Recently, I was invited to a wedding in Florence, one of the art and architecture capitals of the world . I packed my new Fedora, memorized a few key Italian phrases and braced myself for the scorching temperatures.
As one of Europe’s most civilized cities, where to stay for our romantic Italian adventure was a decision of epically high importance. With high expectations of romance, you don’t want to be disappointed. With architecturally mesmerising architecture, particularly for me with a keen eye for design, it was settled. The Riva Lofts.
Situated 2km (or a 10minute bike ride) from the city centre, the lofts are right beside the Arno River, with a large park (Parco Delle Cascine) on the other side of our garden. I say our garden, as this is very much your home away from home. With just 9 studios, the grounds feel intimate and luxurious, and yet, all yours. Although not entirely in the city centre, its an easy commute and this south side of Arno is swiftly becoming Florence’s answer to Paris’ Rive Gauche.
As you walk in, renowned architect Claudio Nardi successfully draws your attention in entirely. Merging the historic Tuscan features with modern and elegant design, it feels inviting, chic and beautifully suited for Florence. The Hotel is brilliantly managed by Nardi’s daughter Alice, who adds to it a ‘more home than hotel’ ethos with an excellent eye for detail. Alongside a team of young and enthusiastic staff, they are ready to send you on your way to off-the-beaten track suggestions to eat, drink, shop. Particularly useful as the Hotel does not have its own restaurant.
Ahead, the garden sprawls out in front of you with a fabulous pool with actual arabasceto marble steps. Hammocks , sun beds and plenty of garden seating demand you to at least spend a balmy poolside weekend.
Aside from your garden and private loft (standard, deluxe, super deluxe or the Loft Studio), there is also the use of a design led spacious living room with stone walls, electric art and fabulous furniture. Each of the nine minimalist, yet ultra-modern suites have independent entrances and range from spectacular 100 square-metre, light-flooded lofts to more sultry looking 30 square metre standard lofts, most with kitchenettes.
There are complimentary snacks, fruit and hot drinks throughout the day, with an honesty bar at your disposal. Other services include complimentary breakfast (try the homemade yogurt and oil and honey from the Nardi family’s nearby farm), use of vintage bikes, WiFi, free soft drinks in the mini bar, allowance for pets and a very helpful hand booking restaurants or taxis.
Our room was a Deluxe just off of the garden. Featuring minimal interiors, concrete flooring, sexy fringed curtains separating the bed off which is dressed in generous, crisp white linens, a small kitchenette, minibar and plenty of storage space; it literally has everything you could need. A good powerful hairdryer in pretty grey velvet pouches (a rare find in hotels surprisingly), olive oil toiletries, yoga mats and weights, and even biscuits are all thoughtful handy little extras.
After a day of lounging by the pool sipping on rosé, we decided to cycle into the city to see the sights. Riding along the canal, it’s all about the spectacular skyline against the river, with domes, arches and beautiful buildings as far as your eyes can see. Within 10 minutes we were at the Piazza del Duomo admiring the vast scale of marble!
On our way back we stopped via Raw, a vegan café to rehydrate with a green juice in a very hip Oltrarno neighbourhood recommended by our hotel. A bustling and modern area, I highly recommend you check out the markets and bars.
Stripping away the fuss of hotels yet retaining impeccable service is no mean feat, but this is where Riva lofts excels. Offering such relaxed management style allows you to believe if even just for a second, that you are home; albeit it your luxurious and charming designer villa in Florence.
Need To Know
What to pack: Fedora, high heels, trainers, hand fan and camera!
When to go: Spring or autumn (the summers are far too hot to simply relax out by the very worthy pool)
In the area: The superb 4 Leoni, a trattoria founded in 1550. While you’re on the south side, check in on the Brancacci Chapel in the church of Santa Maria del Carmine. Its fresco cycle by Masaccio and his master, Masolino, is considered the first masterpiece of the early Renaissance. Opened in 2006, the Museo Nazionale Alinari della Fotografia is one of the few showcases for modern art in Florence. There’s a permanent exhibition on the history of photography, as well as rotating exhibits of contemporary photography. To get out into the Tuscan countryside, take the Via Cassia, an ancient Roman road linking Florence and Rome, and pass through the Val di Pesa area, 20 miles south of Florence, on the border of the Siena and Chianti regions, where the Nardi family farm is located.