In-depth restoration over the past three years has placed NH Collection Firenze Porta Rossa at the avant-garde of design. But its history began a long time ago.
A 600 year old youth
NH Collection Firenze Porta Rossa
The premise that marked the refurbishment process for the NH Collection Firenze Porta Rossa was utter respect for its history and character. To achieve this, the team responsible for the restoration had the support and supervision of the Soprintendenza BAPSAE (Belle Arti e Paesaggio per le province di Firenze), the local authority that supervises the conservation of monumental and artistic heritage in the area. This meant the building could be modernised while, at the same time, detecting, conserving and discovering the works that certify its rich past.
The luxury and opulence that made this hotel the meeting place for the Grand Tour at the start of the 20th century are back in force to receive new guests. The challenge was knowing how to combine the magnificence of the past with today’s needs and comforts.
The aim of the interior design project was to conserve everything that was found: objects belonging to the family (mirrors, umbrella stands, wardrobes…), elements of “hotel prototechnology” (such as a clumsy towel dryer, an old switchboard…), frescoes that are several centuries old or details from the medieval building. An effort was made to capture the spirit of the former palace and embody it in little nuances, turning it into one of the features of the hotel’s transformation.
The 18th century marked the start of a series of refurbishments of the building. With the aim of adapting it to the tastes of the time, its walls were covered in murals with plant motifs, heraldic insignia or historical characters from the area. The passage of time and successive transformations meant that these works were covered by other elements that were added later. The frescoes were forgotten.
Later, a new restoration of the building brought these jewels of Florentine art to light. Rediscovered in bedrooms and common areas, they have been restored by specialists and incorporated into the interior design of the NH Collection Firenze Porta Rossa. Finding them even led to a change in the design in order to respect them to the utmost. So —in bedrooms with frescoes on the walls— all of the decoration and furniture has been arranged around these pieces, to prevent their deterioration.
Another of the featured ornaments at the NH Collection Firenze Porta Rossa is on the ceiling of the reception. From the workshops of the master glassmaker Ulisse De Matteis, in 1900, came the great multicoloured, glass ceiling with which the indoor patio would be covered. It would bring luminosity and warmth, creating a kind of winter garden. De Matteis, who had been responsible for the restoration of numerous Florentine monuments, such as the stained glass windows in the Basilica of Santa María Novella, took his inspiration from the Italian Renaissance when he created his glasswork for the hotel. The main scene of the largest piece features a red door, Porta Rossa – the emblem of the hotel, of the neighbourhood and of the “Arte della Seta”, the silk guild that had its headquarters in the area during the Middle Ages.
The ceramics that were typical of the late Roman period and Renaissance motifs inspire the stained glass in the doors at the entrance to the hotel lobby. Botticelli’s Venus or Flora, presented in the form of designs on the glass in the doors, are some of the elements that take us into classical style and that —using significant symbology— tell us a story: that of the Bartolini family.
The walnut wood covering the walls is a key material. Through this resource, the space exudes nobility, warmth and classical flavour. More Renaissance-style details, such as plasterwork and frescoes, complement the more “academic” part of the hotel’s decoration, along with the floor, which has also been restored and is a large chessboard of black and white marble.
However, the contemporary contrast comes from a Carrara marble counter, the lines and finishes of which lend it an emphatically and extremely modern appearance. Opposite it, a modern, oval-shaped couch in red —reminiscent of the large sofas of the golden days of Hollywood— allows you to check in while sitting comfortably and sipping a glass of Prosecco.
In the old silk shop, now a comfortable extension of the lobby leads towards the street, a Chesterfield settee and walnut walls coexist and contrast with furniture in white tones with contemporary lines, as well as red armchairs and pouffes. A classical writing desk, complete with the latest in technology and design, can also be used as a modern business centre.
Also next to the current lobby, the former hotel reception from the start of the 20th century has been conserved practically intact and is where guests will find a selection of international press. Very early every morning, breakfast is set in this area for NH Collection early risers.
The restaurant and the bar are located on the ground floor of the hotel. At street level and with their own entrance. These spaces were conceived as a meeting place for local society. An open and pleasant spot, where the pure white of the walls makes more frescoes stand out: the latter from the 19th century.
Original, 19th-century, wood-and-marble tables are everywhere, combined with modern white side tables. But there are also leather wing chairs sharing the area with armchairs upholstered in red. Elements that bring energy and modernity to surroundings that are over five hundred years old.
The large windows also have period stained glass by Ulisse De Matteis and the Carrara marble floors have been laid out like a chessboard, respecting the original aesthetics of the old Hotel Porta Rossa.
In some common areas of the hotel, there are spots where you can rest, meet or read. Here you will find some antique items that have been restored from the different stages of the building and have been combined with the most avant-garde pieces of modern design.
The secret is in the mix. So, family furniture from the 19th century is combined with contemporary lamps or modern pouffes of Italian design, creating a balance based on contrasts, on eclectic elegance.
Turn back the time in the NH Collection Firenze Porta Rossa while enjoying the comfort and chic of our modern days and experience Firenze’s history which is present in every single corner first hand.