Travel /
Toscana

Florence: the city of its people and their ancient crafts

“In the homologation brought by ‘globalisation’, the mastery expressed by ancient crafts is to be safeguarded like works of art.” ~ Carla Fendi 

 

 

Florence is THE city of its people and their ancient crafts. Artists, sculptors, architects and artisans of all kinds come together to form the fabric of Florence. These craftsmen (and women!) tell stories creatively through their work – stories which represent their city and country’s constant internal competition for all objects of beauty. 

 

Becoming an artisan is not a career path, instead it’s a lifestyle choice, the belief that quality always prevails over quantity, an art passed on from generation to generation, where details are never overlooked and time is a tool for improving those details but timeliness is never a priority. Craftsmanship is all about respecting the past, the process and keeping history alive. A way of living, working and creating that we need to defend at all costs. 

 

Who are we without a past? 

 

It’s easy to fall into the easy, fast, trap but there is something indescribable about owning an object or staying in a place which has been made by someone’s hands (actually!), it suddenly gains a totally different value and dimension which you want to protect and be a part of. 

 

It’s our responsibility to preserve ancient traditions and crafts as these elements make us what we are today: the most beloved country in the world. That’s exactly why when we hear that a historic hotel is undergoing a renovation, we worry, fearing that its old school charm, needing simply some classic TLC, will be fully replaced by a modern instagrammable soulless “clean line” look. Well, when visiting the newly restored 19th century Hotel Helvetia & Bristol in Florence we were pleasantly surprised, it was as we remembered it, just a tad more colourful and with a hint of novelty. Here you will find that what needed attention hadn’t been replaced but instead carefully restored by historic workshops and expert Italian artisans. 

 

All the details were looked after with the utmost care: from the splendid herringbone oak flooring to the wallpaper, wainscoting, trimmings, silk and velvet curtains, chandeliers and opalines produced by the best artisans, such as Antico Setificio Fiorentino, Moleria Locchi, Murano glassmakers, and Riccardo Barthel. 

 

Florence is THE city of its people and their ancient crafts. Artists, sculptors, architects and artisans of all kinds come together to form the fabric of Florence. These craftsmen (and women!) tell stories creatively through their work – stories which represent their city and country’s constant internal competition for all objects of beauty. 

 

Becoming an artisan is not a career path, instead it’s a lifestyle choice, the belief that quality always prevails over quantity, an art passed on from generation to generation, where details are never overlooked and time is a tool for improving those details but timeliness is never a priority. Craftsmanship is all about respecting the past, the process and keeping history alive. A way of living, working and creating that we need to defend at all costs. 

 

Who are we without a past? 

 

It’s easy to fall into the easy, fast, trap but there is something indescribable about owning an object or staying in a place which has been made by someone’s hands (actually!), it suddenly gains a totally different value and dimension which you want to protect and be a part of. 

 

It’s our responsibility to preserve ancient traditions and crafts as these elements make us what we are today: the most beloved country in the world. That’s exactly why when we hear that a historic hotel is undergoing a renovation, we worry, fearing that its old school charm, needing simply some classic TLC, will be fully replaced by a modern instagrammable soulless “clean line” look. Well, when visiting the newly restored 19th century Hotel Helvetia & Bristol in Florence we were pleasantly surprised, it was as we remembered it, just a tad more colourful and with a hint of novelty. Here you will find that what needed attention hadn’t been replaced but instead carefully restored by historic workshops and expert Italian artisans. 

 

All the details were looked after with the utmost care: from the splendid herringbone oak flooring to the wallpaper, wainscoting, trimmings, silk and velvet curtains, chandeliers and opalines produced by the best artisans, such as Antico Setificio Fiorentino, Moleria Locchi, Murano glassmakers, and Riccardo Barthel. 

 

 

Antico Setificio Fiorentino 

Let’s start by saying that words are not enough to describe this place. Crossing the threshold into Antico Setificio Fiorentino, in the historic district of San Frediano, means being transported to a distant time made of precision and ritual. Here time is counted by the sound of hands and feet that move the loom with both decisiveness and delicacy at the same time. Creating a loud constant sound, this rhythm becomes music to the ears. People and machines, some thought to be the world’s first computers, join forces to create astonishing patterns that used to belong to noble Florentine families and are now accessible to all. 

 

Since 1786 the Antico Setificio Fiorentino has created the most famous silks in the world and is one of the last remaining workshops for silk manufacturing in the world. Its hand-operated and semi-mechanical looms weave dreams, some embellished by a wondrous warper designed by Leonardo Da Vinci.

 

 

Riccardo Barthel

If you get the chance to visit Riccardo Barthel’s showroom you’ll leave thinking you need a project, a home to redecorate with all his outstanding refurbished vintage pieces, a bathroom to re-do with one of a kind hand painted vintage tiles and a kitchen that embraces the unique, inimitable style: the Barthel style. Since 1976 Barthel, master of craftsmanship, has created a hub of craftsmen within his compound in Florence, where his workshop takes objects from the past to give life to new creations. Craftsmanship doesn’t mean being stuck in time but simply appreciation of the period, from style and materials used to the construction, typography, and colors… there’s so much to absorb.   

 

Moleria Locchi

A place you can enter only on tiptoes, quietly, almost invisible because the slightest sound might somehow disrupt Moleria Locchi’s perfect balance; an equilibrium made of a myriad of glassware and crystal items placed a few inches from one another and artisans hunched over, with firm hands, delicately, meticulously engraving drawings on ampoules, jars, vases, chalices, carafes and chandeliers.

 

It was in the end of the 19th century, in the San Frediano district, the heart of the Florentine Oltrarno, where an artisan milling workshop was born that produced beautiful glass and crystal items. To this day, three generations down, all objects are still forged following the ancient blowing techniques and finished through careful grinding and engraving processes, rigorously done by hand.