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Hotel Executive Florence - History

  Hotel Executive Firenze
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A few steps from the river Arno and the heart of Florence, just as you heave left the bright lights of the lush shop windows, stands the prized building of the Hotel Executive looking onto Borgo Ognissanti with grandeur as though it were a unique, elegant monument; a rare example of nineteenth-century eclectic style.

The edifice which holds the hotel is made up of two buildings from different periods in the XIX century yet both possessing significant artistic and architectural value, each with its own personality, linked to historical events of the city and the noble families who resided there.

The neoclassical loggia was once the Terrazzino Reale sul Prato; a royal stand made of wood assembled for the grand duke of Lorena.  It was constructed in such a manner that it provided the spectators with a wide view over the street which leads from the Parco delle Cascine to Porta al Prato.

This grandstand accommodated the grand duke’s court on occasion of the Berber horse race, a historic event cited by Dante in The Divine comedy, which took place to celebrate important events, military victories and accomplishments and important religious celebrations.

The ceremony which opened each race saw the presentation of the Palio, banderole made of valuable materials and the parading of the horses before the grand duke who sat in the royal stand which was lavishly decorated with curtains and drapes for the event.  The grand duke gave the starting signal for the race and the announcement of the winner which started the public festivities.

In 1819, following the conversion of the Parco delle Cascine from a grand duchy into a public park and the works being carried out to open the Lungarno Nuvo (today Vespucci) up to the Porticciola di Ognissanti (which was situated close to where the hotel is towards the river Arno), the grand duke Ferdinando III decided to replace the wooden stand with a similar, stone structure. The architect Liugi Cambray Digny,who was very fashionable at the time and was working on several projects including the romantic Torrigiani gardens, was employed to do this.

 

 

HISTORY...

It was thanks to Cambray Digny’s neoclassical and eclectical taste and his assistant Giuseppe Martelli, who had learned avant-garde building techniques in France, that the loggia, whose construction took until 1892, turned out to be such a gracious architectural structure.

The unique, learned consideration of the hint of Egyptian style recreated in the internal vestibule and the external forms of a small helenistic temple with a pronaos made up of beamed sandstone columns resting on a high base adorned with decorations of palms and garlands of leaves in stone achieved from original plaster casts of the pantheon in a unique neoclassical style.

The daring structural choice unites the elegance of the building to the grace of the decoration.

This results less evident today due to walls having been built between the columns presumably dating from when it was owned by the noble family of Giorgi de Pons who in the meantime lived in the adjacent building.

The interior was studied according to the tastes of the period, which warm to French and Egyptian suggestions and classical echoes which can be felt in the entrance hall through the four monolithic columns and in the bas-relief inspired by the antique art found within the hotel rooms.

The alfresco ceilings of the great hall (the present-day bedroom in the luxurious grand duke suite) were painted by Luigi Ademollo, invited to Florence by the grand duke Ferdinando III and his wife the grand duchess Elisa to decorate Palazzo Pitti.  In the alfresco paintings, which can still be seen in the elegant suite representing mythological scenes with precious decorations, there is the same splendour that the Lorena’s wanted to renew following the prestigious restoration which the French had started during their occupation of the city.

With the great urban works defined by the plans of the architect Giuseppe Poggi, who in the period in which Florence was the capital of Italy (1865-1871), carried out a profound and impressive transformation of the city.  The whole area’s aspect, the historically free allotments and parks, notably changed and new roads, squares and buildings were created destroying ancient settlements and enveloping existing constructions adopting the new design trends whilst suiting the decorum needs of the new borghesia.

Palazzo Giorgi de Pons which hosts the heart of the Executive Hotel is fruit of this transformation with its elegant façade in ivory and grey plaster with large windows, the entrance enriched by a terrace supported by four  main columns surmounted by a coat of arms showing an almond tree encircled by a transverse sash.

Even before this building underwent Poggi’s restyling plan it belonged to the Giorgi family, a renowned and noble family with vast properties in Castello di Quercio, near Sesto Fiorentino, an area which was then countryside adjacent to the city where many noble families owned villas and grounds.

In the XIII century the head of the family was called Mandorlo from which the heraldic coat of arms is still today the hallmark of the hotel.

 

In c.1830 a branch of the family moved to Florence and bought the building, presumably consisting of a small eighteenth-century building of the period (whilst the neighbouring loggia recently converted by the grand duke was owned by the  Scrittorio delle Regie Fabbriche - royal archives) and lived there until 1848.

The family events intertwine with the history of the loggia.  When, in 1833, the renowned Giorgio Giorgi, captain of the Austrian army, married the Ginevan Caterina de Pons, they lived in the palazzo building and from 1860 also in the loggia.  A beautiful alfresco bears witness to this in the internal staircase that shows a majestic coat of arms held up by putti and cherubs in which two coats of arms (the almond tree of the Giorgi and the crescent moon of the Pons) are indissolubly joined.  In fact with the royal decree of 1860 the name of the house of the Pons was added to that of the Giorgi.  Other examples of the two coats of arms are represented in the elegant wooden cornice on the side of the loggia.

With the family’s temporary move to Livorno in 1848, the building was rented by the Russian princess Poulishoff and in around 1860 it became an inn to lodge many of the travellers, mainly artists, writers and rich foreign traders who were in Florence which had now become a place of culture, fashion and romance.

In 1925 the Marquis Federigo Fossi and eleonora Sacchetti bought the premises using part as a habitat whilst keeping the inn called Pensione Ravasso until the end of the sixties when it was sold and after several years of restructuring it has become the Executive Hotel.

The grand-ducal loggia, however, was bought in 1948 by the duchess Oretta Bartolomei Corsi to be used as her residence.  After her death it was the headquarters of a scientific foundation until 2001 when it was purchased by the owners of the Executive Hotel.

Finally, in 2004, after delicate restructuring and furnishing, with the permission and under supervision of the monuments and fine arts service, the sumptuous rooms of the loggia have been indefinitely connected to Palazzo Giorgi de Pons creating a suggestive wing to the hotel where you can still feel the splendour and events of bygone centuries.