To step inside the fine fin-de-siecle doors of the Locarno, a stylish, wisteria-clad hotel just north of Rome's Piazza del Popolo is to enter a time warp, somewhat faded, but with a dark, mysterious appeal that makes it a perennial favourite with musicians, artists and film-makers. The ground floor public rooms house the owners impressive collection of original art nouveau and art deco pieces; fabulous lamps, Thonet bentwood furniture, old posters and, in reception, a grandfather clock with a resonant chime. The bar leads into a spacious sitting room where a fire burns in winter.
  A birdcage lift creaks up to the bedrooms, each one different from the next, but all furnished with antiques, original lamps and rich fabrics. The spotless bathrooms are mostly in marble. New rooms and suites in the 1905 villa next door are more luxurious with opulent fabrics and more marble, though some guests might miss such modern practicalities as reading lights and power showers.
  There is plenty of outside space, too; in warm weather, breakfast is served until 11.30 am either on the stunning roof terrace or in the pretty garden. And a fleet of bicycles is available for guests use. The laid-back feel to this hotel and its understated glamour ensure that it is almost always full, even in winter.