< ITALY | FLORENCE: Grand Hotel Baglioni
Located in the heart of Florence, a short walk from the Palazzo dei Congressi and the most important tourist attractions, Grand Hotel Baglioni is a symbol of Florentine hospitality and has always been a protagonist of historical and society events since its opening in 1903.
In the 14th century, in the area now occupied by the hotel, there were the buildings of the Dominican friars of Santa Maria Novella and later of the Buoninsegni and Vernacio families. The following
centuries saw the construction of the Cerretani-Gondi Palace and, facing it, the Piazza Vecchia theatre, also known as “The Arrischiati theatre”. Traces of this theatre with its heraldic emblem are
still visible along the left flank of the hotel.
In 1861, the area underwent a major transformation and it was in this period that the hotel took on its current architectural structure. It was one of the most imposing buildings on the piazza, known as the Palazzo Carrega-Bertolini.
In the mid-19th century, the architect Giuseppe Poggi began a series of public works, a program of urban planning that changed the face of the city. In the year 1902, Prince Carrega di Lucedio decided to move to Rome and convinced the Baglioni family to turn the palace into a hotel, taking advantage of its central position and its closeness to the railway station. This task was entrusted to an engineer, Attilio Rampoldi, who was able to complete the project in little more than a year, and on the 12th of August, 1903, the Feast day of Saint Claire, this prestigious building was inaugurated as a hotel.
The large ceremonial staircase, which the Prince used to climb having left his carriage at the main door, was preserved, while the old stables and courtyards became the large rooms of the Congress Centre. Hotel featured 64 rooms, 106 beds and 18 bathrooms. During time, many improvements were added according to progress and to the needs of the times, and as neighbouring houses were purchased the building acquired its characteristic internal layout.
On August 1944, the Hotel Baglioni was occupied by partisans of the Arno Division who were trying to oust the last snipers left in the city by shooting from the hotel’s terrace, while a room on the ground floor was set up as a special courtroom. After a few days, on 13th August, the allied troops freed Florence and at the start of September the hotel was taken over by the New Zealand Forces Club. The New Zelanders had been forced by circumstances to forget the formalities of civilian life, and after the German raids, the allied destruction left only the Hotel Baglioni’s walls standing. After months of intense restoration on 1st June 1946, the Hotel Baglioni once again opened its doors to welcome guests.
1966's flood was no less a tragedy for the hotel. In a few short minutes it found itself totally isolated with the water rising above the porter’s lodge, the salons, the manager’s office with the safes, the kitchens and the storerooms. Once again, it closed for restoration. Most of the work consisted in saving what was possible from the water and from the heating oil that had seeped out of the destroyed heating system. The floors and walls had to be dried out centimetre by centimetre, the plasterwork redone up to the level the water had reached, furniture and upholstery restored and the machinery had to be taken apart, piece by piece, dried and put into lubricants. But in spite of all these efforts, it took some years for the damp to be completely vanquished. However after a month and a half, in a city which was slowly pulling itself together after the tragedy, the first guests once again stepped over the famous compass at the entrance to the Hotel Baglioni.
The list of illustrious guests that have chosen the Grand Hotel Baglioni as their home away from home include: King Umberto I and other monarchs of the time, scientists such as Marconi, the musicians Puccini, Toscanini and Stokowsky, writers including Pirandello, D’Annunzio, Trilussa, and actors like Eleonora Duse, Ruggero Ruggeri and Rudolph Valentino.
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