FLORENCE, ITALY: The Hotel degli Orafi is a gorgeous boutique hotel in the heart of Florence directly overlooking the Arno River and the Ponte Vecchio. Its impeccable location is right next to the Uffizi Museum and right around the corner from the Palazzo Vecchio. Most significantly, it was the exact hotel from the 1985 classic Merchant Ivory film, “Room With a View”.
Classically elegant, it is easy to see why it was chosen. It has all the heart and soul of the Florence we dream of at the turn of the 19th century, with impeccable modern amenities. It is the perfect choice for a stunning Florentine adventure.
Hotel degli Orafi: A grand history
The building dates to at least 1515 when it was acquired by the Augustinian order of monks who held it until 1783. In the 19th century it became the boarding house Quisisana, and was popular with intellectuals and artists, mainly Anglo-Saxons on the grand tour of Europe.
It was this history, and the preservation of much of its patina, that led director James Ivory in 1985 to use it for some of the scenes in the classic film version of Edgar Morgan Forster’s novel “Room With a View”. After undergoing extensive renovation and preservation efforts this former palace of antiquity became the Hotel degli Orafi in 2010.
Hotel degli Orafi sits literally steps away from the Ponte Vecchio.
The entrance to the hotel is across from the portico of this iconic landmark bridge. The lobby is compact, with a modernist upscale sensibility. Plush red velvet couches fill the front room and the adjacent sitting room. That is contrasted with an ancient stone archway filling one wall and a domed ceiling over the sitting room.
An antique elevator from the turn of the 20th century is just across from the reception desk. The degli Orafi truly transcends all the eras of history that have made it a landmark destination hotel. The 5th floor rooftop bar is legendary, with views looking over the Arno on one side and the Palazzo Vecchio and the cathedral of Brunelleschi’s Duomo in the distance on the other.
The third floor Junior Suite is a room with a view indeed.
It occupies a corner of the hotel with two large windows looking out across the portico to the Arno River and the Ponte Vecchio. Grand valences with thick curtains frame the window seats.
It is a large chamber with elegant green and gold carpeting and dark wood trim. Creamy walls rise to 10 foot ceilings. The living area is L shaped, with a comfortable couch and two love seats around an antique coffee table. A gorgeous curving antique writing desk fills in the entire other corner of the room.
The bathroom is statement in white marble, with a deep porcelain bathtub with hand held shower sprays. The vanity has twin sinks of green marble that matches the trim across the marble walls.
The bedchamber is an elegant alcove
A sumptuous king size bed and a large antique wooden headboard fills a private chamber. Thick brocade twin curtains at either end of the entrance to the alcove lend an intimate romantic feel to the room.
It is a Victorian chamber of grand eloquence, a fitting tribute to the history of the hotel, and an eloquent invocation of the glory of Florence. Staying here is a transformational experience.
As the evening falls it is time for a drink at the rooftop bar.
A modernist room, with art deco green couches and settees, it sprawls across the top floor of the hotel. A string of thin spotlight hang from the ceiling. Tables and soft green chairs fill the center of the room.
An elegant bar occupies one corner of the main room. A large window looks out over the Arno. A comfortably chic large sitting area of couches in one corner leads to the outdoor terrace.
Through the glass doors is the open outdoor terrace.
A Florentine dream brought to life. If the Junior Suite is a room with a view, then the rooftop terrace is a penthouse with a vision of Tuscany.
On one side the wrought iron railing looks out over stunning views of the Arno and the Ponte Vecchio. More amazingly, no fewer than three hilltop villas are visible in the near distance. Beyond that are the rolling hills of Tuscany.
On the other side of the terrace the glory of Florence is there at your doorstep. A clear vista of the towering Palazzo Vecchio is close enough to reach out and touch. Just beyond that the grand edifice of Brunelleschi’s Duomo rising above the red rooftops of the renaissance city.
The rooftop terrace of the Hotel degli Orasi is glorious
A place to while away the early evening with the visionary aura of Florence all around. It captures the imagination and takes the legend of the hotel and brings it to life in grand fashion.
During a stay here, visitors will find themselves returning to the rooftop again and again at different times of the day to take in the changing shadows and light of the historical sights all around them.
Hotel degli Orafi: Breakfast is served
The breakfast chamber sits in what was the former Florentine ballroom in the 1800’s. The original frescoes from the 19th century still cover the stunning vaulted ceiling. Idyllic scenes of Florence in the 1800’s fill the panels across the ceiling.
Murano glass chandeliers hang down the length of the ornate chamber. Sitting amidst the elegant splendor as the morning lighting streams through the windows overlooking the Arno River is evocatively stunning.
Two large chambers next to the breakfast ballroom connect to an even deeper past. The sitting room is filled with dark blue furniture under 25 foot ceilings with massive exposed beams from the 1600’s.
Hotel degli Orafi: an grand expression of history in the modern age
The other room holds a bar area, and in addition to the glorious beamed ceiling, the original stone walls of the palazzo are exposed to reveal an antiquity stretching back 700 years to the 1300’s.
The breakfast room and the adjacent sitting rooms are an eloquent expression of all that is glorious about the Hotel degli Orafi. Bringing the past to life in the modern age of the 21st century. All in a museum quality environment that is also a phenomenal luxury hotel experience.
Hotel degli Orafi: All of Renaissance Florence at your feet.
The Uffizi Museum is literally 50 feet away. Michelangelo’s David at the Academia Museum is a short ten minute walk. The stunning Piazza della Signoria and the ancient Palazzo Vecchio is less than three minutes away. Finding the Ponte Vecchio is as easy as walking out of the hotel and opening your eyes.
Although the hotel does not have a fine dining restaurant, Florence is filled with dozens of top quality restaurants within minutes of the hotel. Hundreds of other trattoria, osteria, and countless shops and boutiques fill the ancient streets and alleyways. Across the Arno is a more bohemian side of Florence that is reminiscent of Trastevere in Rome. Hotel degli Orafi is perfectly situated to explore all of them.
Two days in paradise along the Arno pass in the flash of an eye.
Florence is so unique, with so many museums and corners to explore, that even a week or two weeks is never enough time. Siena and the outposts of Tuscany are all within an hour or a couple hours drive.
But nothing quite envelopes a visitor into the heart of Florence than a stay at the Hotel degli Orafi. What James Ivory saw when he used the hotel for Room With a View is as true today as it was in 1985.
An authentic look into the glorious past of the Florentine Renaissance. A genuine reflection of what visitors of the 18th and 19th century experienced on the grand tour of Europe.
A beautiful modern outpost of civilized living that captures the essence of each era of Florence’s past. The Hotel degli Orafi is there awaiting the welcome arrival of anyone looking to experience the joy of living a Florentine “Room With a View” in their own life.
During the Covid-19 pandemic it is best to check closely with each property’s website for precautionary measures and availability. Most major properties, including Hotel degli Orafi, are taking extraordinary efforts to reopen safely.
Joel Berliner is a travel writer based in Los Angeles @JoelBerliner
All photos by Alison Reynolds @BigAlPeoplesPal