In Dan Brown’s novel Inferno, the Grand Hotel Baglioni in Florence is mentioned near the last part of the story, precisely when professor Langdon, Sienna Brooks, and Dr. Ferris go to Venice.
“As they approached the train station, they passed the Grand Hotel Baglioni, which often hosted events for an art conference Langdon attended every year. Seeing it, Langdon realized he was about to do something he had never before done in his life. I’m leaving Florence without visiting the David.”
The Grand Hotel Baglioni symbolizes Florentine hospitality; it has always accomodated official and society events, and has welcomed visitors from all over the world since 1903. It is located in the heart of Florence, just a few hundred metres from the Cathedral, a short walk from Santa Maria Novella train station and the most important tourist attractions.
The Grand Hotel Baglioni dates back to the second half of the 1800s when Prince Carrega di Lucedio, a member of an ancient Genoese family and married to Giulia Bertolini, a wealthy landowner from Pisa, bought a series of small hotels in Florence that he subsequently demolished to make room for an imposing mansion.
After a dozen or so years, having decided to move his residence to Rome, the prince decided to turn the palace into a hotel, taking advantage of its central position and of the beginning of mass tourism that made many Italian places, and Florence in particular, the favorite travel destinations for rich and middle-class people.
The prince asked the Baglioni family, a rich and powerful family at the time, to turn his 19th-century palace into an upscale hotel without removing from the facade any of the architectonic features that made it so striking. Consequently, the large ceremonial staircase that the Prince used to climb after disembarking from his carriage at the main door was preserved, while the old stables and courtyards became the large rooms of the Congress Centre. Above the main door, one can still see the crest depicting a leopard on a red and gold background, which belonged to the Carrega-Bertolini family.
On August 12, 1903, Palazzo Carrega was inaugurated as the Grand Hotel Baglioni, with 64 rooms, 106 beds, and 18 bathrooms. Many improvements were made over the years, according to progress and the needs of the times. Moreover, as neighboring houses were purchased, the building acquired its characteristic internal layout.
Today, the hotel contains 193 elegant and comfortable rooms, 9 congress rooms, a panoramic restaurant, and in the summer, a magnificent roof garden.
In more than one hundred years of the hotel’s history, the hotel had to close its doors during two noteworthy periods: throughout the Second World War and after the terrible 1966 flood in Florence.
In August of 1944, the Grand 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. On August 13, the Anglo-American allied troops freed Florence, and at the beginning of September, the hotel was taken over by the New Zealand Forces Club. However, neglecting the formalities of civilian life, after the Nazi raids the allies left only the hotel walls standing.
After months of intense restoration in June of 1946, the hotel once again opened its doors.
The 1966 flood was no less a tragedy for the hotel. In a few short minutes, it found itself totally isolated with water rising above the porter’s lodge, the salons, the manager’s office containing the safes, the kitchens, and the storerooms.
Consequently, it closed down once again for restoration. However, after a month and a half, in a city that 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.
Picture by toplifemagazine.it