Before you proceed further, have a look at Part One and see what options you have on a bright morning in Florence.
In addition to arts, architecture and cuisine, Florence is also internationally renowned for its quality hand craftsmanship in leather goods and jewelry. It’s the birthplace of the house of Gucci (founded in 1921). Salvatore Ferragamo also moved back from America (the reason being American labour wasn’t capable of making the shoes he wanted) and opened his shoes shop in Florence (1927). Even now, a lot of big league designer houses all over the world have factories in and outside Florence. (I have something about the house of Salvatore Ferragamo to share with you in an upcoming post, so stay tuned.)
I guess before many of you visit Florence, Lonely Planet, TripAdvisor and myriad other travel blogs and websites direct you to many charming jewelry shops around Ponte Vecchio. I personally found them nice but not as great as they’re cracked up to be, and certainly don’t dissuade you from visiting those shops. The more, the better, right?
If you have some time to spare and are just more curious about the traditional craftsmanship of Florence than the average person, then I wholeheartedly suggest you to visit Giuliano Ricci’ craft workshop, which is located in Piazza San Spirito (Oltrarno neighborhood). His metal studio is on the first floor of a residential building just across San Spirito Church. The exact address is Piazza Santo Spirito 12.
I don’t have an accurate recollection of where I learned about his workshop. Most likely, I was just lurking around some random blogs or websites during my due diligence. However, I remember when I read about his items being stocked at places like Neiman Marcus and Bloomingdales and his work with Christian Dior, I promised myself that I would visit him at all costs.
Well, I did and am very content to say that it was one of the brightest spots of my time in Florence. When we arrived at the building and were wondering which buzz to ring, a man came back from somewhere with his bike and asked if he could be of any help. You can imagine my initial reactions when he introduced himself as the man I was looking for, Giuliano Ricci.
He then invited us to his workshop and inquired how we got to know about him. I’m not sure if it was because we were the only two visitors he had at that time or he was really appreciative of the fact that we trekked all the way from Vietnam to Florence and then to his place or he is just inherently hospitable and gracious like that.
Instead of only showcasing to us the final products in the showroom, Giuliano gave us one amazing individualized tour of the basement and every room on the back where he wields his magic artistic gift everyday and turn chunky, lifeless objects into intricately beautiful pieces of jewelry. From the space, the machines, the molds to the tools that he uses, everything reeks of traditions and history. We were simple awestruck!
The truth is Giuliano speaks very limited English while I speak a total of 3 words in Italian (including “ciao”, “grazie”, and “perfetto” in case you’re curious). However, arts and beauty must be a universal language and whatnot because the whole time he explained everything to me in Italian, I felt like I understood him perfectly. LOL. It was definitely not a classic case of language barrier. Or maybe it is the modern type which involves no verbal struggle or awkward nod. But whatever, that is linguists’ job. HAHA.
Can anyone translate this piece of press into English for me? My hunch is it has something to do with his work for Dior.
This photo probably speaks 10,000 words.
I couldn’t believe in a million years that I would get to see a real sketch with the name of Christian Dior written all over it one day. I was utterly stupefied!Giuliano said those business card holders, mirrors and jewelries are available at Neiman Marcus and Bloomingdales where they are priced three times higher than in Florence. Understand how they make profits? Here is a very interesting tip for you: Most of the items in his workshop aren’t exactly wallet-friendly, but if you don’t want to leave his studio empty-handed, there is a special artisanal souvenir that won’t break the bank. All you need to do is ask him for a 6 euro bracelet, which is made from an 1 euro coin and takes 1 minute to make. Below is mine with the symbol of Florence.
When was the last time you saw this old-school telephone? Mine was without a doubt last century. But it makes for a great decor item, right? We hung out with Giuliano for a while, enough for a fair share of fond memories. Then came dinner time. With such a underwhelming lunch, we absolutely expected to be compensated with something more decent in the evening especially when the one we chose, Osteria del Cinghiale Bianco, receives a great number of positive reviews.
To start off, the atmosphere was lively. The waiters were attentive and the prices are fair and reasonable. There were a lot of tourists when we were there most likely thanks to TripAdvisors, so I can’t say with certainty whether the restaurant is popular among Florentines or not. The crux of the matter is the food didn’t measure up to our expectations. We ordered ricetta trippa alla fiorentina and strozzapreti al burro e salvia, both of which we had never tried before. Unfortunately, they weren’t that flavorful and delectable.
I’m not telling you to stay away from this restaurant because the table next to us they had some of the biggest and savory-looking steak I had ever seen in my whole life. But just like every restaurant out there, some dishes are their specialties while others are not so much. You really need to do your homework and find out what a restaurant is most famous for.
By the time we finished our dinner, it was almost 8PM but it didn’t look so at all. I instinctively knew that there would be some beautiful sunset later on, so we quickly made our way back to the hotel to get my tripod. These houses on one side of Arno River are too pretty for words. How beautifully the last rays of sunlight reflected on the statues at Piazza della Signoria.And also on the Duomo. I already told you about how obsessed I was with the Duomo, right? Here comes my favorite shots of Ponte Vecchio. It was incredibly peaceful and romantic. There were a lot of tourists and locals and students as well. Everyone was simply enjoying the sunset and themselves. For us though, a glass of wine made it all the more memorable. Watching sunset and people with a glass of Sauvignon blanc on Ponte Vecchio…sometimes, it is everything I want out of this life. No more rat race, no more messy relationshits. We were also very lucky to be in Florence when La Repubblica delle Idee took place (from June 6 to June 9). It was “4 days of rich creative and inspiring events with important guests hosted by the national newspaper of the same name. Some of the highlighted guests are famed writers such as Dan Brown, talking about “Our Need For Mystery,” no doubt related to his new book, Inferno, set in Dante’s city of Florence, as well as Turkish Nobel-prized writer, Orhan Pamuk discussing “From Innocence to Love,” and Italian author Umberto Eco, asking “Where Shall We Begin?. Look for projections on the facade of the big 12-meter tall “R” with images created by local art and design school students expressing their own image of the future will be.” (source)
I took no fewer than 30 photos of this letter R, but it would be silly to bombard you with all of them. My camera ran out of battery soon after the last photo, and it was really late. We headed back and rested and prepared ourselves physically and mentally for the next day at a true paradise on earth…