The founders’ goal is to contribute to the safeguard of Florence’s architectural capital by adhering to the principles of ethical tourism
SoprArno Suites, a boutique hotel located in Florence, opened its doors in 2014, first incarnation of the collaboration between Matteo Perduca, Francesco Magistrelli and Betty Soldi. The success of the venue encouraged the trio to invest in other activities: after months of research they found another eligible space in Casino Torregiani, a villa in proximity of a private garden renowned in all Europe, and they decided to establish another resort, AdAstra. The lastest installment by the trio is OltrArno Splendid, a boutique bed and breakfast sited in the heart of Florence, inaugurated in 2019.
The allure of their offer lies in their vision, shared by Francesco Maestrelli, the architect who redesigned the spaces of the hotels, Matteo Perduca, curator and Creative Director, and Betty Soldi, PR. Unlike most Italian luxury hotels, determined to capitalize on the building’s historic heritage, the interiors of SoprArno Suites, AdAstra and OltrArno Splendid are designed with a contemporary spirit, mixing old and new in an approach close to situationism.
The merging of both styles creates a dialogue that aims to engage the guests: as Matteo Perduca states, «we want all elements inside our hotels to be stimuli». The art direction, core of the three hotels, displays an Italian touch without having it overpower the whole and turn into a constraint – Perduca maintains room for manoeuvre for treading on new grounds: «instead of trying to align to the market, we developed our own channel of expression, often putting ourselves on the line along the road». Conquered by the SoprArno Suites aesthetics, the majority of guests is composed of creatives.
Aside for their approach to decor, the three hotels play a role in preserving the local heritage. «Florence has a historical real estate heritage of immense proportions, that requires funds and labor to be maintained», saysPerduca. The conversion of those spaces into boutique hotels allows both the creation of wealth and the maintenance of said historical buildings. The Florentine administration displays a tendency to reject these projects, fearing repercussions on the metropolitan area, but thanks to Maestrelli’s philological approach in his work of refurbishment –that is, to renovate without altering and to welcome without crowding– all his proposals have passed.
The link between tourism and urban maintenance brings up questions about the sustainability of elite tourism. «Florence is at risk right now» affirms Perduca, concerned for the repercussions that the hôtellerie business can have on the city. While luxury tourism can, with its limited numbers, educate the guests to a traveling with conscientiousness, the Airbnb model struggles to strike a balance between the tourists and the city spaces, risking to flood urban areas with guests that do not appreciate or respect them. Perduca is still determined to give his contribution to preserving Florence’s historic capital, choosing to relocate most guests in the town’s outskirts rather than group them in its center: «We are starting other initiatives in the OltrArno, an area outside the city centre – its name means: across the river Arno. We also invite our guests to visit and attend activities in the areas surrounding the city of Florence».
The future of SoprArno Suites, AdAstra and OltrArno Splendid staggers in the ongoing pandemic: the flux of foreign travelers has been stopped by Covid-19, forcing most hotel owners to adapt their offer to locals, with considerable investment of resources. It’s no different for Perduca, Magistrelli and Soldi, whose communication was directed mostly to extra-European travelers. The three founders now have to update their lines of work to reach more customers within Italy and surrounding countries; in their words: «It is sadly clear that without the return of foreign visitors, especially from the United States, the Florentine hôtellerie sector will suffer ‘amputations’». At present time, AdAstra and OltrArno Splendid are open to the public.