Sophie Goodwin checks into Bonifacio Leonardi di Casalino’s elegantly eccentric Florentine hideaway: a true labour of love within the walls of an 18th century palazzo where sustainability and bespoke design reign supreme.




An artistic gem in the heart of Florence (Via della Scala), Casa Howard is the triumphant creation of the late aesthete, Jennifer Howard Forneris, confidently helmed since 2019 by her son, Bonifacio Leonardi di Casalino. Bonifacio has evidently inherited his mother's innate sense of refinement and uncompromising attention to detail - the 13-room hotel is both elegant and whimsical.

Almost everything in Casa Howard is unique. The artfully balanced mish-mash of prints, colors and fabrics are all bespoke creations: wall colors have been created by the famous Roman decorator, Marina De Lagarda, and textiles are from the business established by Luciano Forneris, Bonifacio’s grandfather, one of the most prominent designers and producers of high fashion textiles in the 60s and 70s. Fabrics displayed at Casa Howard include striped upholstery and square samples of fine cotton textiles, which are framed as pieces of art.



The furniture and lighting is either antique, collected by Jennifer from her travels around the world, or artisan-made. This includes original pieces by heritage bronze worker, Baldini, leather by a local artisan and bespoke light switches by French producer, Meljac, all designed in collaboration with Casa Howard. Throughout the hotel, retro details are fused with postmodernism: the floors range from 16th-century Venetian semolato to high-end marble and parquet.

The individual rooms are faultless in design, and executed from scratch. Freestanding cast iron bathtubs and homemade biscuits are two such highlights. The breakfast spread, ordered from a retro-style menu pad the night before, is served with Ginori crockery and silver cutlery with your choice of newspaper on the small terrace. In line with their ethos of sustainability, they make their own yoghurt, and source the jams, honey, tea, coffee, charcuterie and eggs from producers in the region.

On-site massages are available on request, bikes can be rented, and an aperitif or delicious local wine ordered around the clock. The highly-trained concierge team, led by Clefs d’Or Antonio Pagano, will go out of their way to recommend and reserve the best to do nearby. Above all, Bonifacio as a proprietor has one eye on the future at all times. Waste is avoided and Casa Howard is impressively plastic-free.

Bathroom products from Santa Maria Novella are refilled in dispensers, while all bathroom amenities are recyclable and compostable. Nespresso capsules are in steel and are refilled in-house, and the mattresses are made in Tuscany by a local producer, with 95% recycled materials and a recycled goose down topper. Pillows are filled with silk, which has an inverse carbon footprint, and water in the rooms is microfiltered and served in custom designed reusable glass bottles.

Cosy and unpretentious, combined with the execution and perfection of a five star hotel, Casa Howard represents modern hospitality underpinned with traditional values. Guests have individual keys to the building to come and go with ease, feeling more like a friend's house than a provision of service.



With thanks to Casa Howard, Florence |

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