Saturday, November 7, 2015

Known for its rich history of craftsmanship,
Oltrarno, the Tuscan capital's south bank, is luring style-focused visitors
away from the city center.
In Florence, the south bank of the river Arno has been a
center for artisans since the Renaissance.
More recently, the men's-wear and
leather ateliers around Palazzo Pitti have attracted a discreet fan club of
fashion insiders.
Now, in an effort to lure more travelers to Oltrarno, the
Florentine government has been pumping money into the neighborhood (the once
traffic-clogged Piazza del Carmine got a makeover earlier this year).
Boutique
hotels have opened, along with innovative places to eat.
Perhaps most notably
of all, a new wave of artisans is modernizing and organizing Oltrarno's
dynamic craft culture, making it more appealing to visitors than ever before.
Matteo Perduca, a lawyer and designer who is also one of the area's most
prominent entrepreneurs, says, "What's really drawing people is the energy
that's running through Oltrarno." With his partner, former Fortnum &
Mason packaging designer Betty Soldi, Perduca runs AndCompany, a design studio
and shop that sells ceramics and stationery adorned with calligraphy.
Just down the street, three craftswomen joined together to open Atelier Via
Maggio earlier this year.
The store stocks handmade table linens and home
furnishings, many of them created in the on-site workshop.
Close by, on a
street opposite the Palazzo Pitti museum, designer Giulia Materia has her
namesake boutique.
(The location is appropriate, since the palazzo's
construction, in the 15th century, lured other nobles to the area, thereby
creating work for many more craftsmen.) The shelves of Materia's shop are
lined with covetable tote bags, artisan-made clothes, and notebooks covered in
1970s wallpaper.
And on the hidden-away Via d'Ardiglione, Dimitri Villoresi
opened a leather workshop where he makes deconstructed, hand-stitched travel
cases, bags, and other accessories.
Left: Frescoed ceilings at
SoprArno.
Right: Designer Giulia Materia with her partner, Enzo, and their
daughter, Anna.
Danilo Scarpati To provide shoppers with suitably
stylish digs, Perduca and Soldi last year debuted SoprArno (doubles from
$169), an 11-room guesthouse set in a 14th-century palazzo.
Interiors combine
original Florentine features—frescoed ceilings and wooden rafters—with
modern pieces like Arco lamps.
And in November, they are scheduled to open
their second guesthouse, Ad Astra (doubles from $225), in a palazzo belonging
to the Marquis de Torrigiani.
Most of the inn's nine rooms have views of
Europe's largest privately owned city garden, which surrounds the property.
Several grassroots schemes to promote the area are also under way.
Perduca
and Soldi formed Unusual Florence, a group of like-minded businesses that has
produced a shopping map and website.
In December, their Unusual Market will
purvey holiday gifts at local hostel Ostello Tasso.
Materia and her partner,
Enzo Sarcinelli, have also founded Sulle Tracce di Arnold, a similar group of
22 Oltrarno-based shops and ateliers.
Both websites are excellent starting
points for a self-guided shopping tour of the area.
Perduca has his sights set on yet more projects in the
neighborhood—opposite AndCompany is an empty shop he plans to convert into a
café.
"It's exciting," he says.
"A new renaissance for Oltrarno."
More Oltrarno Artisans, Both New and Classic Stefano Bemer | Handmade
shoes in everything from hippo to 18th-century reindeer skin.
Campucc10 | One-off art, jewelry, and leather goods designed by young
artisans.
Signorvino | A new store and tasting room whose mission is to bring Italian
wines to a broader audience.
Castorina | Wood-carving workshop from 1895 that still produces over 5,000
objects, including photo frames and adorable miniature animals.
Black Spring | An alternative bookstore founded by a gardener that sells
unusual nature-themed publications.
10r Via di Camaldoli
Thanks to the arrival of new boutiques and independent shops, Oltrarno in
Florence, Italy is bustling with creative energy.
Check out our favorite picks
in the Italian neighborhood.

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