Based in Rome, pelle (leather) specialist Saddlers Union (below) has been hand-making bucket bags and briefcases for years, with Jackie Kennedy Onassis among its past customers. A contemporary range of smartphone cases and clutch purses are also now sold. Italy’s capital is also home to numerous leather-shoe sellers. Near the Trevi Fountain, Marini is a Pinocchio-like studio in which samples hang off walls and bespoke brogues cost US$1,250, while Di San Giacomo is the cognoscenti choice for cheerful, chic sandals.
Italy’s most famous glass hails from the pretty Venetian island of Murano: fragile, pearlescent creations blown in ancient factories and decorated with dreamy swirls of colour. The finest producers are found near the isle’s excellent museum. Few offer custom-made options, but Seguso Vetri D’Arte (below) is one exception. You’ll pay high-end prices for its tumblers, bowls or chandeliers, however – usually upwards of €300 per item. More affordable options are available via the Original Murano Glass e-store, which works with various studios.
While the towns of Arezzo, Vicenza and Valenza are Italy’s gold-industry capitals, all chiefly host mainly wholesale firms. Head instead to Sicily, and the centro storico (historic centre) of capital Palermo, where jewellers congregate. Upscale Irma Fiorentino (below) majors in fashionable pearl creations, while family-run Dispenza Giovanni (Via Vittorio Emanuele 144) can – given time – manipulate bracelets or brooches to your tastes. For something more rustic, continue south to Trapani, where Cinzia Gucciardo manipulates the area’s fine coral into gorgeous gold or gemstone accessories.
Stationery is another artisanal item forged amid Venice’s canals. Don’t be deceived by Gianni Basso’s (Calle del Fumo 5306, below) dinky size: The narrow workshop, now mostly run by Gianni’s son, Stefano, and its antique printing presses can turn out top-notch business cards, bookplates or menus made to specification within three to four days. Steep fees reflect the exquisite quality, as proven by window displays of the cards of Basso’s illustrious clientele – and strict use of esteemed Fabriano paper.
Within the lamplit stables of a 15th-century palazzo close to Florence’s Piazza Santa Croce, wizard-like perfumer Sileno Cheloni invents brand new scents – plus candles and body washes – from extracts of sandalwood, incense and hundreds more essences. Some of his Aquaflor Firenze (below) fragrances – sold in simple bottles often found in an apothecary – contain as many as a thousand sublime ingredients. Appointments can be booked for customers to concoct their own personalised perfumes with Cheloni and tour his laboratory.
You’ll find centuries-old stipettai (woodworkers) fashioning fine furniture across northern Italy. While customised offerings tend to be limited to larger projects such as villa fit-outs, customers can purchase bespoke chairs or cabinets from Promemoria (below), plus visit the company’s Lake Como HQ to watch its items come together. More of a bargain hunter? “Artistic furniture” brand Cyrus Company has an outlet northwest of Milan in which pieces used at photo sessions or international furniture fairs are hawked at much-reduced prices.
– TEXT BY RICHARD MELLOR
PHOTOS: SADDLERS UNION FACEBOOK, AQUAFLOR FIRENZE, IRMA FIORENTINO, SEGUSO VETRI D’ARTE, INSTAGRAM
This article was originally published by Singapore Press Holdings.