The New Room With a View: Florence’s Grand Hotel Minerva
Exquisitely balancing influences both ancient and modern, the Grand Hotel Minerva offers travelers luxury respite and esthetic pleasure.
It was the most fortuitous of interior design circumstances. First, a world in which hotels, shops, and restaurants are clamoring to create facsimile Mid-century Modern vibes to align with current tastes. Second, a storied Italian hotel preparing to spend millions on a restoration timed to its 150th anniversary. And buried underneath misguided '90s era decor was work by Carlo Scarpa—one of Italy's (and the world's) most prominent modern architects.
Such is the luck of the recently reopened Grand Hotel Minerva in Florence, Italy, which thanks to its chic overhaul is the fourth selection for our twice-monthly series on gorgeous new or restored hotels, The New Room With a View.
The hotel is housed in a building dating back to the 1300's and has long been a favorite for visitors to the legendary Tuscan city. The original hotel opened in 1869 as the Locanda della Minerva, and has remained popular throughout the 150 years in large part because it's a stone's throw from the main train station, Santa Maria Novella. (But it also has the benefit of the Santa Maria Novella church, with its treasure trove of art, providing a buffer between the hotel and train station messiness).
When the owners decided to renovate the 97 room hotel, they hired Piera Tempesti Benelli, who has done a masterful job of fusing the building's historic bones, Scarpa's genius, and her own touches.
The other piece the hotel has long been known for is its rooftop pool with its views of the iconic Duomo. Mention that you're staying at the Minerva, and anybody who has gone before will immediately gush about the pool. For those who focus on these additions, the hotel also has a gym and spa.
PIÈCE DE RÉSISTANCE
Without a doubt the biggest showstopper in the hotel, for us, was the breakfast room. A vision of black and white alternating tile juxtaposed against pale blue polished plaster columns and a glass curtain that looks onto the central garden, it's undoubtedly interior-decorating porn worth starting your day with while sitting in restored chairs designed by Scarpa.
Benelli certainly had a field day with the rooms, playing with different strong colored fabrics and matching marble accents in the bathrooms. One gorgeous detail is that each of the room doors are covered in Florentine leather with an engraved Minerva. The furniture in public rooms is a mix of new, Scarpa restorations, and pieces bought at auction from a noble family. Then there are special rooms. A couple have, um, circular beds. One suite has the beautifully restored ceiling frescoes from the original building. Another has the original hand-painting wood ceiling beams.