and evening meals must be sought elsewhere, but staff are more than helpful when it comes to recommending where to eat and being on the doorstep of some of the most delicious pizzerias and trattorias the world has to offer, who can blame them.
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