Rebecca Hall takes in the unique surroundings in the converted monastery hotel of 25 Hours Firenze in Florence.
There’s a new kid on the block in Florence, Italy–quite literally. 25 Hours–the hotel chain with properties in various European locations such as Berlin, Munich, Paris and Vienna, to name but a few and expanding to the Middle East–is famed for its ability to create accommodation–you could even say masterpieces–whose purpose is to blend into and incorporate the community, and they’ve gone and done it again, this time taking over a 13th-century convent turned pawnshop that spans an entire block near the Santa Maria Novella district of the city, thus opening the 25hours Hotel Piazza San Paolino, their first such hotel in Italy.
The 25 Hours Brand
As a small-scale brand, 25 Hours shuns the uniformity that a majority of chain hotels offer, instead fostering an urban and cosmopolitan style in keeping with the neighbourhoods in which they operate. This is central to their philosophy: to create a unique experience that uses the neighbourhood as its inspiration and work together with the local population to enthuse locals and visitors alike.
The 25hours Hotel Piazza San Paolino
I didn’t know what to expect upon my visit. Piazza San Paolino was originally a monastery attached to the aforementioned church, now converted to 66 rooms. A further 104 are in a new annexe, still respecting the original building style by Milan-based designer Paola Navone who understood the 25 Hours philosophy and helped to create a modern, cosmopolitan design with a twist–unlike anything else seen in the city.
It’s pretty obvious throughout that the inspiration was Dante’s Divine Comedy and the hotel certainly pays homage to this famous poet, writer and philosopher by playfully leading the guest through his world between virtues and vices; a choice of Heaven or Hell themed rooms and suites–in blue and red hues respectively–that surprisingly both nurture the soul and encourage snuggling into the womb-like king-sized beds. A mixture of vintage in-room finds such as the classic rotary phone, combined with modern touches of Smart TV and UE Boom Bluetooth speaker adds uniqueness to your in-room experience.
Don’t be surprised to hear a recording, at discrete level, of Dante’s Divine Comedy as you walk along the corridor to your room. No, it’s not the whispers of ghosts of the building, but allow your imagination to wander and perhaps they really are the voices of the damned.
Travelling with a group of people or family? Why not take advantage of booking the Casetta del Giardino; a small apartment with a private garden and pool within the hotel. It’s the chance to have luxury yet solitude amongst a vibrant setting.
As soon as you enter the hotel, you’ll be in awe of the grand entranceway as you head to Reception, not to mention the piazza-style San Paolino courtyard restaurant with a greenhouse effect glass dome–open to the public too. Dine amongst the potted ferns and pietra serena arches with an enviable choice of Tuscan cuisine, or if it’s a famous Negroni cocktail you’re after–which originates from Florence–huddle down inside the massive fireplace with cosy seating after ordering at the Companion Bar.
After a gastronomical memento of your stay? Plenty of Tuscan and Italian fare can be found in the adjoining alimentari–local ‘grocery store’ where you can choose between a selection of cold meats, cheeses or simply relax with the locals and drink your coffee and eat your biscotti.
There’s a cute Cinema Paradiso on the ground floor of the hotel, dotted with plush armchairs and black-and-white photographs of classic Italian films. It’s not necessary to understand the Italian language; come here to kick back and just soak up a black and white movie in quaint surroundings.
After a good read? We all rely on e-readers too much these days, so head to the equally quaint library to choose any number of books from the shelves, or play billiards from the table there.
The Santa Maria Novella district
Santa Maria Novella is located off the tourist track, a more authentic neighbourhood near the railway station behind the Museo del Novecento–a modern art museum in Florence showcasing work from 20th-century Italian artists and is also surrounded by unique vintage and antique shops in the cobbled streets.
When I spoke to a member of staff, she visibly became animated; “The hotel’s presence has really helped.” In the past she remembers being afraid to frequent the area–a pity as the location’s namesake church is really quite splendid, helping to lend atmosphere as one of Florence’s many charms as an ‘open-air museum.’ This is yet further proof that 25 Hours believe in gentrification–certainly helping in this case.
All images (C) Dario Garofalo
Tell Me More About The 25 Hours Hotel Piazza San Paolino
25 Hours Hotel Piazza San Paolino, Piazza di S. Paolino, 1, 50123 Firenze FI, Italy
T: +39 055 29 66 911 E: email@example.com
Rooms from €225 per night, depending on the time of year. It’s a real luxury treat yourself choice.
Whilst Florence as a city is like a museum itself, dedicate a day or two to exploring the hotel itself–it’s worth it.