Francesca Polizzi: The Beauty of Florence
Francesca Polizzi of Sprazzi di Bellezza – Small & Slow Luxury is a creative force with an eye for aesthetics and attention to detail. At its essence, Small & Slow Luxury provides business strategy and fosters creative community, with a specific focus on supporting craftsmanship and cultural heritage. Francesca was born and raised in Rome, Italy, but partially grew up in Tuscany. She took an afternoon to sit down with Interior Monologue to share insider tips on dining, shopping, and exploring culture in Florence. Francesca has impeccable taste and truly respects the value of supporting small creators. Read on for her spectacular insights and immerse yourself in the splendid world of Small & Slow Luxury.
Tell us a bit about yourself. What is the genesis story of Sprazzi di Bellezza – Small & Slow Luxury? What is your connection to Florence?
FRANCESCA: Sprazzi di Bellezza is a very multi-faceted project, which stems from the need to give shape to an equally important purpose: the active and tailored support to all those realities, large and small, which through their products divulge values, stories, ideals of quality and Beauty, thanks to the important craftsmanship and cultural component that distinguishes them. Me and my partners support them at every stage of their journey, from consultancy to communication, from management to strategy.
I believe that these realities represent the essence of true Luxury and preserve a disproportionate richness in their being guardians of cultural and historical identity.
Florence is the cradle of Renaissance and Made-In-Italy beauty; I had the good fortune to grow up between the streets of Rome and Florence. My eyes became accustomed from a very early age to scrutinizing the streets, the corners, the workshops. In Florence, and in Tuscany in general, things are done ‘as they used to be’; within such a precious and rich framework, sensitive minds cannot but develop, minds that search for Beauty everywhere, allergic to passing trends and frivolous principles of ‘fast’ and ‘right away’, minds that are able to recognize and derive joy from small beautiful things; here it seems that Time still has that sacred connotation that is due to it. Here people live in the 21st century on floors dating back to the 1500s with their eyes peering up at ceilings that are just as ancient.
Everything has a soul here and a certain glorious cultural, scientific and philosophical ferment has never died down. In the streets of Florence, I learnt about the valuable work of craftsmen long before I delved into its history through study, which is why it is still one of the most important focuses of my professional work today.
What are some of your favorite spots for dining in Florence?
FRANCESCA: In Florence you eat well… really well! As is the case with craftsmanship, in Florence the genuineness of the ingredients and the ‘savoir faire‘ of yesteryear are combined with the brilliance of creative minds that bring so much goodness into the contemporary.
When I am in Florence I have a few fixed stops on my list:
The “Konnubio”, a place with many souls, a harmonious embrace between good cuisine, architecture and the Beauty of detail.
The “Atelier de’ Nerli”, an enchanted place where culinary art collides with the artisan soul of the Oltrarno district.
During winter or rainy days, I indulge in a tea time in the grand salon of the Helvetia Bristol hotel, in front of their stone fireplace.
A hidden gem of contemporary cuisine is ‘Il gusto di Xinge’, a contemporary design restaurant that fuses Chinese and Italian culinary art; Xin Ge Liu is a woman of outstanding creativity and talent, which are entirely reflected in each dish, which becomes a small work of art of taste and color.
If you are really, really hungry and want to eat ‘like at home’, the Latteria Giulio Maggi is a hidden gem; the owner, Riccardo, is a true Florentine and guarantees company and laughter while you taste the best Tuscan home cooking!
Finally, if you’re in the mood for pizza (Who isn’t?) SimBIOsi is my go-to!
Do you have any recommendations for great boutiques in Florence? Or a designer/artisan that you are particularly excited about right now?
FRANCESCA: Do I have recommendations? I wouldn’t know where to start! Each Florentine boutique gives a unique experience, as you feast your eyes on their gentle gestures molding pure Beauty! But let’s go in order! Let’s start with the basics.
Perhaps some of you are familiar with Richard Ginori, the absolute excellence of Made-In-Italy ceramics; its flagship store is a cultural experience in miniature, where you can find the best of precious historical tableware, new collections and unique works of art created in collaboration with the great Italian designer Gio Ponti.
Speaking of exquisite fashion ateliers: Silvia Berni Atelier makes the most exquisite tailored women’s shirts I’ve ever worn; “Liverano & Liverano” men’s tailoring would transform any man into an impeccable gentleman; If you have children, you will have to bring them to the Anichini boutique, to choose a precious sartorial dress to cherish with love.
The first housewares shop in Florence, now a sparkling concept store, is ‘La Menagere’, whose rooms display pieces of furniture, tableware, flowers and various decorations while sipping a good coffee or enjoying a cocktail.
I personally love handwritten letters and I always go to ‘Il Papiro’ to stock up on handmade paper for holidays, birthdays or simply thoughts to dedicate to someone I love; their handmade paper is decorated with precious gold leaf or exquisitely hand-painted.
If you are looking for a never predictable and very special souvenir to take home (or to enjoy for yourself!) I recommend the ‘Leonardo Firenze’ biscuit shop just a stone’s throw from the sublime Piazza della Signoria! Leonardo, now over 90 years old, has been baking Tuscan cantucci since the 1960s, supported by his son Marco! The traditional recipe for cantucci includes almonds… but I admit to being totally seduced by chocolate and orange!
Should you venture into Via de’ Fossi you will discover one of the faces of Florence that has never slackened: antiques! This is a walk along the Arno to be taken slowly, savouring with your eyes the shop windows of the many antique dealers and smelling the unmistakable scent of antique wood!
I conclude with a “golden team” for lovers of the well-made that only the arts & crafts can deliver: the Zouganista wood and leather carving workshop, the Maselli frame workshop, from which the frames of the city’s best-known museums are made, the Mazzanti boutique, which hides behind every feather we see on the haute couture catwalks, the “Traversari” mosaici lab, the only artisans family to keep all three artistic mosaic techniques, and Paolo Penko’s goldsmith’s boutique, which preserves traditional goldsmithing techniques inspired by the Renaissance arts and symbolism.
What are your recommendations for experiencing unique local culture in Florence? Local secrets, beautiful hotels, historic finds?
FRANCESCA: Florence is a riot of secrets. It is enough to walk through the streets with one’s nose in the air to observe the coffered ceilings and imagine who or what might be within those walls. Excluding the must-see cultural stops that you might find in any tourist guidebook, here are some hidden gems for you:
Just a stone’s throw from S.M. Novella station, through an apparently normal doorway, you enter the sublime Officina Profumo Farmaceutica di S.M.Novella. An absolutely enchanted place, in my opinion. Among the frescoed rooms with original 14th-century decorations, one takes a journey through time on the trail of perfumes. Active for 800 years in a former convent, it is the oldest pharmacy still in function where you can find ointments, perfumes, unguents and elixirs according to the recipes in use at the Medici Court and kept in precious ampoules and amphorae, as in an alchemical laboratory. A combination of sacred and historical culture that has its roots in the 1200.
The second hidden treasure I reveal is a hotel: Velona’s Jungle Luxury Suites Hotel. This is a place for educated, discerning travelers who love well-told stories and impeccable details. Veronica is the owner of this hotel where the history of a family combines with that of the city and its most authentic features. Veronica’s grandfather, the original owner, was a well-known antique dealer in Florence, a visionary and globetrotter who in his life collected precious pieces that are now found inside the Suites, flawlessly combined with contemporary pieces of art and craftsmanship, the comfort of luxury hotels and the company of dear family friends. Each Suite, through design, tells a different story: from exotic destinations to bucolic gardens to almost fairytale settings. Florence has many extraordinary hotels, but I am lucky enough to say that the Velona’s Jungle has been my Florentine home for almost seven years now.
The last recommendation is more the sharing of a personal habit of mine: every time I go to Florence, whatever the season, I go to greet Dante in Piazza Santa Croce, like a small pilgrimage. Dante’s statue stands at the foot of the Basilica and looks out over the piazza in front with severe, wise eyes. I like to go there and have coffee in the small café right next to the statue, in no hurry, maybe with a book, or in pure contemplation. In spring, there is a scent of jasmine here. A small but deep experience, which always gives me serenity and extreme calm.
Let’s talk about Sprazzi di Bellezza – Small & Slow Luxury. Is there an ethos that guides you as you create content?
FRANCESCA: When I specifically create communication content, it is essential for me that it synthesizes authentic storytelling, grace, soul, harmony, and that it prompts the public to dwell on the content, to delve deeper.
Sprazzi di Bellezza was born with two main purposes: the first is to actively support the artists that rely on me and my partners in their communication and business strategy; the second objective for me is to divulge their values and intrinsic Beauty through my Instagram profile, blog and whatever I can do in person (events, conferences, meetings, etc.). I find it a fundamentally important role to sensitize the contemporary public to the development of new criteria for defining ‘Beauty’ and ‘Luxury’; this sensibility is not created in a few months… but is developed over years of constant exposure. The ability to recognize it is not only essential when making consumer choices, but becomes a true mindset with which we approach every aspect of life.
What aspect of Sprazzi di Bellezza – Small & Slow Luxury brings you the most joy?
FRANCESCA: I take great joy in the connection between people, the meeting, the exchange and the mutual growth. Digital tools, which are so important, are a fundamental means of connecting in real life; realities of this kind must be experienced in person to be fully understood. It is amazing what can be born from the encounter and synergy between brilliant and sensitive minds, the potential for personal and community enrichment is infinite! Also, every single time I have confirmation of the results obtained by these realities after our work together, I feel I have done my part to give these people the tools to make the world a slightly better place.
Do you have any upcoming or recently completed project(s) you are excited to talk about?
FRANCESCA: Oh, I have many, perhaps too many! I will reveal one in the making: a coffee-table photographic book on the making-of Florentine excellence! A treasure chest of inspiration, information and reflection, to be enjoyed on many levels! I cannot say much more, but you will be the first to know when it comes out!
What is next for you?
FRANCESCA: My work is constantly and irrepressibly evolving. I keep my eyes fixed on the goal and on constantly updating and enhancing my skills to get there, but I am very flexible about the path. Over the past few years I have realized that to take this to the next level, I have to bring the international community together and let alchemic synergies form between the spectacular people I have been lucky enough to meet. I’m working on that! As for me, I will have a lot to do between Rome and Tuscany at least until autumn!
Lastly, as a frequent traveler yourself, what is your favorite piece of advice for traveling?
FRANCESCA: I must admit that in the last five years I have traveled more than in my whole life. As tiring as it may seem to move all the time (because it is more tiring than you might think), I have derived two fundamental benefits from it: firstly, I have seen that Beauty is formed through the same process, albeit obviously with different premises and contexts, all over the world; this has given me the opportunity to get to know extraordinary people who have welcomed me into their culture and their most authentic world, from which I have drawn infinite enrichment. Secondly, I have developed an immense, exaggerated gratitude for the place where my roots lie: my Italy.
I personally use crafts as a means of understanding a country I’ve never been to. What’s the main craft here? How do they do it? With what materials? Who is behind all this? Entering this spiral of curiosity I always ended up meeting extraordinary people with surprising stories, who are the access key to a totally different and memorable travel experience!
Another travel tip that has always brought me great benefits is to… literally get lost. If I have some time, I like to slowly venture down unfamiliar roads, with my hands behind my back, my eyes alert, ready to catch a new detail, a new story, a hidden gem. I seek the intoxicating sensation of wonder, which is addictive! If you were in Rome, for example, I would advise you to… just follow the jasmine!
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