The Hotel Excelsior in Firenze, with its enchanting view over the Ponte Vecchio and its background of hills, has now been restored throughout: its priceless furnishings, antiques, refined upholstering, polychrome marbles, damasks and brocades blend in perfectly with the new décor and furnishings.
The Excelsior, or rather, the site on which it is built, is linked to seven centuries of history. The hotel we see today was converted from what were previously two adjacent hotels, and opened in 1927: the "De la Ville" and the "Italie". As a result the history of the hotel is related to both of them. We will start with the former which is also the oldest.
In 1278 the Humiliati monks, who had lived for the past 22 years in the Convent of Ognissanti and manufactured woollen cloth there, persuaded the city council to build a "village", or really a picturesque cluster of houses, in what is now Piazza Ognissanti. According to the land registers of the "Gonfalone Unicorno", in 1427 one of the houses standing on the site where the Excelsior stands today belonged to the Boccaccio family of Signa, who were followed in 1607 by the Gondi, another important Florentine family.
The building in Borgognissanti later became the property of the Martellini and the Portinai families. It was purchased by Desiderio Lodomez in 1865, probably the first person to use it as a hotel. In 1884 Hotel "De la Ville" was bought by Anton Carlo Antenrieth, whose heirs sold it in 1924 to the Swiss hotelier Gerardo Kraft. The history of Hotel "ltalie" reveals that it was originally composed of two separate buildings. In 1504 the first building became the residence of the Rucellai, another important Florentine family, and it remained in their hands until 1627, when it was bought by the Portinari family. In 1833, after being owned by several important Florentine families, the building next door to it - eventually to become part of the hotel - was purchased by Napoleon's sister Caroline Buonaparte, the wife of Gioacchino Murat, who commissioned Engineer Giuseppe Martelli with the reconstruction that was to give it the appearance we can see today. Caroline's heirs sold it after her death and in 1862 it became the property of the Swiss hotelier Giuseppe Augier. Gerardo Kraft, also Swiss, purchased the hotel in 1912.
Thus Kraft now owned two adjacent hotels. In 1925 he closed both and had them completely modernized throughout and joined together as one, opening them again in 1927 as a single complex called Hotel "Excelsior Italie". In 1958 Hotel "Excelsior Italie" was bought by the Ciga Hotels, who reopened it after careful restoration under the name of "Hotel Excelsior". The ITT Sheraton incorporated the Ciga Hotels in 1995 and formally included Hotel Excelsior, the pride of Florence, in their prestigious "Luxury Collection".