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A History of the Franzenshöhe Berghotel

The Franzenshöhe Berghotel, resting on a plateau below Stilfserjoch, has fulfilled various functions over the course of its long and eventful history. The building was erected at the beginning of the 19th century to act as a barracks for the Austro-Hungarian army. Emperor Franz Joseph I, who spent some time here with his retinue, named the plateau Franzenshöhe.

During the construction of the route over Stilfserjoch (the Stilfserjochstraße), many of the construction workers lodged here, as well as in another location - today's "Cantoniera".

After the Stilfserjochstraße was completed in October 1825, Franzenshöhe was turned into a way-station for changing horses and, for a time, it served as a custom's post. As a result, it became necessary to convert one of the two buildings into a postal inn, and also to provide some shelter for horses.


The rising of tourism

The singular construction, and the stunning mountain landscapes brought the Stilfserjochstraße renown far-and-wide soon after its completion.

In 1876, it gained notoriety with the murder of Madeleine Tourville by her husband Henry above the "White Knot". A shepherd witnessed the murder and reported it to the local police. Over the course of the trial, it emerged that Madeleine was already the third wife Henry had murdered for her money. All of Europe's newspapers avidly followed the legal proceedings, which gave a huge boost to tourist travel on the Stilfserjochstraße.

In the 19th century, the Stilfserjochstraße could also be traveled in winter - something unthinkable today. Travelers not only crossed over the pass in the warm summer months, but also in the snow-filled winter months. So-called "gangs" pulling horse-drawn snowplows were hired to keep the road open .

Generations on the Franzenshöhe

Around the turn of the century, Johann Joseph Wallnöfer leased the building of what is today's Cantoniera, and began to run it as a hotel. He had been in charge of stage coach transportation from Tirano to Spondinig, and on his travels he'd formed the impression that this was a place where one might work profitably. When the building stood free to lease, he immediately snapped up the opportunity.

The hotel business ran well, so much so that when it was offered for sale by the Italian government in 1935, his son Karl was able to purchase today's Franzenshöhe Hotel for 35,000 lire. At the time, this was equivalent in value to 35 good dairy cows. The building that had been leased up until then became the building-yard for the Road Administration. Karl died in 1970, and one year later his son Johann took over the hotel.