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Florence Travel Guide

Rest Your Head in Heaven (or Hell) at This Boutique Italian Escape

Whichever room you choose, your stay will be positively amusing.

Shuffle too fast down the narrow ancient maze-like cobblestone streets of Florence, Italy, and you might walk right past 25Hours Hotel Florence Piazza San Paolino. But one step inside is like being transported into an alternate universe with a crazy personality— a soul that has been shaped by its location and the surrounding culture of art, gastronomy, and local stories.

Lobby Surprises

Don’t let the name fool you. I, too, assumed this might be a basic hotel, but 25Hours Hotel Piazza San Paolino is full of surprises. Inside the lobby, it’s hard to know where to look and easy to be pulled from one amusing piece of décor to the next. Shiny mint-colored suitcases stacked every which way surround the check-in area and expose curious oddities and gifts for sale. Immediately, I was struck by the vaulted glass ceiling that anchors the historic palazzo lobby as light streamed in above the San Paolino Restaurant social hub. Tall potted foliage made the area feel like a garden, and when I looked closely, some interweaving plants were fake with big yellow spots like they were created for Alice in Wonderland. Faux spiders crawled up the fireplace, reminding me of Gaudi’s architecture in Spain.

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Adjacent to the lobby, an attached indoor-outdoor terrace lounge— known as the Garden of Eden—spills over with courtyard plants, flowers, and fountains that tantalize the eye with an eclectic array of bold-colored art and furniture. Guests mingle on red heart-shaped chairs and blue sofas, while later in the evening, visitors can sip cocktails by candlelight under glowing orbs. The entire ambiance made me want to be part of it and sidle to the hotel’s sexy red glowing cocktail bar, Companion, where Negroni riffs have been the specialty since the aperitif was invented in Florence. Surprises and allusion seem to arrive at every turn. In one area of the lobby, vintage typewriters encourage guests to record sentiments that can be stuffed in an old wine bottle and thrown in the Arno River.

2-This Florence Hotel Has Rooms Based on Heaven and Hell-25h_piazzapaolino_dariogarofalo_sanpaolino_medium_12-2_a70b4062c44e25d6166d836
1.2. Dario Garofalo

Stay In Paradiso or Inferno?

The first guests were welcomed to this old-meets-new hotel in 2021, on the 700th anniversary of the death of poet Dante Alighieri, who lived in Florence all his life. Designer Paola Navone used the theme of Dante’s Divine Comedy to playfully reinterpret the hotel’s concept, where rooms are separated into heaven and hell.

Stepping into the elevator reminded us quickly of our descent into the inferno as the crimson glow surrounded us under an illuminated “HELL.” A sashay down the hall brought the illusion to life, with each room’s red door accented by little props like ravens, skulls, and chained hands giving the middle finger. Meanwhile, a voice-activated speaker outside our room surprised us by playing readings of Dante’s Divine Comedy, read by Italian actor Roberto Benigni.

REDRUM from the cult classic film, The Shining, has an entirely new meaning here as our hotel room was red, from the curtains to the tiles, with even a red mini fridge and red writing sprawled across the glass shower and bathroom door with big letters that read: “Welcome to Hell.”

A giant stuffed mouse lay next to our pillows inscribed with the text “Let’s spend the night together” below a canopy chandelier sprayed out with red gambling cards. More comical things surfaced, like a peephole in the shower that allowed me to spy on my husband in the bed, from which he could also spy on me. On the other side of the hotel in Heaven, all-white fanciful décor seemed like a calmer night, although our server reminded us that hell is way more fun.

The original 60 rooms were once a monastery and still retain an old-world charm. That feeling was later extended to a neighboring building with an additional 100 guest rooms (some with balconies) and an apartment with equipped kitchen, BBQ, pizza oven, private garden, and pool.

Dining Delights

Breakfast at San Paolino, the hotel’s centerpiece under the glass dome, is a must, as the spread offers an impressive assortment of local options from the surrounding area. Think fresh ricotta, local pecorino and parmesan, various cured meats, homemade yogurts with nuts and dried fruits, cured meats, orange and cherry pies, yogurt, and carrot cakes, and eggs your way. Cappuccinos and fresh orange juice arrive with a napkin that reads: “Good Morning Sunshine,” and another that reminds us, “Life is too short for shitty coffee.”

For lunch and dinner, traditional Tuscan dishes and modern Italian cuisine are served with some of the signature dishes from the private recipe collection of designer Paola Navone. The lively restaurant in the urban jungle is where one must try classic Bistecca alla Fiorentina (Florentine steak), Ribollita (Tuscan winter soup), chicken liver terrine, and agnolotti pasta with braised beef.

Off the lobby is another reminder of hell called the Alimentary, with a big entrance sign that reads: GOLOSI, reminding guests that this bakery café is gluttonous. The ceiling is adorned with playful stuffed animal-like sausages and salamis. Indulge in coffee, pastries, handmade cakes, cookies, pizza, paninos, and the best Italian culinary products to take home.

Nearby Culture

Just a short walk from the train station in the center of town next to the San Paolina Church, the hotel is right amongst the cultural landmarks. One can easily walk to the Uffizi Gallery, find Dante’s statue, cross the Ponte Vecchio bridge, and waltz over to admire the Duomo.

INSIDER TIPIn order to wait a shorter amount of time for major attractions, book Skip the Line tickets weeks in advance on the GetYourGuide app.

More Hotel Perks

Weekends often feature jazz or live music in the courtyard. Take advantage of hotel perks like the quirky, colorful sauna “rest” room that looks like you’re under the sea, a two-floor fitness area, a pool table room with records, and the Cinema Paradiso Lounge for movie nights. For those brave enough, the hotel offers complimentary bikes. Ask about special guest events like book presentations, famous musicians, and special dinners with burlesque entertainment.

Simply Unforgettable

This hotel made me smile at every turn with its amusing wild décor and is by far the most unique hotel I’ve experienced. Every quirky little detail, filled with surprises, makes this stay a delight. It is like no other hotel I could imagine or dream up and is one of fifteen 25Hours Hotels that are tailored to each location in 12 cities. Where you stay can be a big part of future travel memories, so choose wisely.

INSIDER TIPWhile warm summer weather attracts most travelers to Florence, it can also be sweltering and uncomfortable. The Christmas markets in December are a magical experience and a great way to experience the city while missing the crushing high-season crowds.