HomeInterior DesignInside of a Ancient Palace Became Boutique Resort in Italy

Inside of a Ancient Palace Became Boutique Resort in Italy

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At times, the research process for Giuliano Andrea dell’Uva’s latest hotel project in Orvieto, Italy, might have felt more like an archaeological expedition. Local hotelier Raffaele Tysserand commissioned the Naples-based founder of his namesake firm to renovate and transform a 15th-century palace in the small Umbrian town into a history-inspired boutique hotel. To get a feel for the place and its past, architect and client took to the surrounding streets. 

“We ventured almost stealthily into old noble buildings, discovering within them elegant gardens,” recalls dell’Uva. “When I saw the hotel building for the first time I was fascinated. It was a challenge that suited my nature.” The location is quite incredible as well: adjacent to the bluff-top city’s 14th-century Duomo di Orvieto, its architecture supporting an intricate facade of narrow, horizontal bands in alternating white travertine and black basalt. These defining stripes served as the inspirational basis for dell’Uva’s playful yet sensitive concept for the newly inaugurated hospitality property, the nine-key Palazzo Petrvs. 

Designers Look to the Past to Create a Timeless Hotel

exterior striped facade of buildingexterior striped facade of building
The white travertine and black basalt facade of the 14th-century Duomo di Orvieto in Italy is visible from and inspired the interiors of Palazzo Petrvs, the nearby former home turned boutique hotel by Giuliano Andrea dell’Uva Architetti.
bedroom with wooden floors and high ceilingsbedroom with wooden floors and high ceilings
One of Palazzo Petrvs’s nine guest rooms features a custom headboard and bed faced in linen.

The former private home, once owned by and named for the wealthy notary Petrvs Facienus, had long been abandoned. However, when dell’Uva began to peel back its prior 19th-century renovations, the three-story, 16,000-square-foot interiors revealed original frescos and Renaissance-era painted wood ceilings. Tysserand requested a place that would “offer guests the feeling of a contemporary grand tour experience”—luxurious, comfortable, well-appointed spaces that “didn’t alter the original context,” dell’Uva notes, so he returned its rooms to their original proportions and called in a team of artisans to restore the historic detailing. Where frescoes were not discovered, the architect plastered the walls in a natural clay finish and laid terra-cotta floors, both allusions to the city’s Etruscan heritage and continued artisan culture. The natural color of these materials provides a soft, warm palette off which the custom and vintage Italian and Nordic furnishings can riff. 

Thus, a studied exercise in contrast drives the environment. At the center of the large lobby, the original, massive stone fireplace is a visual cue for dell’Uva’s blocky, double-sided sofa, upholstered in a forest green fabric and color-matched by a pair of fringed Hans-Agne Jakobsson table lamps from 1950 that perch atop its frame. Dynamically contemporary brass-and-glass sconces flank the hearth. In one corner is a purpose-built dining table with a black-and-white striped base and Hans Wegner seating; in another is a Marco Zanuso armchair and a Carlo Scarpa console, both vintage. 

How Palazzo Petrvs’s Interiors Reference a Local Landmark

living room with dark green chaises and rustic featuresliving room with dark green chaises and rustic featuresliving room with dark green chaises and rustic features
In front of the 1475 palace’s original fireplace, the lobby mixes such custom furnishings as a two-sided sofa and the round travertine-and-basalt table with a 1950’s Marco Zanuso chair.

Most of the guest rooms also have a striped detail, if not a focal point, that ties the interiors back to the cathedral—so close by that it is visible through some of the hotel windows. In one room, there’s an en-suite bathtub constructed of bands of terra-cotta painted black and white. It sits under a decoratively painted coffered ceiling that dates from 1500. In another, a custom bed features a headboard and skirt made with striped linen. In yet another, as well as in the standout stair that leads to the large suite located in the property’s ancient tower, the entire floor sports the pattern, laid in locally handmade terra-cotta tiles. “The architecture of the duomo goes beyond the stylistic elements imposed by Italian Gothic, with dichromatic horizontal lines that—rather than soaring—convey a sense of balance and unexpected contemporaneity,” dell’Uva explains. “I wanted to bring the same to the project.” 

The only non-striped space is Coro, the hotel restaurant, which is built inside the historic shell of a former church that adjoins the main building. “From my perspective, an old, deconsecrated church needs simple, solemn, and sophisticated furnishings,” continues dell’Uva, who chose to restore the structure with a deep appreciation for its architecture. He left its stacked stone walls largely bare, aside from a selection of works by Milanese artist Michele Guido. Spindly wrought-iron candelabras hang over the recycled-wood tables, upholstered benches, and more Wegner chairs.

Modern Amenities Include Spalike Bathrooms and a Courtyard

dining area with arched entryways and wooden tabledining area with arched entryways and wooden table
Coro, the hotel’s restaurant, occupies an adjoining deconsecrated church from the 1500’s, its original walls intact and furnished with Hans Wegner armchairs and custom reclaimed-wood tables and suspended iron candelabras.
bedroom with arched windows and view to scenerybedroom with arched windows and view to scenery
The top-floor suite has views of the duomo and L’art plissé lamps by Folkform.

“The biggest challenge was ensuring that the changes did not affect the magic of the place,” dell’Uva elaborates. But there were some practical needs to be met. For guest comfort, each room is designed with a generous contemporary bathroom. Meanwhile, adding new waxed-iron partitions with openings for windows and doorways allowed the preservation of original stone portals and charming wooden doors without having to use them. 

Where Palazzo Petrvs does dive headfirst into totally new territory is the courtyard, though the source material is still ancient. Here, dell’Uva took inspiration from the gardens he’d toured in the other local palaces as well as traditional riads, creating a space that is centered around a working fountain. He designed benches, striped again in black-and-natural terra-cotta, with built-in planters and wrought-iron café tables and chairs with earth-red cushions. Vessels and pots overflow with local favorites, like acanthus, a typical Renaissance-era greenery. Something old and something new, it seems, is Italy’s version of an oasis. 

Walk Through the Nine-Key Palazzo Petrvs Hotel

aerial view of courtyard with green tables and red chairsaerial view of courtyard with green tables and red chairs
The hotel’s central courtyard, arranged around a fountain, features all custom furniture made of striped terra-cotta and iron.
exterior facade of building with striped wallsexterior facade of building with striped walls
Construction on the duomo began in 1290, its banded design similar to other Italian Gothic cathedrals built in central Italy around that time.
bedroom with grey walls and green bedspreadbedroom with grey walls and green bedspread
Another guest room is decorated with a vintage chair and a custom bed skirt.
sitting space with red chair and wooden tablesitting space with red chair and wooden table
Throughout, glass sconces like this one in the lobby, above a Carlo Scarpa Valmarana table, are custom.
bedroom with tan and white walls, wooden beamed ceiling and plant in cornerbedroom with tan and white walls, wooden beamed ceiling and plant in corner
In guest rooms, clay-finished walls and striped terra-cotta flooring allude to Orvieto’s Etruscan heritage.
hallway area with view of outsidehallway area with view of outside
A vintage chaise longue by Tito Agnoli for Bonacina furnishes the grand suite, where a short stair leads to the lofted bed.
reception with table with striped sidesreception with table with striped sides
Guests of the hotel are greeted at a custom brass, iron, and terra-cotta reception desk lit by a vintage Anders Pehrson pendant fixture.
stairway with striped stairs and carpetstairway with striped stairs and carpet
The staircase to the third floor is painted terra-cotta tiles, lit by a custom iron lamp.
bedroom with dark blue walls and tan flooringbedroom with dark blue walls and tan flooring
Windowed waxed-iron panels partially wrap two walls to add contemporary intrigue to a guest room that retains its original sandstone doorjamb.
bathroom area with arched enclave and striped tubbathroom area with arched enclave and striped tub
In a guest bath, the custom tub is made of dichromatic bands of terra-cotta and the Renaissance-era ceiling was restored.
bathroom with tan walls and white flooringbathroom with tan walls and white flooring
Another bathroom features resin flooring, a custom mirror and travertine vanity, and remnants of ancient frescoes uncovered during the renovation.

PROJECT TEAM 

GIULIANO ANDREA DELL’UVA ARCHITETTI: PASQUALE CAPASSO; FIORENZA MAURO.

MARTA FEGIZ: LANDSCAPE DESIGN.

ANDREA PETRANGELI: STRUCTURAL ENGINEER.

MATTEO BRIONI: PLASTERWORK.

PRODUCT SOURCES

FROM FRONT DEDAR: SOFA FABRIC (LOBBY). 

CARL HANSEN & SØN: DINING CHAIRS (LOBBY, RESTAURANT). 

NEMO LIGHTING: DESK LAMP (RECEPTION). 

THROUGH SIMON INTERNATIONAL: CONSOLE TABLE (LOBBY). 

MARINO MORETTI STUDIO: BOWL. 

FOLKFORM THROUGH ÖRSJÖ: LAMPS (SUITE). 

DORNBRACHT: TUB FITTINGS, SINK FITTINGS (BATHROOMS). 

REZINA: WHITE FLOOR (BATHROOM). 

THROUGHOUT SOCIETY LIMONTA: BED LINENS. 



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