La Dolce Vita: An Apartment in Rome, Italy



The Borghese Gardens in Rome, 2 blocks away

Decorating a Vacation Apartment in Rome

My sisters Pat and Lisa run Italy Perfect Vacation Rentals. Lisa was in Rome last week and asked me to join her for a few days to help finish decorating the Rome Lombardia apartment.  The chance to catch up with Lisa and visit Rome was too tempting to turn down.


Magnificent staircase in the Palazzo Barberini, near the vacation apartment in Rome

We lived in Rome in during the 1960’s and 1970’s when our father was on an international assignment.

I fell in love with Europe as a teenager and vowed that I would come back to live one day.  I’ve been blessed that my dream has come true.  I was transferred to London after graduate school, met a crazy French heart surgeon on vacation  ….  and the rest is history. We founded Paris Perfect vacation rentals in our favorite city in the world.


1967: Dark eyeliner, mini skirts, and the Piper Club were all the rage in Rome. Madelyn on upper left, Lisa lower right, Pat lower left.

Italy Perfect’s New Apartment

We stayed in Italy Perfect’s new Lombardia Roman apartment rental just off the Via Veneto, literally one minute from the fabulous Borghese Gardens.  It’s a short walk to the top of the famous Spanish Steps.


One of the entrances to the Borghese Gardens


We worked hard for three days, including numerous trips to a hypermarket-hardware store on the outskirts, locating supplies, tracking down decorative accessories and hanging artwork. Lisa and I joked a lot, which kept us from going into a state of panic given the mountain of work ahead and only a few days to accomplish a lot.


Tempted by picture of the Coliseum with blazing sky backdrop, Lisa regretfully turned it down.

The owners of the apartment are longtime friends, a delightful couple who, after much discussion, left the decorating to us.  Their tastes are more Italian than ours; they gave us leeway to select for them the sofas, rugs, bedspreads, pictures and accessories.  On the practical side, they are ideal for guests, as they live nearby and have thought through everything to make guests comfortable — from free wireless internet to welcome goodies, good lighting (rare in Italy and France), American plugs and quality linens. The apartment is very comfortable, with 2 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms and the bonus of being in a great location.

The Before and After Transformation

We could see the potential when the apartment was purchased and the location was unbeatable.


The dreary second bedroom when the apartment was purchased. Depressing!

First step was to replace the tired furniture.


The new sofa bed, artwork and accessories unpacked; a lot of work ahead of us!

The walls were over 12 feet high, and would swallow up small pictures.  Finding large pictures was a priority.


Rusts and royal blues as accent colors in the living room.


Warm colors, large pictures and tall lamps make the room

We found beautiful pictures in tones that matched the cushions.  The main picture above the sofa is from a Renaissance fresco in Siena’s Town Hall known as the “Effects of Good Government”. Just last month embattled Italian President Berlusconi staged a press conference in Siena standing in front of the fresco to convince Italians that he represented the best alternative as President of Italy, despite his current legal problems. Tall lamps, brown sisal rug and simple coffee tables… the living room was transformed.


The white walls were a blank canvas, lots of deliberating about artwork placement.

Our challenge was to create a warm and welcoming apartment. We knew this apartment had great potential.


The desk area after we finished. The owners couldn’t believe it was the same room.

With a large mirror hung horizontally above the desk and three beautiful black and white photos, the far wall was a success.


Lisa was delighted to find these striking photos of Roman columns.

Walking into the living room from the entryway… ecco, finito!  It’s now an inviting home for a vacation stay in Rome!


The comfortable living room complete with flat screen TV.



Interesting architectural prints are hung under the television.



The Dining Area


Before: The dining area

We retained the original dining table, chairs and handsome corner cupboards. Our job was to make it an inviting room.


After: Wrought iron chandelier, recovered chairs, mirror made the room warmer with more light.

The Bedrooms


Here is the master bedroom when the apartment was purchased


Master bedroom makeover: New, quality bed, cream leather headboard, crisp linens and cream colored paint

The second bedroom was similarly sad when the owners purchased the apartment.  Lisa chose pale blues and white on the new beds.  These beds are similar to what we use in our Paris Perfect vacation apartment rentals. Beige headboards and pale curtains added to the soft look.

Liliana, the owner,  walked into the room after we’d finished and gave Lisa a huge hug and kiss. ‘Sei un amore!’, she cried to Lisa.  The smile on her face made all the hard work worthwhile!


New beds, headboards, attractive bedding and artwork transformed this room.


Small Balcony Off Dining Room


Small balcony off the dining area when apartment was purchased.

The little balcony off the dining room has a closet where the washer and dryer are installed. It offers a nice breeze and a small vignette of Roman life in the courtyard.



The balcony is small but it’s pleasant to have some outdoor space, even if it’s tiny.  And it’s fun to observe Roman life.

Work in Process



We hit the ground running! Upon arrival drove to a Do-it-Yourself hypermarket for supplies. Lisa was holding up well after an all-night flight from California aided by some strong espresso!


La Dolce Vita…not so much; catching up on work at night



Cars loaded with shopping finds, we’re ready to roll!

Apartment finished: Time to Explore the Neighborhood

After we finished, we had an afternoon to play. It was a walk down memory lane as we shared stories and revisited old haunts. Paris has won my heart but my four day break in Rome during beautiful April weather was heavenly. Enjoyed seeing flowing fountains with water from ancient aqueducts everywhere.


Top of the street which leads to the Spanish Steps

Took a short stroll one evening to the Spanish steps to enjoy the view at sunset. The Roman sky was beautiful, turning from blue to pink, as the lights came on in Rome.


The Spanish Steps at sunset.

We bought delicious stuffed tomatoes, eggplant parmigiana and dessert at the bakery/delicatessen located across the street from the apartment and ate at home, toasting our hard work, relaxing in the Lombardia apartment and laughing at the many anecdotes we remembered.


Bakery and delicatessen across the street.

I went for a run one morning in the gardens and will never forget it.  No traffic in the Borghese Gardens, only a quiet electric bus, a few runners and cyclists and the rest was all for me to savor. I stopped so often to take pictures that any exercise was forgotten.


Borghese Gardens: dappled sunlight through green leaves.


Mounted police training horses in the Borghese Gardens

Roman Fashion

Next was a return to our old shopping haunts, from Via del Corso by the Spanish Steps to Via Cola di Rienzo near the Vatican. Like Paris, store windows in Rome make you drool.


Blue suede boots near the Spanish Steps

The French and the Italians set the fashion trends.  Blue is a new color this season.


Turquoise sandals and matching jewelry in Roman fashion boutique

Lots of fun memories such as re-visting the store where I bought a floor-length ‘Maxi coat’ in the 1970’s; at the time I felt like the most fashion forward person in my college . Bought a darling pair of ballet-style flats, then realized the shoe store was our mom’s favorite shoe shop, seemed very “old lady” back in the 1970’s but just right for us now!


Nail polish artfully displayed at Roman Department Store

Rinascente and Coin are the main department stores now. Our daughters would love the nail polish selection above!


Italian Lingerie Store


Small supermarket near the apartment; entire aisle devoted to olive oil

One of my favorite stops is to the local grocery store.  Although it’s small, the store devoted an entire aisle was to olive oil. I bought a dozen packages of instant risotto with porcini mushrooms to carry home and fun ‘instant’ sorbet ice cream in small packages. You shake the package, put in freezer and eat the next day. It was delicious.

Dining A La Romana

A high school friend who still lives in Rome and does the greetings at several of Italy Perfect’s apartments, recommended a superb restaurant a few minutes walk from the apartment between Via Veneto and Piazza Barberini: Ristorante Tullio. Had a divine lunch there.  Artichokes and asparagus in season, grilled fish, zabaglione with strawberries for dessert… We were the only foreigners there, surrounded by Italians.


Artichokes in season


Impeccable service at Tullio’s, a delicious restaurant near Piazza Barberini

Bella Italia

Today, the internet has made it possible for many of us to work from almost anywhere, offering an amazing opportunity to experience life at a different pace.  To cherish mornings spent walking through old cobblestone streets, visit an art exhibit, to shop at an open air market for local food specialties, have a leisurely caffe’ outdoors and savor the  sights and sounds and watching people.  Whether wandering along the rue Saint Dominique in Paris, the back streets of Rome,  in London’s East End or in a small town in Normandy…  these special moments become imprinted in our minds.

Arrivederci Roma!  I didn’t throw any coins in the Trevi Fountain, but I am already planning a return trip with the family next fall.

21 Responses to “La Dolce Vita: An Apartment in Rome, Italy”

  1. chris says:

    Thanks for a great article, I love visiting Paris.

  2. Debby says:

    What a wonderful story, you ARE living La Dolce Vita! My mother’s family is all from Italy and I so want to visit someday, your pictures and words only made me want it more. Loved the story of your father and the traffic jam ~ fathers always seem to know how to solve a problem!

    Thanks for sharing your memories and decorating trip.


  3. Stan/Barab Spiegel says:

    Mad, a great story of family and apartment. We both really enjoyed seeing and reading the stories.
    Thanks for sending on Facebook!

  4. bertdaniel says:

    How much would it cost when I plan to stay in this apartment? I like the interior design of these apartment.

  5. Mary Arbuckle says:

    Lisa & Madelyn,
    You two work wonders…absolutely stunning! I hope I get the chance to rent this apartment one day.

    Mary in SF

  6. Victoria Owen says:

    Great job!
    Maybe we will be there one day.

  7. Libby says:

    Love the apartment transformation you did! Always liked seeing before and after pictures of room makeovers. I will definitely keep your sister’s Italian property rental and your Paris apartment rentals in mind for our clients in future.

  8. Shell Sherree says:

    A beautiful transformation! And I love seeing your before and afters. The power of well-placed and scaled artworks can’t be underestimated. And the chandelier you added to the dining room is a remarkable example of how lighting transforms to another level. So glad you had a chance to enjoy wandering in Rome, too ~ lovely.

  9. Cheryl says:

    Beautiful! My daughter is already clamoring for Rome as our next destination…I think I’ll join her! We had such a great stay with Paris Perfect that we will be sure to remember Italy Perfect when the time comes to get to Rome.

    Oh, just writing this makes me want to run away. What fun!

  10. Antonio Turco-Rivas says:

    Dear Madelyn…I enjoyed very much your Rome,s chronicles. Your sister and yourself did a wonderful job!!
    I am looking forward to visit Rome and must certainly…will try to stay at one of the appartments.
    Best Regards,

  11. Gina C says:

    Loved the post on your visit to Rome. I enjoyed a beautiful Paris Perfect apartment last summer with my family and hope to find one equally as enjoyable for our trip to Rome this summer. Looks like you two had a blast and I’m sure you will look back on the time working and playing as sisters and cherish those memories. It made me smile to see your pictures. Best wishes and thanks for the inspiration.

  12. Salwa says:

    Love your blog! You and your sisters have impeccable taste! We stayed 5 days at the Hermitage last December, a beautifully decorated Paris Perfect apartment only a few steps from the Eiffel Tower! We loved every minute of it!! The apartment, the view, our greeter and the service we received from your office exceeded all exceptions!! We will definitely rent from you again on our next trip to Paris…or Italy.

  13. Benita Wheelr says:

    Wow. What a beautiful job you did on the apartment.

  14. madelyn says:

    Thank you so much!

  15. madelyn says:

    Thanks Antonio!

  16. madelyn says:

    Thank you so much Cheryl! I have to say that when my brain starts to freeze on my computer, I open up my picture files and take a little desktop vacation…

  17. madelyn says:

    Dear Salwa, thank you for your kind words and so glad your stay with us exceeded your expectations!

  18. madelyn says:

    You’re so welcome!

  19. Alberto says:

    Your style is so great!
    Homes dressed by you are nicer than any other sweet place…Good job sisters!

  20. madelyn says:

    Thank you alberto!

  21. Laurel Grothe says:

    Appreciating the time and effort you put into your blog and detailed information you offer. It’s good to come across a blog every once in a while that isn’t the same unwanted rehashed material. Wonderful read! I’ve bookmarked your site and I’m including your RSS feeds to my Google account.

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