At Home in Rome’s Wine Academy

Il Palazzetto has its feet on the ground on Vicola del Bottino but its head in the air. Its rooftop terrace looks out across Rome’s famous Spanish Steps. In between are the five elegant floors of the International Wine Academy of Roma.

For centuries, Il Palazzetto was one of the favourite residences of an aristocratic Roman family. Abandoned in 1980, it lay empty until 1998, when film director Bernardo Bertolucci used it as the setting for L’assedio (The Besieged), the story of a pianist’s romantic pursuit of a beautiful African servant.

In September 2002, Il Palazzetto opened as the “Wine Academy of Roma,” an informal club and meeting place for wine lovers. Today, a pre-dinner guided wine tasting in the library, or a gastronomic lunch or dinner in the garden (roofed and heated in winter), is the kind of refined delight which makes Rome “Rome.” The work of transforming an abandoned historical building into a luxurious and welcoming setting for the appreciation of fine wine took three years. It began when Roberto Wirth, owner and manager of Rome’s ultra-prestigious Hotel Hassler, acquired Il Palazzetto in 1999. He decided, along with a group of like-minded friends, to express his own enthusiasm for fine wines and food by making Il Palazzetto the headquarters of an International Wine Academy.

The subsequent renovation of the palazzo brought to light ancient materials and finishes such as the original marble pavement of the ground floor which dates from the year 500AD, and the wrought iron of the magnificent spiral staircase, dating to the end of the 1800s. As other architectural details were uncovered, they were restored and reinstated, bringing the building back to harmonious life.

Responsibility for coordinating the educational activities of the Academy was entrusted to Steven Spurrier, who established the Wine Academy of Paris in 1973 and the wine course at Christie’s in 1982. He orchestrates the daily wine tastings, the lunches and dinners at which food and wine are carefully matched, and the various educational courses, which are held at the Academy on a half-day, weekly or full week basis.

Four beautiful bedrooms – one with frescoed walls – have been opened on the upper floors of Il Palazzetto making it possible for a lucky few to stay in an historical palace in the heart of Rome.

Wine tastings, guided by a master sommelier, are held Monday to Friday between 6 and 7 pm. A platter of gourmet cheeses and cured meats accompanies the tastings. €20 per person; reservations are essential. For those who prefer to taste wine on their own, Il Palazzetto’s wine bar is ideal for a casual glass of wine; there are 400 to choose from, along with a cheese and meat platter or an appetiser. Il Palazzetto’s restaurant, under Chef Antonio Martucci, serves modern Italian fare combining fresh ingredients in adventurous ways.

For more information, or to make a reservation for a wine tasting, lunch or dinner: telephone +39-06-699-0878; email; visit; or write Il Palazzetto, Wine Academy of Roma, Vicolo del Bottino, 800187, Rome, Italy.

Il Palazzetto’s bedrooms each come with stylish bath en suite and continental breakfast. For full details and to book visit

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