What I find most dynamic about Italy is the country’s innovative drive – design and technology – coupled with a strong value for tradition – family and home. Italy has a long heritage of technological innovations (think: Bartolomeo Cristofori, Guglielmo Marconi, Alessandro Volta, Giovanni Branca, and Mario Capecchi) as well as fine craftsmanship and pioneering new design (think: Giancarlo Fassina, Antonio Citterio, Enzo Mari, Ettore Sottsass, and Angeletti Ruzza). It is common form for Italian companies’ research and development teams to work in close collaboration with well-known designers in an effort to produce products aimed at a superior quality of daily life. This balance between innovation and tradition results in well-designed home items that make daily living not only easier but also joyous. In this spirit I celebrate a few of my favorite Italian companies, an invention, a designer, and a destination that all share a mark in innovation and passion for design – ultimately producing items and experiences that enrich the every day.
The Best of Italy: Tradition and Innovation
Piero Fornasetti was a Milan painter, sculpture, interior decorator and a creator of more than 11,000 items beginning in 1933. Fornasetti’s production of objects and furniture is one of the largest of the 20th Century. The Fornasetti visual vocabulary is instantly recognizable and engaging and filled with whimsy and wit. Today the Fornasetti collectible plates are made in porcelain and produced by hand at the Fornasetti atelier in Milan, following the exact specifications passed from Piero Fornasetti to his son Barnaba. When in Milan visit the Fornasetti store, Corso G. Matteotti, 1/A, www.fornasetti.com.
Buy Fornasetti at www.unicahome.com
Began in the Marche region in 1938, Guzzini revolutionized the manufacturing of household items using Plexiglas and in the 1960s furthered design with moulded acrylics. Guzzini combines practicality and aesthetic appeal and works to research new materials and find interesting and original design concepts. The result is a vast catalogue full of all types of items for the table, the kitchen and the home. They are all beautifully designed but easy to use, very familiar, inexpensive and extremely practical. I love the company’s motto: “designed to be used.”
Visit Fratelli Guzzini at www.fratelliguzzini.com
Buy Guzzini at www.cookware.com
Another venerable Italian brand that has designed and produced objects for the home, kitchen and wine cellar since 1946. Legnoart Collections are regarded as true objects of desire as well as indispensable tools for the enjoyment of everyday domestic life. While all Legnoart objects are designed with creativity, they are deeply rooted in tradition, firmly anchored in functionality and beautiful in their elegant simplicity. It’s hard to find a resource for the entire product line so when traveling to Europe buy your favorite piece! Find the Laguna Deluxe Multi Function Party Tray ($165), Sombrero Buffet Party Dish ($54) and other Legnoart items at www.amazon.com.
Visit Legnoart at www.legnoart.com
Seletti & Selab and Alessandro Zambelli’s Palace Stacking Tableware are such a fun celebration of Italy’s beautiful renaissance architecture. Florentine architecture as tableware, featuring a tower, six-floor building, a large opera house and villa. Fun and inspirational for entertaining!
Visit Aplusrstore at www.aplusrstore.com
I adore Italian espresso. For years I used an Alessi stove-top espresso maker which produces wonderfully thick espresso with crema. But since 2007 I have happily been a Nespresso “club member.” A Swiss company producing an Italian invention with the precision for which the Swiss are known. I have the Lattisma machine that makes espresso, lungo (American coffee), cappuccino and latte all with the touch of a button. Instant gratification! Nespresso offers 12 varieties of coffee that vary in taste and strength as well as special, limited-edition flavors. The Nespresso Club membership is included with a machine purchase and allows for easy re-ordering of capsules from Nespresso (on-line, by phone or at a local boutique), as well as an excellent Club service plan that provides machine pick-up and a loaner machine in the event of any necessary repairs. It’s all so easy! Bottom line: my relatives in Italy use Nespresso machines for home espresso – now that is a great endorsement!
Visit Nespresso at www.nespresso.com
Luxurious bed-linens featuring beautiful fabrics and graphic designs. Flou’s duvet-covers and bed-linen sets are printed with a procedure of ‘natural colors‘ called Indanthreme® that indelibly fixes the pattern to the fabric, making them highly resistant to washing and giving a finish that is soft and silky to touch. Flou linen sets consist of a duvet cover, two pillow cases and a fitted bottom sheet – the bottom side of the duvet also acts as the flat sheet. Streamlined linens – so functional! The U.S. Flagship store is in NYC and there are over 16 distributors across the U.S. – find your local resource.
Visit Flou at www.flou.it
Italian lighting merges design and technology with enduring style, quality, function and efficiency. The renowned craftsmanship of Italian glassmakers incorporated with award-winning technologies makes for excellent products. I love pairing modern light fixtures with most any home decor. Some of my favorite manufacturers are Flos, Leucos, and LucePlan.
Visit YLighitng at www.ylighting.com
I recently visited Bormio- the ski resort that is part of the World Cup circuit, less touristy and filled with modest and friendly locals- and immediately fell in love. It’s a picturesque Alpine town in the Valtellina region, the highest point in Lombardy that borders Switzerland and home to excellent wines and local delicacies including bresaola, pizzoccheri, Casera, Bitto and Scimudin cheese, and the lovely red wine Sassela. In addition to great skiing, Bormio’s natural thermal waters and its health-giving properties have long been used as a source of wellness since the 1st Century B.C. The Alpine mountain resort offers great diversions winter or summer for couples or families.
Stay at the Bagni di Bormio, a thermal spa holiday resort that dates back to 1829. The antique philosophy salus per aquam (SPA) is celebrated here to its fullest, enhanced with modern style and technologies. The Resort offers more than 30 different indoor and outdoor thermal facilities including various sauna (dry, bio, scented, with music), baths with hydro-massage, Turkish baths, high intensity waterfalls, hydro-jets, outdoor bath and pools, mud baths with drying-house, and wooden tubs with thermal water. The spa has two hotels and a spa center in each. Stay in the Grand Hotel Bagni Nuovi, but be sure to travel the hotel park’s footpath through the pine forest to the original Hotel Bagni Vecchi to visit the gorgeous panoramic pool and a sort of natural sauna (Grotta Suddatoria) that leads to the thermal springs right in the heart of the mountain.
Visit Bagni di Bormio Resort at www.bagnidibormio.it
Look for Triacca Valtellina Sperior Sassela at www.wine-searcher.com
Buy Casera and Bitto Cheese at www.almagourmet.com