The Florentine has always had a soft spot for Grand Hotel Minerva. On hazy summer evenings, the striking lettering on the white frontage calls to our team across piazza Santa Maria Novella, extending an invitation of lazy aperitivi on the iconic rooftop. Now, the luxury hotel is gearing up to celebrate its 150th anniversary.
The historic landmark, overlooking the basilica of Santa Maria Novella and affording unforgettable views of the Duomo, has just completed a multimillion dollar renovation of its 97 rooms and suites, as well as the communal areas, which takes guests on a design-driven visual journey through the hotel’s past, while readying it for the next generation.
The building began life as housing for the monks of Santa Maria Novella and afterwards as a home to several noble Florentine families, before becoming Locanda della Minerva, a travellers’ inn, in 1869. In the early twentieth century, the tavern was turned into a hotel and in the 1950s two innovative Italian architects, Edoardo Detti and Carlo Scarpa, transformed the premises into the Grand Hotel Minerva. Scarpa was a pioneer in balancing new and old, revealing the history of the original building, something the owners have achieved again today. The Maestro, as he was known, deconstructed and transformed the hotel structure, leaving only a few rooms unaltered, with beautiful frescoes and original hand-painted ancient wooden beams, which still exist today. While transforming the hotel, Scarpa created design details that would become a symbol of Italian modernist architecture for years to come.
In anticipation of the 150th anniversary, the family hired local architect Piera Tempesti Benelli to enhance the hotel’s heritage by valorizing Scarpa’s original art, iconic furniture and landmark structures. Over a century’s worth of imperfections can be seen throughout the Grand Hotel Minerva resulting from redesigns over the years. In the reception area, ceiling markings by the wooden beams and lintels denote separate rooms built over different eras. Instead of hiding them, Benelli chose to emphasize these flaws by using strategically placed lighting.
Original elements crafted by Scarpa and repurposed today include The Breakfast Room, whose geometric black-and-white marble floor contrasts with the new addition of pale blue polished plaster walls hung with artworks by Giuseppe Chiari, and The Bar, whose focal feature is the old front desk counter emblazoned with the hotel’s logo lined with Scarpa’s original bar stools.
In the reappointed lobby, a coffee table designed by Scarpa acts as the centerpiece of a sitting area, flanked by the grand piano and sand-colored velvet couches, while the steps up to the rooftop pool, which Scarpa and Detti famously built in the 1950s, have been restored to their former glory. Many of the antiques, bought at auction in the late Seventies, originally came from Prince Demidoff’s Florentine mansion, where they symbolized the family’s opulence at the time. The hotel displays them today as an expression of a bygone era and to convey a different sense of luxury from that of the surrounding modern furniture. The remaining furniture, designed by Benelli and manufactured by local craftspeople, aims to be a bridge between consecutive generations of objects.
With an unparalleled rooftop pool and terrace, indoor green spaces and outdoor terraces, Grand Hotel Minerva is a contemporary urban resort just steps from the city’s most iconic attractions. Exploring Florence’s historic past, while enjoying everything the city now offer, begins—and ends (with those lazy evening drinks we so love)—at Grand Hotel Minerva.
150th anniversary celebrations at Grand Hotel Minerva
Starting in June, Grand Hotel Minerva will celebrate 150 years since its founding with 1869 Milk Punch, a heritage drink using Officina Profumo Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella products, for the here and now designed by consulting bartender Julian Biondi. Resident chef Tommaso Calonaci has crafted Pellegrino Artusi-inspired dishes, such as onion carabaccia soup and chicken cibreo, ricotta and strigoli ravioli, and stewed wood pigeon with a dolceforte sauce and truffles. The heritage menu and cocktail list will be launched at a press-only celebration on June 6. La Buona Novella Restaurant is open at lunch and dinner, with light international fare during the day and the fine dining 150th anniversary menu served in the evenings only.
Grand Hotel Minerva
Piazza Santa Maria Novella 16, Florence