Florence, the cradle of the Italian Renaissance is where our journey continues. An Italian treasure in its own right, Florence is characterised by its 14th century architecture and is known as the birthplace of artistic masters: Botticelli, Fra Filippo Lippi, Filippo Brunelleschi… just to name a few. It’s no wonder it is also the birthplace of fashion treasures as well. And that’s why our brand ambassador Helen Nonini’s scouting takes us to Florence’s narrow cobblestone streets and along the banks of the Arno river.
Her first stop is at Bar Procacci, a short walk from the city’s monumental Duomo cathedral and the bustling arches of the ancient merchant bridge Ponte Vecchio. This caffe’-restaurant is known as the Florentine landmark that once supplied gastronomic delicacies to Italy’s King Vittorio Emanuele II after opening in 1885. It’s there that Helen meets local socialite Vanessa Zoppas, wearing a white-midi linen dress by Gioia Bini, a designer with a penchant for exotic travels and fabrics, and who collects materials along the way: silks from Bangkok and Istanbul, cottons and linens from Italy. Her ensemble is matched with a rust-colored clutch by bespoke bag maker Atelier C that is as well known for its interior designs, handmade bags and haute couture. Design duo Alice Caporali and Marco Contiello come together from the worlds of art and bespoke furniture and fine tailoring — a marriage of minds that purveys portable masterpieces that are in-line with Florence’s artistic excellence.
“Seen from up above, Florence appears superb, beautiful, almost crystallised in time. There is never enough time when you are in Florence, but since it is only two hours away from Milan, it isn’t a problem to pop in for an exhibit or a walk along the Arno,” Helen mused.
Helen, draped in black, is wearing a long tunic by Caftanii Firenze a label started by Tuscan twin sisters Ludovica and Ginevra Fagioli. Inspired by their artistic upbringing and their perpetual pursuit of summer, the sisters’ designs breathe a Northern African, Tuscan “al mare” style and an elegance that tops many other vanguard lifestyle brands who attempt to replicate the sort of resort culture the two sisters actually live regularly. An Officina del Poggio Mini Safari bag is the perfect adornment to this short Florence sojourn. Designed for a true traveler, ODP was founded in Bologna in 2014 by Texan-born designer Allison Hoeltzel Savini. The designer’s artisanal collection is made in Italy with high quality craftsmanship and a minimalist aesthetic inspired by traditional utilitarian bags, equestrian gear and vintage motorcycle bags.
Vanessa takes Helen deeper into the city centre to the Loretta Caponi, a historic family-run atelier that is famous for its fine embroidery on baby clothes and bedlinens that are fit for a Renaissance princess. Helen is on a mission to buy a gift for a friend and chooses a great classic, the ospitino bath towels. In modern times, the brand is focusing on its ready-to-wear line, as a part of a larger strategy to safeguard the ancient artisan embroidery practises that are the hallmark of Loretta Caponi. Its new modern ambitions mingled with its deeply-rooted traditional charm, draws the two fashionistas to the studio where they marvel at fuchsia silk chiffon Fiocchini nightdress, a Loretta Caponi icon, bordered with delicate white lace, hanging from a dressing screen, the symbol of our company, with effortless grace.
Their stroll ends before the city’s Baroque monument, Chiesa San Gateano in Piazza Antinori, a landmark that is reminiscent of the Medici family’s financial power and influence on this Italian capital.
“Florence needs to be lived with passion and with calm in order to be understood. Cradle of culture and art, Florence is the birthplace of many artists of the Renaissance and of human history,” Helen said.
Helen strikes a confident pose in her signature turban by Altalen, a headpiece that is adorned with a geometric pattern in red and black, as she heads to dinner at the city’s upscale Cantinetta Antinori for Tuscan delicacies like ribollita and fine Chianti. The magical Florentine getaway ends at the city’s Hotel Lungarno, which is just steps away from the manicured Boboli gardens and sits on the banks of the Arno river. Owned by the Ferragamo family, the hotel embodies the same principles that has driven the family-run, luxury fashion and leather goods maker for decades. With its sweeping views of Florence and its proximity at the heart of the city where great minds like Dante Alighieri once walked, the hotel houses 450 works of art and features plush rooms fit for a fashion icon, just like Helen.
“To really live Florence well, one needs the passion and the calm to really comprehend it and take the risk of being taken over by the ‘Stendhal Syndrome’ which is also known as the Florence Syndrome, the city where such condition is often manifested [when one is exposed to such great beauty].”