Orient Express entrusts the interiors of its first hotel in Rome to architect & designer Hugo Toro

July 2022

Dream / Travel

Orient Express, artisan of travel since 1883 and brand of Accor, and Italian group Arsenale S.p.A, experts in luxury hotels and hospitality, have chosen architect and designer Hugo Toro to adorn the new Orient Express La Minerva hotel in Rome.

Having joined forces to launch the Palazzo Donà Giovannelli hotel project in Venice, Orient Express and Arsenale S.p.A. come together again for the opening of Orient Express La Minerva Hotel in Rome, a prestigious address acquired by Arsenale in February 2022.

 

The hotel, which has just kicked off renovations, is a project rooted in the history of Rome. At the end of 2024, a new decor and interior inspired by the Roman domus and the riches of the “Eternal City” will be revealed with a new touch of contemporary elegance.

Hugo Toro in Rome

“Orient Express has found its ideal stopover in Rome,” says Hugo Toro, adding: “It is a symbolic city that evokes emotion and amazement in everyone who visits. It is a place that feels like magic, imprinted by marks of history and with a rich palette of textures, materials and colours. All of this is in perfect harmony with the mysterious and travel-focused identity of Orient Express.”

In his Promenades à Rome (Walks through Rome), the architect travelled to the heart of the city’s historic centre, found treasures in bookstores, discovered the Pantheon, and brought his notebooks and watercolours to the famous Piazza de la Minerva, whose name derives from the goddess of artisans and eternal Protector of Rome. He sketched the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, and Bernini’s obelisk with its elephant high on the pedestal. He passed by the church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva – the only gothic church in Rome – and then saw Michelangelo’s Pietà, all before stopping in front of the façade of the anticipated Orient Express La Minerva.

“The former Palazzo Fonseca is a sumptuous palace from the 17th century, with a huge and majestic facade,” Toro explains, adding: “It is a heritage site still adorned with Roman columns, sculptures by Rinaldi Rinaldo, a disciple of Canova, and the fascinating Minerva. It is a secret spot where you can go to think and admire the wonders of the Sant’Ivo dome, the roof of the Quirinal Palace and the Pantheon from its panoramic terrace.”

A tale of Travel

Born on the French-German border to a Mexican mother and a French father, architect and designer Hugo Toro shares a love of culture, encounters and travel with Orient Express. He is the interior architect behind the designs of the Gigi restaurants in Paris, Val d’Isère and Ramatuelle, in addition to exceptional apartments and private Parisian mansions. Recently he ventured to London where he designed Booking Office 1869, the new restaurant in the 19th-century ticket hall at St Pancras station, and last summer Hugo Toro conceived the scenography of Orient Express’ pop-up at La Samaritaine in Paris. An obvious collaboration at the centre of a space inspired by the world of Orient Express, which featured the brand’s first collection of travel objects entitled Steam Dream, created in collaboration with 18 houses and artisans.

“We are delighted to be working with Hugo Toro to capture the timeless essence of the city of romance and legend within Orient Express La Minerva. Having made his first foray into Orient Express designing our pop-up scenography at La Samaritaine, this remarkable designer continues his journey with us into Rome. His passion for history, sensitivity and skill at elevating historic surroundings with a new contemporaneity will help us to create in Orient Express La Minerva one of the most enchanting destinations in the world,” says Stephen Alden, CEO Raffles & Orient Express.

 

“The history of La Minerva will be revived in Hugo Toro’s hands, during this period of renaissance in the city of Rome.  It’s a chapter that is part of a dynamic global project for the tourism sector, connected to the launch of Orient Express La Dolce Vita trains, which will connect the country’s cities of art and culture to its small villages through an integrated ultra-luxury offer for travellers who choose to explore and discover Italy,” said Gilda Cotzias, Real Estate and Construction Manager of Arsenale S.p.A.

Postcards from Hugo Toro

“Rome is filled with innumerable secret courtyards. You must be curious, push the doors open! Statues and architectural treasures can be discovered at random moments, adding more richness to your experience in the city.”

“An architectural detail that says a lot. In the Pantheon, the dome, with its 43-meter diameter, is a pure marvel. And its coffered ceiling is an architectural classic.”

“Bernini’s obelisk: an original work of art that each guest of the future Orient Express La Minerva hotel can discover upon arrival.”

“Minerva, a symbol of Orient Express La Minerva. The patroness of Rome, goddess of work and of artisans, symbol of knowledge and wisdom. An inspiring figure for this project.”

“The colors and textures of Rome have a huge influence on my work. These patinated layers show the stigma of time, and it’s a color palette that I plan to bring into Orient Express La Minerva.”

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