A building can tell many stories. Stories about whom has lived there, whom has built it, whom only passed by, or even whom couldn’t enter within its walls. It may tell us its history, what it represents or represented.

The Hotel Florence on an old photo when it was a monastery with its Church.

The story of our Hotel takes us on a long journey back into the history, when Finale Ligure didn’t exist yet, a time in which Finale was still divided in the little villages: Finalpia, Finalmarina and Finalborgo, when in its landscape there were only cultivated fields and the road which nowadays joins Finalmarina to Finalborgo, was a rough track which passed behind the land where now there is our Hotel. This path was used by many soldiers, merchants, pilgrims, noblemen, marquis and even kings and queens. Enrico Del Carretto, at that time marquis of Finale, in 1200 made built “Burgum Finarii”, probably on a pre-existent nucleus, and  Castle “Gavone” where he based his residency.

Burgum Finarii” was  the political, juridic and commercial centre of the Marquisate. It is however the geographical position of Finale which richened its history and made it become a place of important political interest. Since 1578 the Spanish troops, sent to Flanders to battle against the rioters, were crossing the area of Finale (a good and sufficiently safe alternative, in respect to the sea, often blocked by the French, English and Dutch fleets).

All the supplies, troop reinforcements and money destined to the Spanish troops, were in fact diverted towards the mediterranean. From Barcellona they reached by sea the Ligurian coastline,  then they followed by land to the State of Milan. There they were equipped, armed and sometimes trained,  then they crossed through Moncenisio or small San Bernardo passes, discending into the Franca Contea or into Lorena, finally arriving in the Netherlands. During those years various noble Spanish families settled in Finale with the job of providing all the necessary to the troops which arrived by sea and that would have to proceed on foot to Milan.

Therefore the following families arrived, the Alonzo, the Aycardi, the Casanova, all  Finalese surnames, but which are typically Spanish. Now let’s take a step back and return to 1557 in Spain, yes, because it was in that year that José Calasanz Gaston was born (today known as San Giuseppe Calasanzio). After he took his vows in 1592 he went to Rome and while he was passing a town square he was touched by the poverty of a group of children. Immeadiately he realized what his mission was in Rome and the reason for having travelled so far from his hometown and a name sounded in his mind: “School”.   So, in an environment of hardship and poverty, in the late autumn of 1597, in two humble rooms adjacent to the sacristy of the church of Santa Dorotea in Trastevere  “the first free state school in Europe, opened, as  Ludwig von Pastor also recognized,: And there, in times when education was the privilege of the wealthier classes, while the children of the poor were left in ignorance, he developed his school project as an instrument of human salvation and education for street children. Calasanz, hence founded in a similar manner, the Pious Schools, whose members were also the Scolopi Fathers, based on the idea that society can progress only if all its members are educated without discrimination.

At Finale there were no schools and this,for the noble Spanish families, away from their homeland, was a problem: how were they to provide education to their children? For this reason Andrea Aycardi , “patrician of Finale,Finalborgo, born in 1673, decided to host the Scolopi Fathers, at his home in Finalborgo. He therefore offered to the Finalese the possibility of education. Andrea Aycardi not only hosted the Fathers in his building, but on the 26th November 1760 he took the holy vows and on the eve of his death took monastic vows and in his will he gave them the whole heritage. In 1831 the Fathers, moved into the convent in Via Celesia that first housed the Franciscan Friars.

The adjacent church, dedicated to St. Anthony of Padua then passed from its’ original state to the Scolopi Fathers and from it’s Franciscan state it was united in the title of, Saint Joseph Calasanz. The abolition of the Franciscan Piarists meant that finally a more comfortable place for the Aycardi College was found.

Religion, school and home were the main points of the Savonese Renaissance throughout the nineteenth century. On July 23rd 1822 municipal primary schools were established, where they were taught to read and write and the Christian doctrine was applied and Finale was distinguished especially for the Aycardi College , entertaining and educating a large number of young people of which a small percentage become Scolopi fathers, amongst which we may remember Great Father Seraphim and Father Livio Fanzaga .

In 1870, due to the increase in the number of children enrolled , the Aycardi family substained the construction of the building that now houses the Hotel Florenz and also promoted a new church dedicated to Saint Anthony of Padua, to whom the family were very devoted.

The new building connected to the convent by an elevated walkway was used as a boarding school and gym until 1967, when ,with the reform of the schools, the Piarists left Finale. The oratory was a very active meeting place for many Finalese children, the current car park was the football pitch for this oratory where some remember the legendary Father Tasca with his robe held up in his hands, often playing the role of referee.

In this journey through time, between stories of saints and powerful people, we may realize how it would have sufficed, if just only one of these elements were missing to ensure that instead of Hotel Florenz there would be something else standing in it’s place… if the Spaniards had not been there, if Flanders were there rather than in France, if José Calasanz Gaston had not taken vows or Andrea Aycardi had been born in Spain, Lorenzo and Sarah would never have found the building of the Scalopi Fathers and perhaps would never have thought of opening a hotel … where would you now be, what place would you have chosen to spend your holiday? But that’s another story…