Combining the visionary designs of architect Claudio Nardi, Riva Lofts is a dreamily rustic boutique bed and breakfast that’s filled with contemporary artworks, enormous antique mirrors leant against the reclaimed stone walls, and an array of vintage chairs ranging from Louis XIV to Mies van der Rohe. Despite its fashionista-friendly looks, however, Riva Lofts maintains the homespun welcome of a rural bed and breakfast.
Get this when you book through us:
A pack of Deseo savoury aperitivo biscotti and a half bottle of white wine
Anytime between 8am and 11am; later check-out can be arranged, if available. From April to October, check-in is from 3pm to 8pm; from November to March, check-in is from 2pm to 6pm. Later check-in can be arranged on request.
Double rooms from £126.60 (€140), including tax at 10 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional local city tax of €4.80 per person per night on check-out.
Rates do not include Italian breakfast (€10 a person) and soft drinks, and a nightly city tax of €4.90 a person.
Staff is almost always on hand to offer restaurant tips or pointers on art exhibitions and events that outsiders might miss. Riva Lofts has a partnership with local salons, and can arrange massages and hairdressing whenever you like.
At the hotel
Communal sitting room, LCD TV, library of books, free WiFi in lounge area and some other parts of the hotel. All suites have a flatscreen TV, Replica by Maison Margiela bath products and Aqua Flor fragrance; most suites have kitchenettes and free WiFi.
Our favourite rooms
For sheer size and spectacle, make a swift beeline for Room 4 – it’s bigger than a small flat, has three walls of floor-to-ceiling glass windows gazing out over the Arno, and its stunning grey wood kitchen is designed to be almost invisible when not in use. Upstairs, you’re met with polished concrete floors, over-sized ball lamps and a dangerously comfortable bed. Room 9 shares the same spaciousness, but cultivates a slightly less arch-contemporary prettiness, and Room 7 has a quirky string curtain surrounding the bed, which lends it the air of an ultramodern, but nonetheless romantic boudoir.
Contrary to impressions, the ‘metaphysical swimming pool’ does actually exist – it’s a plush white sandstone pool set in a serene hedgerow-lined garden.
Huge D&G sunglasses will not only lend you the in-crowd stamp of cool, but also help keep the flies out of your eyes as you zoom along the river on one of Riva Loft’s 1950s bikes.
Reception is open 8am to 8pm (6pm in winter), but arrangements can be made for later arrivals. The hotel is non-smoking throughout. A two-night minimum stay is required during Pitti fashion fairs.
No lunch or dinner, just a mouthwatering Italian breakfast spread of home-made bread, croissants, pies, cheese, cold cuts, organic yoghurt, and muesli, served in-room. This must be booked 24 hours in advance and a surcharge of €10 a person is required.
With every hand-picked sculpture and artwork perfectly placed to ensure there’s something to look at in every direction, Riva Loft’s main lounge is made for sinking into a sofa and supping a bottle of wine and snacks from the self-service honesty bar.
Riva Lofts is just 15 minutes by taxi from Florence (Amerigo Vespucci, or Peretola) Airport, but you’ll have a greater choice of airlines from the UK if you fly to Pisa (Galileo Galilei) Airport. There’s a direct train from Pisa Airport to Santa Maria Novella train station in the centre of Florence, and then it’s just a short taxi drive to Riva Lofts (around €10).
Florence’s Santa Maria Novella train station (which can be found centrally, behind the piazza of the same name) is a 15-minute drive from Riva Lofts or a five-minute ride on the Tramway (take the tram to Paolo Uccello or Sansovino, which is 200 metres from the hotel). Busy Santa Maria Novella station has connections with the rest of Italy and Europe; you can get to Rome and back in a day, and it takes less than two hours to get to Milan.
This idyllic retreat is 40 minutes’ walk from the bustle of central Florence, but you can book taxis at reception. A car will be useful if you plan to venture further afield in surrounding Tuscany; pick one up at the airport. Riva Lofts has three, free unreserved parking spaces for guests and one spot in a garage (€20 a night), which is available to book. Otherwise street parking is available close by.
For the ultimate in two-wheeled style, hire one of the hotel’s vintage bicycles for free. There's also a tramway stop a few steps from Riva – it'll get you to city centre in five minutes and tickets are available at reception.
Worth getting out of bed for
You’re set in Florence’s peaceful, residential north, so there’s not much happening in the immediate surroundings. Enjoy the calm by swaying in a hammock in the hotel’s walled garden (staff can rustle up a picnic if you wish) and take a refreshing dip in the well-sized (for Florence) pool. The hotel has a full bike rack you can borrow from, so ride one of the vintage cycles along the Arno to see the Renaissance’s greatest hits: the Duomo, Baptistery, the masterful works in the Uffizi, David in the Galleria dell'Accademia and the sculptures of the Palazzo Vecchio. Shop for jewellery along the Ponte Vecchio, see the sharpest Italian style at the Gucci Garden boutique and museum and the Salvatore Ferragamo Museum and stop for a gelato – you’re spoiled for choice, but we like Gelateria Santa Trinita.
The hotel can arrange Tuscan adventures aplenty: go shopping in the less touristy ‘hoods with an insider, learn how to make pasta, hunt for truffles, take a spin on a Vespa, try the region’s best on a private wine tour, play tennis and practice yoga.
On trend I.O Osteria Personale has chef-selected three-, four-, and five-course tasting menus for the adventurous (or those who simply can’t decide). If you’d rather choose your own adventure, we’d recommend starting with the lemony grilled calamari and an order of ricotta gnocchi before moving on to amberjack fillet with Jerusalem artichoke or roasted octopus with celeriac and green apple; top it all off with a scoop of chamomile or salted popcorn ice cream. Since the 19th century, the long tables at popular Trattoria Sostanza at Via Porcellana 25r, near Santa Maria Novella in Florence (+39 055 212 691) have been tempting locals to squeeze in next to each other to enjoy hearty servings of the region’s tasty cuisine. Start with a simple Tuscan classic such as pasta in sauce or a beany peasant soup, then plump for a typical Florentine basic-but-delicious main course. Petti di pollo al burro is a house favourite – chicken breasts fried in butter. Laidback and beloved by those in the know.
Music is at the heart of bar Volume on Piazza Santo Spirito. The stellar bartenders at speakeasy Rasputin (30 Borgo Tegolaio) shake up classic cocktails; try their signature Caribbean punch.
It was as I reclined in the garden of the Riva Lofts in Florence listening to the light wind lazily loosen the leaves, sipping on my coffee and watching the spring sun lighten the curls of a similarly reposed Mrs Smith that I recalled the great cultural sermon delivered by Orson Welles’ peerless antihero Harry Lime in The Third Man. ‘In Italy, for 30 years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder, bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love, 500 years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.’ Having spent the previous day marvelling at the many wonders of Santa Croce, I found myself silently giving thanks that Alice Nardi, the patron of Riva Lofts is a contemporary hotelier and not a Renaissance princess for her speciality is tranquillity and though it might not be conducive to the creation of epoch-defining art, it is pretty much perfect for a weekend away.
We had arrived the day before and were immediately charmed and calmed by Alice who runs her Lofts – the buildings were converted by her highly regarded architect father, Claudio – with the pride and attention to detail that only a family business can inspire. She showed us straight to our suite, which boasted a perfect blend of contemporary artworks and understated 20th-century furniture. Despite considerable competition, the room’s centrepiece is a massive white bed that Mrs Smith eagerly stretched out on like a cat in the sun. ‘It’s heavenly,’ she declared. And it was hard to disagree. From the silky string drapes that hung from the ceiling in a clever twist on the four-poster, to the low lighting that illuminates the white walls, the space is dreamily ethereal. Thankfully this otherworldly atmosphere hasn’t come at a price: the Riva Lofts caters for all the earthly pleasures too. As well as complimentary soft drinks and a bowl of chocolate-covered hazelnuts, we were supplied with handpicked mood music, a flatscreen TV and an intriguing selection of art books. Most impressively of all, though (particularly for those of us from the nation that once considered a Teasmade the height of sophistication) was the freshly ground coffee, the discreet little designer hob and the proper espresso maker.
As soon as Mrs Smith had guiltily finished the last of the chocolates we felt ready to venture into Florence to gorge on churches. From Croce’s faded frescoes, to the Duomo’s chintzy campaniles we embarked on a beauty bender that would have had a dizzy Stendhal hallucinating wildly before he crawled off to bed. Being made of sterner stuff (or having less refined sensibilities) exposure to such amazing art made us thirsty not mad and we couldn’t have chosen a better spot to quench our thirst than Dolce Vita, a contemporary Italian bar that complements its Chianti Classico with delicious contorni, such as salmon ravioli and ricotta tart.
The next morning feeling great and headed down to breakfast, which was served in the high-ceiling communal room. In the evening the room can be used for film screenings or perusing Riva Lofts surprisingly fine library, but in the morning its vast table is laden with little yoghurts, fresh breads and a constantly replenished jug of freshly squeezed mandarin juice, an amber nectar so sweet that it is worth the visit alone.
We took our coffees out to the shared gardens, where we sat by the pool imagining what a boon the tranquil outdoor area would be were we seeking respite from Tuscany’s summer heat. Unsurprisingly, such serenity can’t be found bang in the anarchic heart of old Florence and Riva Lofts is tucked down an unassuming street a brisk 20-minute walk from the Ponte Vecchio. At the time of reviewing, the route isn’t always pretty, a situation that will be ameliorated by the completion of a riverside path that will link the hotel and the city centre. Once this has happened, the proud upright bikes that Alice keeps for guests will be the finest way to travel into town.
Even with the situation as it is it doesn’t take long to get to the river and we walked along the north bank marvelling at the beavers and turtles gaily coexisting in the shallow waters. After we’d fortified ourselves with a quick carafe of rose we headed south of the Arno to the part of town where the locals congregate to escape the tourist hordes. The area around Santo Spirito is the city’s counter-cultural heart with many a fine little restaurant and a delightful antiques market that we happily browsed in between restorative rounds of vino rosso.
Fashion world people are forever jetting off to Florence for the biannual trade fair at Pitti, which makes them great people for clever little tips about the city. Our insider told us about Sostanza, a classic Florentine restaurant that is reputed to be Miuccia Prada’s favourite place to eat. That evening we found out why. The decor is clean and simple, the food simpler still. When you order steak you get just that. But it’s the size of Wales and it’s so good that the guy sitting next to me managed two. The butter chicken may just be chicken but it is the finest treatment that I’ve ever encountered.
Florence is a wonderfully over-the-top kind of place. Its great lashings of gilt and its tumultuous history make it one of the most vibrant cities in the world. Now with the addition of Riva Lofts this Tuscan city can now justly claim to have mastered the fine arts of simplicity and tranquillity too.