A stylish, design-focused boutique hotel in the heart of locals’ Florence
Rising from Florence’s busy Via dei Serragli to the cozy, stylish Oltrarno Splendid is like entering a hidden world of history and design. The boutique hotel’s 14 rooms span the top two floors of a 16th century palazzo, which, in the 19th century, was refurbished by famous Italian architect Giuseppe Poggi, the man in charge of Florence’s redesign when the city (briefly) became Italy’s capital between 1865 and 1870. After the success of sister hotel AdAstra, owner Matteo Perduca got to the space in 2017 and fell in love with the three disjointed flats on the palazzo’s top floors (despite the fact that they were home to many relaxed pigeons). Today, there’s no trace of pigeon left, nor is there anything disjointed about Oltrarno Splendid: every space is flawlessly designed and decorated–from the handmade marble room markers to the vintage movie posters to the corkboard paintings of everyday objects by Perduca himself, a lawyer-turned-designer who, unsurprisingly, has an eye for detail.
Some of the rooms still keep the original 19th-century style with toile de Jouy wallpaper, grotesque frescoes, plaster walls and frescoed ceilings. Most boast clawfoot tubs and views of iconic Florentine landmarks. All have a sense of individuality, culture, and style. Particularly special is the King Deluxe room in what was previously the palazzo’s attic. For many years, this space housed the creative studio of Susan Nevelson, married to the son of the more famous Louise Nevelson. Susan was the muse and designer for the fashion icon Kenn Scott, very well known in the roaring 80’s for his strong colors. You can easily feel that the room, with its exposed rafters and original textured walls, has a colorful history itself! The room’s large glass windows offer stunning, sweeping views of Florence that feature Palazzo Vecchio, the Duomo, and Palazzo Pitti. A neon sign with the writing “heaven” rests above the bed, and we couldn’t agree more.
The top floor of the hotel, which previously housed the palazzo’s servants, is where breakfast, included in the room rate, is served from a Wes Anderson-esque bar and guests sit at marble tables with wicker-backed chairs. A floor below, where all rooms but the King Deluxe are, the ceilings are higher, built for the palazzo’s nobility. All of Oltrarno Splendid’s furniture–from the colorful couches to an Olivetti writing desk–is original and sourced from dealers all over Italy. Hanging on the walls of the downstairs lounge is Perduca’s favorite design piece: a collection of didactic geographical maps designed by famous cartographer Roberto Almagià. They are older than a century, large, and very fascinating. Perduca suggests that his guests be as curious as possible: the staff of Oltrarno Splendid, when available, are happy to offer them a “room safari” to explain the history and meaning of the hotel’s endless, beautiful details.
Although many visitors to Florence may choose to stay closer to the tourist attractions, the scene across the river is much more vibrant and local. The beloved neighborhood of Oltrarno still holds the fascination of the old Florence that is vanishing in many parts of the city. Artisan shops, little restaurants, bars, open air markets, and children playing in the piazza are still familiar here. And it’s just a bridge away from Florence’s most-visited museums (the Boboli Gardens and Palazzo Pitti are on the same side of the river, quite close to Oltrarno Splendid). It’s worth walking a few extra steps to stay in a neighborhood and in a hotel with identity, a place to nourish both your mind and soul. Perduca recommends wandering the little streets of Oltrarno and talking to locals, and if you enjoy running, an early morning run along the Arno river will remain imprinted on your mind for the rest of your life.
A stay at Oltrarno Splendid, named after Ludwig Bemelmans’s 1941 book Hotel Splendide, is splendid indeed!
A few segreti (secrets) from Matteo Perduca:
Regina Bistecca — Atmosphere, atmosphere, atmosphere, a mix between old school NY feel with a bar (one of the few where to enjoy a meal solo) and a legit Florentine steak — strictly rare and cooked on burning carbon. You’ll definitely be coming back for more, enough times to be gifted your own engraved steak knife.
B.o.r.g.o. – The owner, an old friend of Matteo’s, is mad about fresh and high quality ingredients. He serves a simple but well conceived menu based on seasons. Ask him for suggestions and he’ll always give you the best!
Uk bar @ Todo Modo – Champion booksellers Pietro and Maddalena are hosting in their TodoModo a simple and truly tiny restaurant where you can sit surrounded by friends, friends of books and books. Ask for “testaroli al pesto” and Lunigiana will be your next trip.
Arte e Libri – “Art” are just three letters that can also spell “rat” if you don’t read. Here you can find almost everything and if they don’t have it they will find it for you!