Accor’s Orient Express brand is set to launch in Rome in 2023, with the major refurbishment of the historic Grand Hotel de la Minerve.

Real estate investor Arsenale Spa has signed a preliminary agreement with the owners of the hotel, the Billi family, to carry out a luxury renovation of the 17th century property.

The hotel will continue its operations under the guidance and management of the Billi family before a 20-month refit process from 2022 (Note that the hotel is closed until March 26 due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic).

It will then be managed under the Orient Express brand, which “will bring the legendary spirit of Europe’s golden age of travel back to the heart of Rome” by Christmas 2023. The hotel will draw inspiration from “the opulent services of the original train”.

According to Arsenale Spa, the transaction forms part of its development strategy of “enhancing premium Italian assets in the luxury sector and working alongside the biggest international brands to create new hospitality destinations”.

Accor acquired a 50 percent stake in the share capital of Orient Express in 2017, which was formerly fully-owned by the SNCF Group. The hotels have no connection with the former Orient-Express Hotels which were rebranded as Belmond Hotels in 2014.

Accor currently plans to open five hotels under the brand in London, Paris, Rome, Milan and Florence.

Paolo Barletta, CEO of Arsenale Spa, commented:

“It is a great honour and privilege to work on a hotel as iconic and full of history as the Hotel de la Minerve, and the honour is made even greater by the involvement of Orient Express, one of the world’s most famous and prestigious luxury brands. The Minerve is not just a hotel but a cornerstone of Italian hospitality. Carrying forward its history and role is a mission we hope to pursue with the entire community.”

Roberto and Bernardo Billi added: 

“There is a strong common vision between our family’s way of doing business and Arsenale’s mission. The combination of respect for the distinctive traits that the Minerve has expressed throughout the history of the Roman hotel industry with the innovation needed for its renovation and enhancement is exactly what the city of Rome needs today. It is for this reason that we have firmly adhered to the vision of Paolo Barletta and Arsenale, making our family and all the members of the Minerve enterprise available, in the challenging path of 2021 and the years to come”.

Sébastien Bazin, Chairman and CEO of Accor, also commented:

“I am delighted with this important partnership between Arsenale Spa and Orient Express. We are proud to be involved in the creation of such a high-class and romantic landmark in Rome. To bring this incredible heritage in such iconic capital with great history is obviously a fantastic achievement for the brand and our Group. The hotel will be an extraordinary addition to the collection of prestigious hotels we are targeting, combining the wonders of foreign travel and the comforts of home. Rome has been a legendary stopover since 1919 and a destination that resonates strongly in the Orient Express history and in all Italian hearts.”