Riva Lofts

Arno river, Florence, Italy Book from

Reviewed by Kate Parsons
Historic mill on Florence's Arno river, transformed by a top Italian architect into 10 cool studios with fantastic garden and pool
What does a revered architect do after creating flagship stores for Dolce & Gabbana? In Claudio Nardi's case, he transformed his own Florentine riverside studio into an avant-garde showpiece of 10 stunning studios. No two are the same, but all are awash with bold contemporary design: polished concrete floors and muted colours, flea market furniture and Mies van der Rohe chairs, sleek fireplaces and tables designed by Nardi himself.

You might think these design credentials mean snooty staff. Not a bit. Alice, Claudio's glamorous daughter, is a charming guide to hotel and city alike. She will suggest car-free routes and secret spots to explore on your complimentary bicycle, or on foot if you prefer (it is 30 minutes' walk along the river to the Ponte Vecchio). Afterwards, kick off your shoes and slink across the manicured lawn to the groovy lounge, where an honesty bar sits among coffee tables strewn with architecture books and objets d'art. Or fix a fruit salad in your corian-topped kitchen (most suites have their own) and swing in a hammock by the pool. Bliss.


  • A haven of laid-back and tranquil minimalism away from the bustle of the city centre
  • Lots of outside space, rare in Florence: gorgeous gardens and a slimline pool
  • Alice is a glamorous and enlightening hostess; and her young staff are dynamic and full of enthusiasm for the building
  • Wonderful communal lounge with DVD/CD library, vast leather sofa and flickering fires in winter
  • Super-cool contemporary interiors in a historic building
  • Free bikes for cycling into town, including a couple of vintage models; there's a traffic-free cycle path into town


  • It's a 30-minute walk from the city centre, but the trams make getting around quicker: you're 100m from the nearest tram stop, and 5 stops from the central station
  • Breakfast was a little unimaginative
  • Some rooms are right next to the road, and expect some background traffic noise when sitting in the gardens and pool
  • It's a 15-minute walk or a short bike / taxi / tram ride to the nearest restaurant (great for walking off a large Tuscan meal, though)
  • No 24-hour service - but the exceptional staff are on hand from 8am to 8pm

Best time to go

Florence is busiest during the summer months, and it's also very hot as it has its own microclimate. Whilst it is beautiful when the sun is shining, there are many tour groups and sightseeing can be a mission. Alice recommends visting in February and November to really enjoy Florence without the crowds of tourists and conference delegates.

It's worth avoiding the main Fashion Show weeks (including Modaprima in late November) and Pitti Fairs (January and June, dates vary) as flights and accommodation will be at a premium during these times.

Great for...

City Style
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Design Hotel
  • 10
  • Breakfast only (walk to restaurants)
  • All ages welcome.
  • Open all year
  • Outdoor Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Daily Maid Service
  • Towels & Bedlinen
  • Bicycles Available
Room: Loft 8


Riva Lofts has 10 suites of varying sizes. All have private entrances, accessed via the garden or the alley. Mod cons include DVD players and WiFi. All but one Standard (no. 3) and one Deluxe (no. 11) have a kitchenette, too.

We entered our 3-storey Loft Studio (No. 4) via an airy hallway with cream wingback chairs and huge Tuscan pots. Taking the wooden stairs to the first-floor lounge and kitchen, we were awed by walls of floor-to-ceiling windows with stunning views over the Arno. The kitchen was small but artful - the grey walnut wood unit having been designed by Nardi himself. Another set of stairs lead to the funky bedroom, decorated with 70s bubble lamps and a wall-mounted TV. This room was a temple to sleep - it was all I could do to stop myself from lying down on the polished concrete floors. Across the hall, the cool all-white bathroom was gorgeous - large showerheads, fluffy towels and bathrobes, big sinks; even a remote-controlled skylight.

The other Loft Suite, equally breathtaking, comes with a hanging kingsize bed, 3 huge windows, and a natty kitchen which you can push out of the way (it concertinas into itself) - another of Nardi's creations.

On our second visit, we slept in the newest Deluxe Suite (no. 11), an airy white space divided into sleeping and sitting areas by a glass partition, with white leather sofas, a 3-metre-high gold mirror and a single lily corkscrewing out of a retro Ricard bottle.

Fans of contemporary interiors would be happy with any of these unique studios. We also loved Room 9 - a Superior Deluxe Studio - which is similarly spread over different floors with a vast luxurious bed and groovy wardrobe - an old costume trunk from the Florentine Opera. Slightly smaller are the Deluxe Studios, which include Room 7: a quirky space, with a crazy polyester fringe curtain all the way round the bed and artwork by Australian artist Simon Miller. One of the split-level Standard Studios has a compact terrace with just enough space to seat 2, which looked cute (and would suit smokers).

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Bathrobes
  • Cd player
  • Central heating
  • Coffee tea making
  • Cots Available
  • Dvd player
  • Extra beds
  • Hob stove
  • Honesty bar
  • Kitchenette
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Phone
  • Safe box
  • Tv
  • WiFi
  • Wifi internet


The buffet breakfast is included in the room price, and consists of freshly baked croissants, fruit, home-baked bread, orange juice squeezed each morning, muesli, yummy yoghurts, best pure fruit jam and, of course, strong Italian coffee (as well as Twining teas). The presentation is lovely and the ingredients really fresh, but the range is a little limited and some might find it rather bitty after a day or 2.

With 2+ days' notice, other meals are available from the hotel's kitchen for groups of 10 or more - a great option for a relaxed celebration.

Alice will happily recommend and book restaurants for you - and you can borrow the hotel's bikes to get there. Tuscan cuisine is highly regarded and there's no shortage of fabulous eateries serving anything from a light snack to a Chianti Reserva and heart-stopping wild boar stew. We recommend sticking to the left bank of the river to avoid the crowds and find the more authentic Tuscan restaurants. On our 2013 visit, we enjoyed Il Santo Bevitore (buzzy atmosphere, and fantastic wild boar ragu with crispy cranberries), and the nearby Trattoria 4 Leoni (outdoor dining, classic Tuscan fare).

All of the studios, apart from the Standard Studios, have a small kitchenette, with a sink, a hob, a fridge a coffee machine and a kettle (plus a microwave on request). It's not ideal for whipping up a 3-course meal, but perfectly adequate for making sandwiches or snacks.

Features include:

  • Breakfast
  • Chef on request
  • Coffee tea making
  • Hob stove
  • Kitchenette
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Restaurants nearby
  • Group Meals by Arrangement


  • Sightseeing is a must in this incredible city of art and culture - book ahead for the Duomo, Uffizi Gallery and the Accademia, especially in high season
  • Whether you prefer the high fashion of Ferragamo, Gucci and Prada (around Via Tornabuoni) or the artisan shops and funky boutiques of Borgo San Frediano and Via San Spirito, this über-glamorous city will happily relieve you of your euros
  • Florence has a number of good flea markets where you can buy more unusual gifts and souvenirs
  • The world-famous Boboli Gardens are a wonderful place to relax and escape the chaos of the city centre
  • If you love shoe-shopping but can't justify buying any more pairs, click your heels over to Via Tornabuoni for a drool round the shoe museum of Salvatore Ferragamo, the Ferrari of Italian footwear
  • Amazing statues, views of the Arno and jaw-dropping architectural wonders are around every corner, so leave time for a slow amble through the streets of Florence
  • Enjoy an hour or 2 of pampered bliss in SoulSpace - a great spa just 15 minutes from the Ponte Vecchio

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Historical sites
  • Museums / galleries
  • Shopping / markets


Children are welcome. There are no specific facilities for kids, but the garden, pool and in-room kitchens are a bonus for families. However none of the stairs have banisters or railings, so we don't advise coming with toddlers.

Family friendly accommodation:

The Loft Suite is best for families with space for 2 children, but all of the studios can accommodate at least 1 rollaway bed or baby cot. Extra beds incur a small charge, baby cots are free


Available on request

Baby equipment:

Available on request and free of charge.

  • Baby cot
  • Baby bathtub
  • High chairs

Remember  baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking

Kid Friendly:

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