Anyone looking for a real treat next time they visit Madrid would do well to check out the AC Santo Mauro, part of Marriott Hotels' luxurious Autograph Collection. Nestled in the heart of the city's exclusive Salamanca neighbourhood, this former residence of the Duke of Santo Mauro (an influential character, by all accounts) provides a veritable oasis to the city visitor: peaceful, discreet and yet at the same time gloriously resplendent.
Unless you're a regular patron of aristocratic hidey-holes, this place can't fail to make a jolly decent first impression. Stepping into its cool embrace, magnificent decor and graceful style hits you wherever you turn. It's not hard to see why this is a favourite among the rich and famous: rumour has it that it's a pied a terre for the likes of the Beckhams and Madonna, to name-drop but a few (although the hotel itself keeps firmly schtum on the identities of its famous guests). And as it's just a 20 minute walk from the Prado and minutes from Madrid's smartest shopping street, the location is rather good too.
What's to love?
This fascinating boutique residence is splendidly opulent, and yet a calm and relaxed atmosphere pervades. Sumptuous lounges, each with its own style, offer the visitor a treat for the senses: wander from room to room and admire the intricate detail of the Chinese Room, complete with its quirky pineapple lampshades, bask in the rosy glow of the majestic Red Room, chill out in the beautiful bar, all art-deco mirrors and comfy chairs, or pick up a book in the cherry wood panelled library, where breakfast is served.
The bedrooms, while still lavish, cast all this into relief: the aesthetic is predominantly classic modern, with muted tones and hi-tech gadgets, all done out in impeccable style and designed for comfort.
If you do one thing here, make sure it's...
Take a stroll through the lovely lawned gardens, shaded by Madrid's oldest chestnut trees, and just sit and contemplate your surroundings. The busy city streets seem a world away here: it's almost as if you've stepped into another time zone. One thing's for sure: the grand old duke of Santo Mauro had it good, whoever he was.