Busatti, it’s got what it takes

There’s a revered business association in Italy called the UISI, or the Unione Imprese Storiche Italiane, which in English means: the association of Italian Historical Businesses.

In order to become a member of this august group, a company must have been in business for over 150 years and owned by the same family that started the business originally.  This association was begun in Florence and only includes as members businesses that represent the great tradition and history for which Italy is known.

I only recently learned of this association when I visited a great textile store in the Oltrarno section of Florence.  There are no signs announcing this shop; you must be in the know to find it.

It isn’t hidden, au contraire, it is located smack dab between a very famous little artistic studio of the street artist, Clet, and the ancient church of San Nicola.

Check it out online and visit it if you are in the market for some fine Italian textiles: towels, sheets, draperies, and some ceramics.



Busatti, fine Italian textiles


What does it take to become a member of the Italian Historical Businesses Union? (the UISI in Italian: Unione Imprese Storiche Italiane)?  This art association was begun in Florence and allows as members only companies that make items of great Italian tradition and excellence and have been owned by the same family for more than 150 years.


The Busatti company, producers of fine Italian textiles, is a proud member.

I recently visited the Busatti showroom in the Oltrarno section of Florence.  I’d been hunting for some of the beautiful cotton towels known as nido d’api (bee’s nest) in Italian, or waffle weave in English.  This fine company had the towels I was hunting, in a beautiful array of hues.  I chose the color I call “French blue, ” even though these are obviously Italian made!


Since 1842 the Busatti family has been weaving textiles in the cellars of the Palazzo Morgalanti in Anghiari, a Tuscan village.  The company can actually trace it’s ancestry further back than that: they had the first machines in Italy that could card wool in the late 18th century. When Napoleon invaded, his troops started producing uniforms for the Grande Armee in Anghiari.  To dye them the blue they wanted, they restarted cultivating a flower known in Italian as guado.  This is “woad” in English, a yellow-flowered European plant of the cabbage family. It was once widely grown, especially in Britain, as a source of blue dye, which was extracted from the leaves after they had been dried, powdered, and fermented.

In 1842 Busatti established itself as a producer of fine cotton textiles, using steam-powered machinery.  In the 1930s, the electric versions of the same looms were first utilized.  It was in the 1930s that the company acquired its current structure and look.

Busatti is still synonymous with quality and tradition, but also of innovation.  They can customize any of their production of tablecloths, draperies and toweling, and can make use of their exclusive embroideries when desired.

The Busatti business can trace its unique history starting with the Grand Duchy of Tuscany (Gran Ducato di Toscana), the contribution to Italian unification with a Garibaldi family member, through 2 World Wars and many economic crises. Fortunately, the company just keeps chugging along in Anghiari. As you wind through wooded hills to visit the ancient, walled town, it seems that nothing has changed there for hundreds of years. The illusion persists in the vaulted 16th-century showrooms of Busatti (www.busatti.com), where linens are still woven on 19th- and early-20th-century looms.

Clients include Miuccia Prada and Valentino, who order made-to-measure table sets in linen and cotton and me, who chooses ready-made, but still gorgeous, towel sets.


Palazzo Davanzati and Elia Volpi

One of my favorite places in Florence is the Palazzo Davanzati. One look at one of the rooms in the palazzo will show you why I love it.  I visited it on my very first trip to Florence, almost 40 years ago.  It hasn’t changed one bit, except maybe it is even better now with more didactic info available.



We have the art dealer, Elia Volpi (1858–1938), to thank for having saved the Palazzo as it appears today.  In Florence, Volpi is known as the “father” of the Museum of the Old Florentine House in Palazzo Davanzati, as he was responsible for restoring the building and turning it into a private museum in 1910.




Now the museum, on via Porta Rossa, is opening its “Homage to Elia Volpi the Painter” exhibition, which offers the chance to discover a lesser-known side of the illustrious collector and antiquarian, that is, to see him as an artist.



Volpi trained at Florence’s Academy of Fine Arts. The current exhibition focuses on his training and the paintings he produced from the 1870s through the 1890s, with examples of his sketches and finished paintings, mostly in pristine condition.  All of these works have been donated to the museum from private collections.

Volpi’s sketches are testament to his studies of the Italian Renaissance masters and, along with the male nudes, show off the early artistic skills of a young Volpi.

The paintings demonstrate his broad range; during the 1880s he explored church scenes before concentrating on the subjects and style of the Macchiaioli and more contemporary artists such as Francesco Gioli and Niccolò Cannicci.


The show also includes a multimedia section featuring a video that focuses on the artist’s personal life and a touch-screen panel with photographs that demonstrate the creation of the museum.


The exhibition is open from May 6 to August 5 in the Palazzo Davanzati Museum.


The source of this info comes from:


Doris Day and Edith Head, and oh yeah, Alred Hitchcock and Jimmie Stewart

These principals all came together in The Man Who Knew Too Much.

They created movie magic at its finest.  Time travel back to 1956. American surgeon, Dr. McKenna (Jimmie Stewart) takes his wife (Doris Day) and young son to visit Morocco, for he had been there, serving in North Africa during WWII.  They literally stumble into all kinds of espionage and trouble in Marrakesh, and their son is kidnapped in the process.

Alfred Hitchcock directed this classic film and Edith Head made this sketch of a beautiful suit for Doris Day to wear in the critical parts of the movie.




The suit seen above, without the stole, was realized in gray silk and Miss Day wears the suit throughout the second half of the film, during which she is seen in Albert Hall in London, as well as in the Embassy of some unspecified but critical country.  Her kidnapped son had been taken to London and she and Mr. Stewart are there to find him.

I loved the movie and highly recommend it.  Here are the lead actors and the director:



And here is the poster advertising the film.




Sumptuous textiles and Leonardo in Renaissance Florence


Leonardo had a fascination with curly hair. His own hair, as one early biographer attests, was long and curly, and his beard “came to the middle of his breast, and was well-dressed and curled.”  He evidently took pride in his appearance.

Besides his well-dressed hair and curled beard, he had a taste for colorful clothing. Florence was renowned for its luxurious textiles— silks and brocades with names like rosa di zaffrone (pink sapphire) and fior di pesco (peach blossom). But most of these exotic fabrics were exported to the harems of Turkey because sumptuary laws— regulations against ostentatious dress— meant Florentines necessarily favored more sober colors. Not so Leonardo, whose wardrobe in later life, an audacious mix of purples, pinks, and crimsons, flouted the dictates of the fashion police.


One list of his clothes itemized a taffeta gown, a rose-colored Catalan gown, a purple cape with a velvet hood, a coat of purple satin, another of crimson satin, a purple coat of camel hair, dark purple hose, dusty-rose hose, black hose, and two pink caps.

King, Ross (2012-10-30). Leonardo and the Last Supper (p. 26). Bloomsbury Publishing. Kindle Edition.


Florence had a thriving cloth industry, and Leonardo designed numerous machines for the textile trade, such as hand looms, bobbin winders, and a needle-making machine that he calculated would produce forty thousand needles per hour and revenues of a mind-boggling sixty thousand ducats per year. All of these inventions he no doubt hoped would find their place in Florentine industry. In about 1494 he drew plans for a weaving machine, and in the same pages he outlined a project for a canal by which, he claimed, Florence’s Guild of Wool Merchants could transport their goods through Tuscany and, by extracting revenues from other users of the canal, boost their profits in the process. These pursuits reveal the breadth of Leonardo’s interests, the scope of his ambitions, and the depth of his conviction that there was no task that could not be improved through technology and invention. None of his plans seems, however, to have tempted the hardheaded merchants of Florence.

King, Ross (2012-10-30). Leonardo and the Last Supper (p. 119). Bloomsbury Publishing. Kindle Edition.

Emilio Pucci, part 1

The work of Emilio Pucci (1914-92), Florentine fashion designer and Marchese di Barsento, has been on my radar all of my life. I absolutely love it.





I mean, what’s not to love?

Pucci was born in 1914 to one of Florence’s oldest aristocratic families, and he both lived and worked at his family’s Palazzo Pucci, which is a stone’s throw from the Duomo in Florence, for much of his life. Check out his Palazzo here.


Pucci had an amazingly wide variety of interests and was an avid sportsman, who swam, skied, fenced, played tennis and raced cars. He attended the University of Milan for two years and then studied agriculture, of all things, in the United States at the University of Georgia. In 1935 he started school at Reed College in Oregon, where he eventually received a Master’s degree in social science. Pucci was on the ski team at Reed and his first real fashion design was created for this team.


That same year he was awarded a (an honorary degree one has to suppose ) laurea in poli science from the University of Florence.   Always invested in Italian politics, even at Reed College he was known as a staunch defender of the Fascist regime in Italy.

When Pucci returned home he joined the Italian air force, rising to the rank of captain.  He became entwined in the lives of Benito Mussolini’s oldest daughter, Edda and her husband, which led to Pucci being arrested and tortured by the Gestapo.  He lived in Switzerland until the war ended.

Pucci’s first recognition for his design was in the 1948 issue of Harper’s Bazaar. He had designed some ski wear for a friend, utilizing the new stretch fabrics, and his sleek new designs caused a sensation.


Several American manufacturers offered to produce this glamorous new ski wear, but Pucci instead set up his own atelier in the fashionable resort of Canzone del Mare on Capri, which was a brilliant strategy, for Capri was a destination for the world’s new international jet set.

Pucci’s business thrived almost immediately.  He experimented with the stretch fabrics to create a swimwear line in 1949, but found his voice in designing brightly-colored patterned silk scarves. Neiman Marcus, the high end American retailer, noticed Pucci’s scarves and suggested Pucci create blouses and then a popular line of wrinkle-free printed silk dresses.  He seemed to be made of gold, for his designs caught on immediately.  He opened a boutique in Rome.  Pucci was a hot designer commodity by the mid 1950s.

Marilyn Monroe discovered Pucci in the early 1960s and enhanced the designer by wearing his creations in some of her last photo shoots.  Many celebrities wore Pucci, including Sophia Loren and Jacqueline Kennedy.

In 1959, Pucci decided to create a line of lingerie.  Since he’d had some textile related issues in Italy in the 1940s, he deiced to give his lingerie contract to Formfit-Rogers mills in Chicago. It was a successful venture. In 1959, Pucci met Cristina Nannini, a Roman baroness, whom he married.

During the go-go 1960s, Braniff International Airways engaged Pucci to update the airline’s image by designing new clothing for the flight attendants (or stewardesses–as the almost exclusively female crew were then known).


Pucci  designed six complete collections for Braniff hostesses, pilots and ground crew between 1965 and 1974. The 1968 garments were copied for the very popular Barbie doll.


Among the more unusual aspects of Pucci’s Braniff designs was the so-called “bubble helmet” – a clear plastic hood worn by flight attendants between terminal building and aircraft to protect their hairdos from rain and the blast of jet engines.



Pucci’s influence even extended all the way to the Moon! He suggested the three bird motif for the Apollo 15 mission patch.

Apollo 15-insignia.png