by Jonathan Leeming in Cool Travel on Tuesday 17 June 2014

Riva Lofts, nestling quietly on the banks of the Arno river in Italy’s beautiful, historic Florence, is variously referred to as a design hotel and an architect’s hotel, and offers luxurious relaxation amidst traditional architecture, beautifully juxtaposed with a modern finish.

Co-owned by renowned Florentine architect Claudio Nardi and his daughter Alice, the property has a rich cultural history, having started as a small factory in 1880, and later been transformed into artisans’ workshops.

In 1999 Mr Nardi made it his architectural atelier, before commencing two years of restorations in 2004 to transform it into the ‘home for guests’ it is today.

Situated on the perihery of the city centre, Riva Lofts can be reached either by a short taxi ride, or via the tramline which stops nearby. We chose instead to walk the 2.5km from the main train station, along the green banks of the Arno, to give us a chance to take in the feel of the city.

Upon arrival at Riva Lofts, we were greeted by the delightful manager Carlotta, who offered us a map of Florence on which she marked various recommended local eateries, and then gave us an overview of the property, including the collection of vintage bikes available for guests’ use.

Our Loft (number five of ten; all different and each with its own private entrance onto a communal courtyard) was spacious to the extreme, featuring floors and high beamed ceilings of stained black wood, their bold austerity off-set by full-length sheer white drapes and ultra-modern fittings throughout.

The bathroom featured black stone surfaces and a wooden-floored rain shower, as well as the ubiquitous European bidet, with a second entrance leading out onto the lawn, tree-hung hammocks and so-called “metaphysical” swimming pool.

After heading out to one of Carlotta’s recommended local restaurants, Alla Vecchia Bettola, for a delicious three-course meal of pasta, steak and Tiramisu, accompanied by two bottles of Chianti Classico and washed down by the mandatory local Grappa, we returned to our Loft for a fabulous night’s sleep in the king-size bed, behind sound-proofed walls and blackout blinds.

In the morning, we ventured into the shared living room, where a sumptuous Italian buffet breakfast had been laid out: freshly squeezed juices, croissants and pastries, Alpine yoghurt, cereals, eggs, vine tomatoes, fresh pineapple, and of course fabulous Italian coffee.
Taking our selection outside and eating it in the Italian sunshine, under a pregnant lemon tree, we decided to spend the rest of the morning lazing in the hammocks. We are on holiday, after all!

Riva Lofts reservations can be made via boutique hotel booking service, Mr and Mrs Smith, who organised my visit.