Staying in Florence doesn’t mean you have to be right in the middle of all the hustle and bustle. Sarah Lindsay discovers some alternative comforts at Riva Lofts in Florence…
Built in 1880 and set on the banks of the Arno river, this former old Florentine leather factory was acquired in 1999 by the renowned architect Claudio Nardi, who is responsible for the interior design in arguably the most fashionable shop in Florence – Luisaviaroma – and who for a number of years now has created interiors for the likes of Valentino and Dolce & Gabbana in New York and Milan.
Nardi occupied the site for six years, using it both as work and living quarters before he returned to the city centre. While he was there he decided to divide the formerly utilitarian space into nine self-contained studios ranging in size from 300 to 1,000 square feet. This is Riva Lofts.
In Riva Lofts, Nardi, with his hostess daughter Alice, has created a unique boutique accommodation, blending the modernity of a metropolitan city with the privacy and comforts of the domestic atmosphere. For the well-heeled traveller, Riva Lofts is one of the most contemporary and chic places to stay right now.
Pale Pink Walls
The approach, tucked down a nondescript back street is quite unassuming; you could be forgiven if you were to bypass its entrance. However, once you step through the frosted glass gateway you enter into an oasis of calm: a courtyard framed by pale pink walls hidden behind climbing white roses oozes a sense of tranquility from the madness of the surrounding city.
The rooms are expansive with their double height ceilings and exposed beams – a nod to the building’s history – coupled with a contemporary and creative interior design using warm tonal palettes offset with period pieces of furniture blended with a stylish mix of textiles.
All the stylish and stunningly fashionable studios are equipped with a discreet kitchenette designed by Claudio Nardi himself. And there is a dining table should you wish to stay in and enjoy your surroundings rather than dine out in town.
Throughout this intimate complex, the juxtaposition of contemporary and period furnishings is continued using an interesting collection of recovered antiques and iconic 1950s pieces – my personal favourite pieces were the upcycled travelling trunks turned into wardrobe space.
Florence is a city drenched in history. It is with a relief that the hoteliers have decided to pursue their vision with one eye on the past whilst also looking towards the future.
Chic and Subtle
Loft number 4 offers fantastic views of the Arno river through its impressive, huge, church-like arched windows, while loft number 8 offers a private garden terrace.
The chic and subtle design is carried throughout the communal garden with a blend of clean, angular lines from the pool, where many a hot day’s activities can be quenched. Rusty, reclaimed and re-loved garden tables are provided while you are enjoying a glass of wine, or you can unwind after the day’s business on the sun loungers with the distant sound of the city on the breeze. Garden ornaments such as huge snail-like orbs double up as golden lights at night, making the outdoor space just as enchanting in the twilight and useable 24/7.
But the garden is not the only communal area: the open plan dining room and lounge set in the heart of the hotel boasts high vaulted ceilings showcasing the beautiful exposed brickwork a palimpsest of history as layered as the delicious pastries provided as part of the daily breakfast.
An ‘honesty bar’, open fireplace, cinema screen, well-stocked music collection and more handpicked vintage-style pieces of furniture are provided throughout the space, emphasising the homely feel whilst providing the opportunity to converse with your fellow travellers should you so wish.
The dining area is spacious yet intimate and can be hired for private dining and parties. Alternatively, the whole of the Riva Lofts can be hired out, and would lend itself perfectly for a big event with family and friends.
Under the Skin
Florence is one of the most vibrant cities in the world as such there are times the pulsating throng of tourists can be a little unbearable – this can also make it hard to get to under the skin of the city and feel its heart. With the vast majority of luxury city hotels based right in the centre it gives you no real reason to venture further, with all the attractions on your door step.
Riva Lofts’ position, however, is such that it is no more than a 30-minute walk along the banks of the Arno, or a 15-minute cycle ride using one of the vintage-style bikes available to guests. And if you don’t need the exercise, the incredibly convenient new tram line is a two-minute walk away (tickets are available from reception). Skirting the edge of the huge Cascine Park, it takes no more than five minutes to get to the centre of Florence.
Having a retreat away from the crowds and joining the locals in their tram commute or jogging along the Arno really helps you to tap into the Florentine community rather than following the well-trodden tourist routes. Picking up a copy of the local Anglo/American monthly newspaper left in your room tells you what’s on in the local vicinity and gives you the opportunity to further explore this hip and fashion-conscious city.
If you are considering Florence as the city of choice for a long weekend, week or work trip then Riva Lofts offers a fantastic alternative choice for the discerning visitor. When I return I would like to bring some friends along and rent out the whole hotel. You had best get in before word gets out!