Yesterday morning Roza left to visit her sister in Poland before heading home to the US. The rest of us walked to the oltrarno, the other side of the Arno River, where the medieval streets are a maze of artisans' workshops. Here we discovered a quieter Florence, away from the throngs of tourists and gelato shops. We fantasized about our own little studios (mine would have to be un an upper floor-- I would need a garden of some sort) overlooking the narrow streets, meeting artist friends in the evenings for wine.
We spent time in Luigi's workshop. Luigi is the restorer I had the opportunity to visit with Debra and Ivano when I first arrived in Florence 2 weeks ago (was it only 2 weeks ago??? It seems like a lifetime). He repairs centuries old sculpture, frames and furniture. He showed us photos of some of the work he has done through the years and demonstrated his carving and gold leafing process for us (all in Italian with our guide translating). Luigi's restorations are in museums throughout Italy. His craft is a dying one; younger people are not interested or can't afford to support themselves by it.
We visited the studio of Giuliano Ricchi
, who creates Florentine-style metal works from his wax carvings. His beautiful pill boxes, business card holders, photo frames and intricately detailed jewelry are sold by Dior, Nina Ricci, Neiman Marcus and Santa Maria Novella's exclusive stores. He has a little room where he sells these things waaaay below the exclusive stores' retail prices.
(Ditta Carlo Cecchi di Giuliano Ricchi, Piazza Santo Spirito, 12, 50125 Firenze
We then visited L'Ippogrifo: stampe d'arte
, a beautiful studio and retail space with racks of Gianni Raffaelli's
highly detailed etchings. He took us to the back room where he explained (all in Italian with our guide translating) and demonstrated the process of etching, showing us the copper plates, the wax, acid, inking and printing process.
(L'Ippogrifo, Via Santo Spirito 5/rm 50125 Firenze, wwwlstampeippogrifo.com)
Then on to Ali Firenze
, a leathercraft and bead embroidery workshop, to observe the artist (sorry, didn't catch her name) in her studio, surrounded by heaps of dyed leather, semi-finished ladies' bags, belts and beaded jewelry. She explained (all in Italian with our guide translating) how purses are constructed using cardboard templates.
(Ali Firenze, Via Toscanella 9/r, 50125 Firenze, www.alifirenze.it)
On our last stop of the day Laura Thompson and Frank Rekrut, painter and sculptor, opened their studio to us. Laura and Frank are a husband and wife team from Canada and the US, who have lived here for 5 years. From the open windowed studio overlooking terra cotta tiled roofs, we sipped prosecco and probed their minds about the feasibility of living as an artist in Florence: cost of living? Taxes? Relations with the locals? The ability to make a living? Hmmm...all very doable.
Check out this web site for more artisans who welcome visitors: www.walkaboutflorence.com/articles/florences-artisan-quarter
Tuesday afternoon--I'm listening to the rain beating on the roof and the sirens out in the street, a common sound here in this busy city. I'm sitting in my room in the empty villa. Debra and Ivano have just delivered the last of the ladies to the airport. It is going to be a quiet dinner tonight.