Firenze e Ferragamo

Another term means another move, this time to Florence in Italy, for a few months where I will be working. With lots of luggage in hand, Mum came with me to settle in (really, just an excuse for her to have a trip!) I have been to the city before when I was seventeen and a History of Art student at school; therefore I am familiar with the local surroundings, and the main historical and cultural buildings. However, it is a completely different experience living here and working rather than having the comfort and fun of being on a school trip!

We arrived at Antica Torre di Via Tournabuoni, where we would be staying for a few days until I move into my apartment. Just by the Arno River, the location was perfect with lots of shops and restaurants close by and a picturesque view of the River from our room window. The rooftop terrace, which is open 24/7 and the terrace restaurant for breakfast were definitely the best aspects of the hotel.

As soon as we arrived the hotel reserved a table for mum and I at a restaurant down the road called Buca Lapi. A traditional and famous Tuscan “Trattoria”, the restaurant is elegant and welcoming, full of Italians.

We went for a walk around the hotel and found ourselves by the Cathedral of Florence, Santa Maria dei Fiore, otherwise also known as The Duomo. We walked through Piazza della Signoria, Piazza della Repubblica and we paid a visit to Il Porcellino in the Piazza del Mercato Nuovo. The ‘piglet’ is the local Florentine nickname for the sculpture of the boar. If you place a coin in its open mouth and let it run with the water that runs through it, it grants you good luck and if you rub the boar’s snout, that ensures a return to Florence!

Day 1 here, I wore an Italian inspired ‘touristic’ outfit (the trainers are really for comfort as we would be walking a lot) and went apartment searching. As the sun was out and surprisingly rather warm, we took advantage and had a much needed coffee break on the terrace of La Rinascente, department store.

And an evening coffee at Caffè Gilli, one of the oldest and elite cafes of the city, where the hot chocolate is to die for and locals have their coffee or aperitivo by the bar.

That evening, the hotel sent us to Buca Mario, where we prepared our stomachs for the traditional Bistecca Fiorentina.  The meat is served medium to rare and no sauces or sides are needed as the meat is already super tasty!

Enjoying lunch at I Due Fratellini, a Tuscan sandwich and Wine Shop.

And an evening coffee at Caffè Gilli, one of the oldest and elite cafes of the city, where the hot chocolate is to die for and locals have their coffee or aperitivo by the bar.

That evening, the hotel sent us to Buca Mario, where we prepared our stomachs for the traditional Bistecca Fiorentina. The meat is served medium to rare and no sauces or sides are needed as the meat is already super tasty!

In search for a few things to make my room comfortable, we went to Dr Vranjes, an old ‘Officina del Farmacista’ who specializes in perfumes and room scents.

Dr Paolo Vranjes is a pharmacist, chemist, cosmetologist but above all, translator of emotions into olfactory delights. With a passion of perfume, Dr Vranjes room scents are carefully crafted products, combing natural essences with no more than 10% synthetic concentrates. The natural essences are what makes Dr. Vranjes fragrances so unique.

I choose one of the new fragrances called ‘Petali di Rose,’ a fresh and light fragrance that is also calming and relaxing, a perfect scent for the bedroom.

Across from Dr Vranjes, behind Roberto Cavalli’s store, one can find a restored café under his name. Roberto Cavalli, a born Florentine bound to tradition, has restored a historic Florentine drawing room, essentially giving back to the city one of its famous cafes. A meeting place for the refined and Florentine society, Roberto Cavalli has developed the prestigious shop window and interior of Caffè Giacosa for its elite clientele. Situated next to the Roberto Cavalli boutique, the caffè is open all day with a timeless atmosphere, allowing the customer to enjoy good coffee and food at the bar.

The Mercato Centrale made such a good impression on me, that I have no excuse not to return, especially since my landlord was kind enough to take me and introduce me to the stalls he shops at! One can find everything they need here; fruit, vegetables, fish, meats, fresh pasta, pastries, fresh bread, cheese even fish and chips and oriental foods everyday. Upstairs is where the atmosphere is buzzing in the afternoon. With seats and bar tables in the center of the open plan room, there are dozens of cafes to choose a variety of delights and bars for drinks. You can buy recipe books to cook at home and the utensils in the kitchen store or go take classes at the cooking school. I think I found where I will be doing my weekly food shopping.

Even though it was raining, the city skyline still looked beautiful, along the Arno River. We walked on the Ponte Vecchio, as I had to show mum all the jewellery shops.

When it rains in Florence, it’s a great opportunity to visit one of the many museums, gallery and churches the city has to offer. Perhaps not the first museum one would visit, but as we walked pasted it everyday, we thought we’d pop inside the Salvatore Ferragamo Museum.

Not just a shoe museum, as you may think, it celebrates the designer’s passion, creativity, restoring memoirs from the past in order to inspire and educate young designers today.

Salvatore Ferragamo: From Shoemaker to Artist, Healer, Engineer.

Salvatore Ferragamo has always referred himself as a shoemaker. He is today remembered as an artist, refined craftsman and a clever entrepreneur. The most refined part of his work is the way he links beauty with function. Setting to the United States to broaden his horizons, he opened a shop there with his brothers where he repaired and custom made shoes. He took courses on the anatomy of the foot so that at his shop he would examine his customer’s feet and make a diagnosis. In traditional shoemaking, footwear was made mindful of providing adequate support to the knuckle and the heel, leaving the arch of the foot suspended, just as it is in nature. “Yet, the fact remains that many feet are injured by shoes. Where does the answer lie then, in the fact that when the foot is inside the shoe it is imprisoned like a bird in a cage, unable to work properly? Does this imprisonment affect the arch? Then this means, that the arch must be supported.”

Thanks to his research, Ferragamo created a revolutionary form that, by using a steel blade to support the arch, inside the shoes, allows the foot to move freely. He would calculate the median line that from the top of the body drops down towards where the sole of the foot rests. “The metatarsal joints and heels are freed of all body weight, and the shoes thus guide the equilibrium of the body as it walks instead of fighting against it.”

Equilibrium, Ferragamo believed, is not just physical, but mental as well. “Tiredness and physical weakness affect our nerves. Yes, we even become mentally unbalanced.”

The Revolution that Ferragamo had brought to Europe; “Shoemakers throughout the world use my style, my ideas. Actually, it’s the supreme compliment. Besides, the man who is busy copying the work of others has no time to be original for himself. So they steal everything ephemeral… Yet they refuse to look at the one unchanging feature of my shoes, the reason why my shoes fit and others do not.”

The words of the great shoe maker are still relevant today; “It is upon this discovery-not design, style or handicraft, but in the foot comfort of the hundreds and thousands of people for whom I have made shoes-that have found my fortune.”

The one thing that Ferragamo loves, which is the reason behind this? The foot. So little attention has been devoted to the feet that Ferragamo thinks “it is ignorance. We simply do not know what to look for and no one tells us. There are three things we must do regularly for complete bodily health: first we must breathe, then we must eat, finally we must walk. Walking stimulates the circulation of the blood and keeps us fit in body and mind.” Something to think about, next time you go and buy shoes.

Outside my new office building at the Palazzo Capponi.

I have managed to visit the main sites, a fashion designer’s museum, eat at a few of the best restaurants in town and attended an excellent Italian dinner party! What more could I ask for? Let’s see what the Italian lifestyle brings!


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