In 1883 Gerardo Kraft opened his first hotel in Florence
After leaving Rome, Jean Kraft proceeded to Florence and in 1883 he bought the Hotel Italia and later, in 1897, the Royal Peace Hotel, which he renovated adding a fourth floor and changing its name to Grand Hotel, with 120 rooms and 240 beds.
His children in the meantime returned to Switzerland to study and later began their hotel apprenticeships firstly in a hotel in Germany, then Cannes, London, Interlaken, Naples and finally they returned to Florence. In 1928 Gerardo Kraft expanded the Hotel Italia in Piazza Ognissanti in Florence which became the Hotel Excelsior. It had the same architectural style as the Bernerhof with 170 rooms, it was inaugurated on the 1 April, 1928.
The two extremely luxurious hotels in Florence played host to an array of illustrious guests: the Romanov family, Emperor William II of Prussia, the Duke and Duchess of Windson, the Shah of Iran and his wife Soraya, Princess Margaret of Great Britain, Elena of Rumania, Queen Sofia of Greece, the King of Yugoslavia, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and numerous other artists of international fame: Johann Strauss, Backhaus, Cortot, Rubinstein, Menuhin, Toscanini, Benedetti Michelangeli, Bruno Walter, Furtwangler, Beniamino Gigli, Maria Calla, Josephine Baker, Maurice Bjart, Carla Fracci, Marcello Mastroianni and Gina Lollobrigida.
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