While in Florence, I was really eager to discover some of the hidden spots that lie within Oltrarno’s artisan neighborhood. (Oltrarno, literally means across the River Arno, referring to the side of Florence much more local and with less tourists.)
I did a little bit of research before we went, wrote down some addresses and a short description to remember each. If we had time and were near, we would stop by on our way to see what it was all about.
On Thursday afternoon, after taking a nice stroll around Piazza Santo Spirito and San Niccolo, I remembered that a secret jewelry shop was supposably hidden away inside the Piazza.
It was the artisan shop of Giuliano Ricci. Giuliano is a local Florentine metal worker, who has produced luxury items for places such as Dior, Nina Ricci, Neiman Marcus, and Santa Maria Novella’s exclusive pharmacy stores. Sounds intimidating, but I had read prior that Giuliano’s insanely reasonable prices within his little shop, make it a perfect place to snatch some authentic souvenirs and truly unique items.
After walking around Santo Spirito, we found number 12 and the building door to be already propped open. We entered the apartment entryway to find ourselves approaching a small courtyard behind another set of metal gates. (Which was also unlocked.)
(If the door is locked, ring the buzzer marked “Ricchi” and “Carlo Cecci”, the old name of the studio.)
Rounding the corner, we found a set of ornate glass doors peaking into what looked like an artisan’s studio. We waited and then spotted Giuliano busy in his workspace. He warmly greeted us with his broken English, and invited us to come in….
Once we entered, he was immediately filled with excitement and showed us everything. We swiftly followed him into his workspace, shown below, where he shared with us all of the metal works he created for Santa Maria Novella Hospital. From soap dishes, to popery balls, and pill boxes, all items were carefully packaged and ready to go.
He then began to flip through an old magazine and showed me an antique Neiman Marcus ad, with his work being advertised for over 100 Euro. In his very broken English, he explained how he sells for much less, and compared it to the same item with only a 25 Euro price tag.
Giuliano then continued to give us the grand tour, and we all snuck down to the basement to see even more of the space. We squeezed down a narrow flight of stairs and landed in the middle of his extended studio, where he began to show us how all the machinery worked. From imprinted patterns to shaping the metal, Giuliano demonstrated and we got to see it all. It was truly special.