These are a few of my favorite things

There is a shop in Florence that is my favorite beyond all others. Along with the potpourri from the pharmacy of Santa Maria Novella, the trimmings from Passamaneria Valmar make life complete.

Or, pretty close to complete.

Well, at least as complete as it can be on earth.


When you wander by this jewel box storefront, just steps away from one of my favorite old pensiones, La Porta Rossa, you know you have stumbled upon something special.


Inside you will find floor to rafters filled with textile trimmings.


But, to call Passamaneria Valmar a trimmings shop is a massive understatement.  It is kind of like calling Queen Elizabeth a female.  Yes, technically correct, but devoid of all the adjectives that delineate heritage, opulence and tradition.


The shop’s founder, Vittorio Lapi, pictured above, stands behind the counter in his shop. Signor Lapi opened his independent store in the 1960s, on a very prestigious shopping street in the heart of Florence’s historical center. It is located between the Via de’ Tornabuoni and Via de’ Calzaiuoli, really only a stone’s throw from the famed Ponte Vecchio. Thinking of Mr. Lapi’s retirement, the shop is now managed by his children and grandchildren.


From the store’s website, you will find: “tassels for keys and bracelets for curtains, embroidered velvet pillows, patchwork and vintage fabrics, as well as a wide range of centerpieces, table covers, footstools, tapestries, and various furnishing accessories, all strictly of our own production.” The store’s workshop is located right over the shop, so customizing order is never a problem.

It makes me very happy that I have customized sofa pillows and table runners from this purveyor of brocades, silks and velvets.  I admire them every single day when I am at home. Just looking at and touching them can transport me in my mind’s eye to Firenze.

The following is also from the store’s website:

“Our store is proud to be the exclusive retailer in Florence of precious articles of “La Contessina” company, Italy’s leading manufacturer of articles of silk velvet (in 25 colors) hand-embroidered such as curtains, pillows, bedspreads, table covers etc… that may also meet the needs of an exclusive clientele.  Over its decades long activity the “Passamaneria Valmar” has had the honor and the privilege of furnishing the rooms of the most prestigious Florentine homes in addition to export all over the world.”

There aren’t many places like this left in Florence, for, sadly, the luxurious products speak to an earlier age. I spoke to one of the family members in the shop yesterday and she mentioned how many trim shops in Florence have shuttered their doors permanently.

I hope this fantastic small boutique doesn’t share the same fate.  But tastes, and indeed, even Florence, have changed.

Want to visit? start your process here:

Florentine Silk

From today’s New York Times.


Down a quiet lane in the San Frediano district of Florence, beyond an iron gate and leafy courtyard, is Antico Setificio Fiorentino, the sole remaining artisan silk workshop in the city. Since moving to this location (Via Lorenzo Bartolini 4) in 1786, the small factory has maintained uninterrupted production, despite wars and floods. The art of silk-making in Florence flourished in the Renaissance, when noble families amassed fortunes and fame by producing exquisite silks. That tradition endures at Antico Setificio Fiorentino, where silks are woven by hand on antique looms using Renaissance patterns.

FLORENCE | A silk loom at Antico Setificio Fiorentino. Credit Stefano Ricci /ASF by Bernardo Conti

During a recent tour, the designer Maurizio Bonas rattled off the illustrious names of historic Florentine clans — Corsini, Pucci, Strozzi — whose signature patterns are still being produced. “When you go inside many historical houses in Italy, it’s Antico Setificio that did them,” said Mr. Bonas, who noted that the factory’s silks also adorn rooms in the Vatican, the Palazzo Vecchio and the Tribuna degli Uffizi in Florence, and even in the Kremlin in Moscow.

“To make these kinds of fabric, we cannot use the modern machines,” Mr. Bonas said, pulling out a roll of sumptuous blue embroidered silk velvet made with 350,000 stitches per meter. One worker who was weaving a cream-colored damask from a design named for the Renaissance painter Pinturicchio could be expected to complete only 80 to 100 centimeters of the fabric per day. And because the small factory employs only 20 artisans, production is predictably limited — and costly. In the adjoining showroom, walls are lined with bolts of silk, from plush velvets and intricate damasks to diaphanous taffetas, 110 to 1,360 euros (about $135 to $1,670) per meter. Decorative pillows are adorned with hand-woven trims. And, on a table, a basket is filled with sachets made of Ermisino, a shimmering silk taffeta that dates back 500 years. Inside each is potpourri from Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella, a 400-year-old pharmacy that has partnered with Antico Setificio for, as Mr. Bonas said, “only 250 years.”

A more recent partnership with the Stefano Ricci luxury men’s wear label, which acquired Antico Setificio in 2010, means the designer’s nearby store now stocks wearable wares made with Antico Setificio’s fine silk. INGRID K. WILLIAMS