< ITALY | FLORENCE: The Westin Excelsior
The area on which The Westin Excelsior stands today is associated with a wealth of historical memories. In the 13th century, the religious order of the Umiliati settled here on what was then marshland, starting to build in 1251 the church dedicated to the Virgin Mary and All Saints. In 1278 the Umiliati Friars who had occupied the Convent of Ognissanti for 22 years producing woolen clothes, obtained from tile Civic authorities the construction of a “borgo” around the Piazza Ognissanti, a sort of picturesque village with small council houses.
Through the wealth of historic memories it is recorded in the land register that in 1427 one of the houses built on the area of the Westin Excelsior belonged to the noble family of Boccaccio,
in 1607 another great family replaces the Boccaccio, the Gondi family. Later the building in Borgognissanti became property of Londomez, who was probably the first to use it as a hotel. In 1884
the building was bought by Anton Karl Autenrieth whose heirs sold it on 1924 to the Swiss hotelier Gerardo Kraft.
In 1504 the Hotel Italie was the Casa Rucellai. The house remained the property of the noble Florentine family Rucellai until 1627 when it was sold on the Portinary family.The house adjoining to the one which became hotel Italie was bought in 1833 by Carolina Bonaparte, sister of the great Napoleone and wife of Gioacchino Murat, the former King of Naples.
Carolina Bonaparte entrusted the engineer Giuseppe Martelli with the reconstruction of the building giving it today’s actual look. After the death of Carolina Bonaparte the heirs sold it and in 1862 the new owner of the building was the hotelier Giuseppe Augier.
In 1912, Mr. Gerardo Kraft obtained the property of the two contiguous hotels, “La Ville” and “Italie”. In 1925 both hotels were closed down for important works of renovations and they were reopened again in 1927 as one complex under the name of Excelsior Italie with 170 rooms. The latter was inaugurated with a grand party on April 1st 1928.
In 1997 the Westin Excelsior has entered a new phase in its history when the most recent restoration and renovation was completed.
Many celebrities stayed at the two properties owned nowadays by Starwood: the Romanov family, Emperor William II of Prussia, the Dukes of Windsor, the Shah of Persia with his wife Soraya, Princess Margaret of England, Elena of Romania, Queen Sofia of Greece, the King of Yugoslavia, the English Prime Minister W. Churchill and a number of world-wide famous artists such as Johann Strauss, Backhaus, Cortot, Rubinstein, Menuhin, Toscanini, Orson Welles, Charles Chaplin, Françoise Sagan, Emperor Hirohito, Henry Fonda, Queen Juliana of Holland, Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli, Bruno Walter, Furtwangler, Beniamino Gigli, Maria Callas, Josephine Baker, Maurice Béjart, Carla Fracci, Marcello Mastroianni, Gina Lollobrigida, Sophia Loren...
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