Two minutes' walk down the Via Sistina from the hectic Spanish Steps is the unmarked door of a secluded 19th century palazzo. If you didn't know Casa Howard was here, you'd walk right past it. This "in-the-know" ethos is not accidental. Aristocratic owner Massimiliano Leonardi and his half-English wife Jenifer Howard want their guesthouses (another round the corner, a third in Florence) to be homes-from-home. So there's no concierge at the second-floor apartment, just 'house-genie' Edgar, who shows you the 'honesty fridge' packed with cokes and juices; and will bring you breakfast in bed.
The stunning mirrored hallway was designed by Howard as a cage for the porcelain monkey she found at a Paris flea-market which hangs from the ceiling. It sets the tone: chic and personal. The rest of the shared space is limited to a book corner and an amazing hammam - rather extravagantly priced at 50 euros. Designed by Tommaso Ziffer, the five bedrooms are all different. From the Zebra Room with its 70s New York vibe to the Indian Room's colonial grace, the feel is high-style but never flash. Beautifully chosen objets d'art, furniture and prints make the best of the relatively small spaces. Comfort is at a premium. A word of warning to the statuesque: the baths are on the short side.