by Anmol AhujaSep 24, 2021
On the exact 700th anniversary of the celebrated Italian poet, writer and philosopher, Dante Alighieri, the 25hours Hotel Piazza San Paolino in Florence, welcomed its first guests - it is, the poet’s own city after all. Located in the Santa Maria Novella district, just a stone's throw from the train station and the main Florentine attractions, the hotel’s design is carried out masterfully by Paola Navone who playfully interprets Dante's Divine Comedy with her eclectic, explosive and maximal interiors. Virtues and vices, heaven and hell, blossom and appear as heavily hued rooms, exuberant décor and loud accents that reference the famous masterpiece, whisking guests away on an exhilarating journey of colourful exuberance, period charm and understated opulence.
The 170 rooms of the hospitality design surround an open courtyard, housed in a restored ancient monastery, near the monastery church of San Paolino in Italy. It features two distinct sections – the first, a renovated three-story structure and a new three-level annex, where the hotel’s guest rooms remain spread across the two, connected by the central courtyard as well as the hotel's interior corridors. All architectural interventions were made in collaboration with local Italian office Genius Loci Architettura.
The Italian designer's recognised, eccentric and maximal style of interiors as well as product designs can be witnessed scrupulously throughout the hotel, which revels in an aesthetic of excess and merriment. The voyage into the medieval-contemporary masterpiece begins at the reception where guests can choose between "heavenly paradise" or "blazing hell". Divinely relaxing and hellishly amusing, the bedrooms are separated into two influenced styles called Paradiso and Inferno, referencing Dante’s epic poem that made famous three-line stanza styles integrated with three line rhyming schemes. The two styles of rooms provide a choice between cloud-white retreats with ethereal blue accents or intense red ones with velvet curtains and black bed linen.
"Navone draws inspiration for her designs from her many travels across the world, placing great value on the artisanal traditions of the countries she has visited, coupled with modern influences from the fields of photography, theatre, cinema and art. The 25hours Hotel Piazza San Paolino forms a colourful potpourri of the experiences she has amassed, familiar design classics and new creative ideas," her design team relays.
The white-lined Paradise rooms have concrete-effect resin floors, and walls covered with vinyl wallpaper custom-designed by Paola Navone – OTTO Studio. Marked with the names of the characters of Paradise, one can read a short story inside under reading lamps by Ingo Maurer. Iridescent glass mosaic garbs the bathroom and shower walls, with bespoke sinks sculpted in white marble. Custom furnishings are done in white painted metal, glossy white or silver lacquered wood that complements the all-white interiors. Ceilings are decorated with a handcrafted installation, while rugs have customised graphics. An oversized T-shirt created by Paola Navone - OTTO Studio and produced by Essent-ial conceals the flatscreen fixed to the wall.
Loud and red, Hell’s rooms are marked with names of hell’s characters, with iron-grey floors and stories ready for consumption for guests. The bathroom and shower walls are dressed in red glass paste mosaic, with agglomerated black and white marble sinks for company. Glossy red lacquered wood furniture, or furniture finished with a burnt effect, are custom made designed by Paola Navone - OTTO Studio. The upholstery is covered with velvets and fabrics printed with custom designs, and rugs feature customised graphics. Some rooms are also furnished with recycled red lacquered furniture and others rooms host More armchairs by Gervasoni. The ceiling is decorated with a composition of labels with the names of the sinners of Hell, made to design, and handcrafted by Vox Populi.
A diverse melange of materials retains the striking interior design, with marble, mosaic, terracotta, metal, mirrors, wood, ceramics and glass coming together in a harmonious chorus. The reception desk features walls clothed in wallpaper with a marbled design by Navone and OTTO Studio made by Vescom, while the check-in counter consists of an installation with salvaged suitcases, painted a pretty silver-green, founded around Europe by Davide Mariani of All'Origine.
"In some parts of the hotel, it’s easy to imagine you are in an amusement park. Guests and visitors won’t come across special effects, monsters or ghosts, but rather, an original selection of vintage furniture sourced from markets and traditional craft businesses from all over the world," shares the 25Hours Hotel chain. Many of the employed pieces are reproductions of previous designs from Paola Navone - OTTO Studio, who also was in charge of other design elements such as the bespoke tableware used in 25Hours Hotel San Paolino restaurant.
The hotel design, the first Italian property for 25hours (a German hospitality chain), was made possible with the collaboration between investor and project developer Art-Invest Real Estate, the new owner Invesco Real Estate and 25hours Hotels as the business operator. “The total investment cost for the restoration and redesign of the property amounted to over EUR 100 million,” they relay.
The entrance dedicates itself to gluttons, dominated by a long, marble top countertop for serving food. A massive sign made with picassiette technique (mosaic of ceramic fragments) with the words I Golosi (the gluttons) rests upon the wall above the grocery counter here. The floor is made of compacted stone powder, while the furnishing includes high bistro tables and high stools made in special colours by Gervasoni. The ceiling enjoys an installation made of kitchen objects in aluminium and fake salami and prosciutti, some crocheted, others in fabric, some in papier-mâché and some in handmade painted plaster.
The San Paolino restaurant forms the heart of the 25Hours Hotel, with a collection of large vases and jars in Tuscan terracotta and an installation of sound-absorbing green leaves made of recycled fabrics and materials by the artist Linda Nieuwstad. The seating for the restaurant design is arranged around a lush inner courtyard that boasts of natural light streaming in abundance from the glass roof, illuminating the interior spaces, a traditional Negroni bar and an Alimentari, a typical shop for groceries.
The accompanying, handcrafted Maximum chairs are made of recycled plastic and metal, which combine with the selected curation of historic industrial ones by Chaises Nicolle. The rest of the chairs are also vintage, made of metal, aluminium, bakelite and wood, and the floor is made of compacted stone tiles in hues of green and grey.
Ideal for an 'aperitivo' (a pre-meal drink) or nightcap, the Companion Bar serves Italian classics in its rich navy blue and red accented interiors. The floor is made of polygonal tiles in cast basalt while the counter, designed by Navone - OTTO Studio, is in punched brass. The tables of iron and brass, as well as the seats with capitonné work, are custom made, which accompany the industrial-style, brass-coloured stools here. A collection of crystals from the late 1900s completes the decor of the bar.
The walls of the lobby bar are covered in antique mirrors, while the employed furnishings include massive sofas in blue leather, a Housse Giano model produced by Baxter, a Loll sofa by Gervasoni and blue enamelled lava stone tables custom designed by Navone - OTTO Studio. Upcycled iron and wood tables and chairs are placed in the Blue Lounge which revels in rich colours of blue, teal and turquoise.
The inner, massive courtyard has a tremendous collection of green-glazed terracotta pots in rounded, imperfect shapes. Soft and enveloping seats of wood from the Rafael collection by Ethimo are also designed by the Milanese designer, and so are the metal rod seats equipped with cushions. The tops of the lounge tables are made of recycled plastic, while large green lanterns light up the courtyard immensely. Small aquatic worlds with fountains that resemble animals and aquatic plants are created with ancient stone and zinc basins, with flooring in shades of green freshening up the space. The massive zinc counter remains covered with glazed terracotta bricks, accompanying vintage metal seats, tables and DJ consoles.
The walls of Cinema Paradis retain the original brick wall of the building, with fresh green and grey flooring. Sizeable portraits hang on the walls, depicting scenes from classic Italian movies, such as the Dolce Vita, Vacanze Romane, Un americano a Roma, and more. Salvaged metal chairs, armchairs and tables partner up with upholstered chairs and armchairs. Wall lamps equipped with large lampshades illuminate the room as well as black and white images of well-known Italian films, creating a laid-back ambience.
The Hall of Celestial Harmonies (music room) has walls covered with sound-absorbent fabric, with a pattern designed by the Milanese designer. It is also fitted with a fireplace with an ancient frame in pietra serena stone, with a large Baxter sofa in soft leather in front, designed by Navone. Here too, vintage chairs, tables, armchairs and upholstered seats are placed, with a floor made of tiles in compacted stone powder in green and grey.
Located outside in the hotel’s green garden, the spa with a relaxation room and sauna is a vision in mint green, covered completely with green ceramic tiles and flooring of compacted stone powder. Green rubber pipes hang from the ceiling as décor, overlooking big green sofas and a bucket shower of the Finnish sauna, which is free of charge for the guests.
Hallways snaking between the guest rooms feature colourful carpeting and walls painted with contrasting colour rolls. Furthering the symbolic references to Dante, a soundtrack with voices, sounds and music inspired by the Divine Comedy play perpetually in the corridors. “At the entrance of each room, an altar welcomes you with a small, ever-changing scenography that tells of the blessed or the damned,” shares Navone.