Paola Navone Goes Dantesque

25hours Hotels collaborated with the renowned Italian designer to create a new, wondrously mesmerizing Dantesque hotel experience

Close to Ponte Vecchio, in the heart of Florence’s historical centre, is the recently opened 25hours Hotel Piazza San Paolino. 

Once the site of a Romanesque-style church, convent, and former pawnshop Monte dei Pegni, the complete renovation of three buildings (totalling 10,750 m2) was undertaken by locally-based architecture firm, Genius Loci Architettura. The refurbishment was part of a larger-scale urban regeneration plan to breathe new life into underdeveloped, slightly hidden areas of the city—giving them their own neighbourhood renaissance. 

It was certainly a challenging task to design interiors that would both honour long-standing Florentine traditions, and at the same time create a contemporary, cosmopolitan look and feel  that aligns with 25hours Hotels’ aesthetic concept. So who better to push the interior design boundaries than Paola Navone herself?

The anti-designer

She was quickly drawn into the more radical and experimental aspects of design, challenging the ordinariness of the status quo by breaking the rules. Her involvement with Studio Alchimia and later the Memphis movement, where she worked side-by-side with designers such as Etttore Sottsass, Alessandro Mendini, and Andrea Branzi, only helped to solidify her unconventional approach. Her collaborations with well-known design giants including Bisazza, Baxter, Crate & Barrel, Gervasoni, Serax, Rubelli, Ethimo, and most recently Fontanarte, clearly demonstrate her bold and eclectic genius.

The treasure hunter

Ever since the early days of her design career, Paola has always been a treasure hunter. Known for her uncanny ability to make the ordinary extraordinary, she has the magic touch, turning everyday, often cheap, utilitarian items into beautiful precious pieces. She is also a collector, passionate about transforming objects and materials, continually traveling the globe to scour countless markets and antique shops. 

The world traveller

Paola mixes and matches her love of the flavour and colours of the exotic East, including Africa, Southeast Asia (she lived part-time in Hong Kong for many years), and the Middle East) with the tastes and forms of the West, going about design like a chef would prepare a dish: regardless of the kinds of ingredients combined together, it only works when the end result is delicious. It’s the design as a whole that counts most.

The storyteller

Paola feels that design is more of a creatively evolving space for having conversations with people, rather than a linear and static “thing.” She says, “Every project is a new adventure and challenge.” Always open to trying new things, she is guided by her curiosity and intuition.

In addition to architecture, Paola can also add product designer, art director, and exhibition/event creator to her long list of talents. Somewhere along the line she began designing hotel interiors, including resorts in Thailand, USA, France, and now Italy. 

Dantesque Design

The interior design of the hotel is in commemoration of the 700-year anniversary of Dante Alighieri’s death. Born in Florence in 1265, Dante was a writer, poet, and philosopher, and his “Divine Comedy” is thought to be one of the greatest works of Italian literature. So Paola’s choice to reinterpret his “Divine Comedy'' as the main thematic and narrative element in the 25hours Hotel seems perfectly fitting. 

A visit to the hotel is like an amusement park ride without the special effects or loops. Paola brings together an original repertoire of vintage furniture unearthed in markets around the world, furnishings and objects from the Italian artisan tradition, special pieces designed by Paola herself and her studio of collaborators, and creations from original and new design talents. The resulting interiors are beautiful, bold, eclectic, funky, and amusing—all at the same time.

The colour scheme was created based on Dante's symbols, together with a unique palette of exquisite and popular materials that range from marble to mosaics, terracotta to metals, tiles to wood, ceramics to glass. As in a studied choreography, each element combines with another to create a complex symphony of epochs and traditions, finding beauty in its deliberate and creative haphazardness.

Even more evidence of Dantesque-inspired design is found in the area around the elevator, livened up with illustrations from the US artist Seymour Chwast, who reinterpreted characteristic scenes from the “Divine Comedy” in a humorous way. How about some divine entertainment? The “Cinema Paradiso” offers a large selection of Dantean inspired movies from the past and present.

Guests will be transported through Paola’s wondrous reinterpretation while they stay in one of the over 170 hotel rooms (where they can choose whether to spend a night in paradise, or daring to go to hell). You can also dine in the restaurant serving dishes inspired by local cuisine, sip on a latté in the characteristic café, have a drink at the sophisticated bar, visit the gorgeous courtyard garden, or take a dip in the pool. 

Can’t get enough of Paola? Available for purchase at the 25hours Piazza San Paolino shop:

  • Fish bottle by Serax for the Fish&Fish collection
  • Fish tray by Serax for the Fish&Fish collection
  • Book: “Thamm ma da, The Adventurous Interiors” by Paola Navone
Paola’s Florentine Playlist:

Highway to HELL — AC/DC
Paradise City — Guns n’ Roses
Puccini: Gianni Schicchi — Firenze è come un albero fiorito

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