Heaven, hell in one hotel

When a hotel takes its cues from Dante’s Divine Comedy, one might expect a design that assaults the senses. The new 25hours Hotel Piazza San Paolino in Florence, Dante Alighieri’s birthplace, delivers.

Contributed by Megan Rowe

Centrally located, the hotel opened in September, appropriately on the 700th anniversary of the author’s death. “From the size, structure, history and location, it’s a property that you don’t find a lot in Florence,” said Bruno Marti, 25hours executive vice president of brand marketing.

Inferno guest room with velvet curtains and black bed linen (all photos credited to Dario Garofalo)

In a city dominated by small independent hotels, the 25hours project encompasses 171 rooms laid out over an entire city block that includes several listed structures—one a former monastery—and a newer annex. The €100 million restoration and redesign involved a collaboration between 25hours, Art-Invest Real Estate and new owner Invesco Real Estate. It’s the first 25hours in Italy.

To achieve the look, 25hours hired Milan-based designer Paola Navone, known for her dramatic and eclectic treatments. “We kind of forced her into the Dante story,” Marti said, but otherwise the designer mostly had carte blanche, which is the company’s typical approach.

Reflecting paradise, this guest room is a cloud-white retreat with ethereal blue accents

Entering the hotel, guests experience a reflection of the epic poem’s conflict between heaven, hell and purgatory. “You are immersed in a magical universe that involves the senses,” Navone explained. “Every color, every object, down to the smallest detail, is designed to welcome guests into Dante’s atmospheres and to inspire a sense of wonder and surprise.”

The centerpiece of the public spaces is a grand San Paolino restaurant that runs both inside and into the courtyard

The centerpiece of the public spaces is a grand restaurant set in a historic palazzo under a reconstructed glass cupola. With 10-meter ceilings, an open kitchen and oversized greenery, it has become an Instagram magnet. “In comparison to the traditional small and cozy places you find in Florence, this is something new,” Marti said.

Alimentari is the small grocery store on property

Navone also needed to balance the historic structures with a lighter, more contemporary sensibility. Color played a big part in achieving that goal: A small grocery store on the property is deep blue, the main restaurant is green, and a large courtyard area is turquoise. The designer also introduced objet trouvé, upcycled furniture, elements from the Italian manufacturing tradition and special pieces custom designed for the project. An onsite cinema offers films inspired by Dante’s works. An artist painted scenes from Divine Comedy outside the elevator banks.

Public spaces are filled with whimsy

The guestrooms reflect two extremes—paradise and hell, naturally. The heavenly versions are cloud-white retreats with ethereal blue accents, while rooms in the hell category are red and black, with velvet curtains and black bed linens. Not surprisingly, both have attracted fans on social media, much to the delight of the 25hours team.

“We enjoyed transforming the spaces of the complex into a sequence of amazing and pop scenographies,” Navone said.

The restaurant is set in a historic palazzo under a reconstructed glass cupola.