Made in Italy in Florence: straw hats

Made in Italy, Straw hats, at "il Capello di Firenze", photo by Villa le Barone

How many people know that the ”Italian straw hat”, the real hat ”Made in Italy”, is alive and  well in Florence: 15 companies continue this traditional craft producing these exceptional straw hats.

Hats have been worn for a long time, whether in summer to protect oneself from the sun, or in winter to be protected from the cold. One of the best known hats’ type, which crossed centuries and was a fashion accessory, is the straw hat, always associated with Italy and with Florence. Native of Signa in Tuscany, its qualities are known for a long time. On the occasion of the World Fair of Paris in 1855, in the category ”Manufacture of fashion products”, Tuscany’s straw hats workers were rewarded by a medal of honor offered by the emperor Napoleon III and- in the practical and complete Guide of the Exhibition- it is written: ”as regards to the straw industry, Tuscany comes first. The exhibition of the manufacturers of this country is of the most remarkable: it shows a collection of straw plaits, from the most common until the finest. The collection of hats is also very beautiful and we notice in it a number of hats, superiors in beauty to all others made until this day”.

But who is aware that 15 Florentines companies still continue this craft tradition, manufacturing  straw hats? We met them in the exhibition ”Artigianato e Palazzo” held in Florence some weeks ago. These companies have created an association «Il Capello di Firenze». They export their products ”Made in Italy” all around the world!    We introduce here below seven of them.

The Rafaello Bettini Company was based in Signa, one of the centres of production of the most important straw hats in 1886. It is a family owned company which knows how to innovate and has created a line of hats and feminine accessories under the label ”bettina”.

Made in Italy, hand made straw hat in Florence, photo by Villa le Barone

The company “Corti & F.llo“, created in 1917 and also localized in Signa, is known for its success with the production of ”canotto”.  It is also at the avant-garde of the innovation with its tissues anti folds and anti rain.

The products of the Company ”Luca della Lama”, are known by Hollywood stars, such as Diana Ross, Stewie Wonder and many others! In the movie ”Eat,  Pray and Love” Julia Roberts wears a panama designed by Luca della Lama! Since 2008, they use only natural products in their manufactures.
Always  in Signa, the Grevi family maintains the culture of the ”Hand Made” since 1875 and their creations can be admired in films such as ”pretty woman” or “Tea with Mussolini”.
Angelo Frasconi” is also a family company since several generations and exports all over the world!
Inverni Firenze on 1892” is a women family company, founded in Poggio a Caiano in 1892 and is  present in all the European trendy fashion shops.

Fratelli Marzi” is another Florentine historic straw hats company  and their hats are worn by all the European crowned heads: the British Royal Family, Caroline of Monaco and many others. Selection of the best raw materials, tradition, research, quality are Rigor’s keywords.

Villa le Barone will invite you to meet 8 other members of the Consortium ”Il Cappello di Firenze” in a next article.

Hosts of Villa le Barone can wear these magnificent straw hats ”Made in Italy” and they can also  visit, if they wish, one of these Florentine craft  companies!

Florentine Handicraft for Villa le Barone

Villa le Barone's visit at "Il Papiro": items made with marbled paper

Italian and Florentine handicraft are famous and we are promoting it in our boutique hotel Villa le Barone!

One example: “Il Papiro” is a company producing hand decorated paper items, using traditional Italian techniques and in particular the marbleizing of paper.
The story says that in the 17th century the bookbinder of Louis the 13th, King of France had invented a method to produce a paper looking like marble, also called “papier à cuve”. Such a paper has been widely used until the end of the 19th century, in particular for book binding.  The description of the technique’s details to produce marbleized paper can be found in manuals dating back to 1600.

Villa le Barone's visit at "Il Papiro":making waste baskets in marbled paper

But it is in Florence, in 1976, that Francesco Gianini and Gianni Parenti, two florentine natives and handicraft lovers, retrieved the use of this ancient technique and  have created the company “Il Papiro” which is producing several items encompassing bound diaries, journals, desk accessories, boxes… It is fascinating to look at the creation of a marbled paper sheet: first of all,  a base, a gelatin solution prepared with seaweeds, has to be produced; on the surface of this base, the colors are sprayed and then a comb shaped tool is very carefully passed on it to obtain the desired design.  Then comes the most difficult part:  a sheet of paper is delicately laid on this colored gelatin base, and here comes the miracle: the colors adhere to the paper and cover it in totally.

Villa le Barone's visit at "Il Papiro": sheets of marbled paper drying

The sheet is put to dry… and then is used by Il Papiro ( to decorate the various items, many of them we use and you can see in our boutique Villa le Barone: boxes for Kleenex, folders, notebooks…But Villa le Barone can also book for you or your children, in “Il Papiro”’s workshop, close to Greve in Chianti, a “hands on lesson” for you to prepare a sheet of marbleized paper and a beautiful notebook that you will take back with you!
At Villa le Barone, we work with many craftsmen, upholsterers, ironsmith, cabinetmaker… and are proud to maintain the Italian and Florentine traditions of handicraft.

Luxury shopping and living in Via Tornabuoni, in Florence , Tuscany

The pedestrian street Via Tornabuoni in Florence, with the Larderel Palace on the right

Did you say History?  Did you say beauty?  Did you say luxury? Did you say shopping? A pleasant stroll in the pedestrian Via Tornabuoni will make you taste the quintessence of Florence in Tuscany and discover an historical Palace where you can rent a superb apartment.

Coming from the “oltrarno”, cross the Arno River on the Santa Trinita Bridge and stop at each end to admire at its four corners the statues representing the four seasons. Keep walking straight while admiring on your right the huge medieval mass of Palazzo Spini Ferroni, maybe enter the Palace to discover (and shop!)  the Ferragamo boutiques as well as the Salvatore Ferragamo shoe museum.  Cross the street on Piazza Santa Trinita and pay a short visit to the Santa Trinita church where you can admire Domenico Ghirlandaio’s rendering of scenes from the life of Saint Francis in the Sassetti chapel … and a few other masterpieces. Leave some pennies for the upkeep of the church (and the salvation of your soul) and walk on to Palazzo Bartolini Salimbeni which you will recognize by its beautifully ornamented entrance and windows … have a peep inside the old courtyard.

The pedestrian street Via Tornabuoni in Florence

Keep walking on, and continue shopping, but be prepared to have your wallet emptied and your credit card being paid lots of respects by the Versace, Yves Saint Laurent, Prada, Gucci, Chanel, Armani, Max Mara, Tods, Bulgari …   shops as you go along the way. All the great Italian fashion designers are there! To feel better, just think that quality pays and lasts a long time!  Admire the many Palaces along the road until you find on the right the huge and beautiful Palazzo Strozzi built in the 1460’s by a very rich banker who, returning to Florence after having being exiled, wanted to squash his enemies both physically and morally! At Palazzo Strozzi you will always find a very well organized unique art exhibit (currently “Pontormo e Rosso Fiorentino”): pop in and let yourself be tempted by a bit of culture.
But enough of history and culture, you are at the crossing between Via Tornabuoni and Via della Spada. Close to the Roberto Cavalli boutique, there is a coffee shop (Giacosa), go in and ask for a Cappuccino or a Caffé macchiato …: they are the best in Florence , no frills, no pastries, but a small masterpiece of flavour and taste: the aromas of coffee, milk and chocolate blend into a fluffy revigorating liquid!  Get back on the pedestrian Via Tornabuoni for the last few steps: you will find on your right a small shop: Procacci that sells small brioche buns filled with truffle paste … try one! It’s good taste to say that they are not as delicious as they were in the 1920’s … but what to do?

Apartment in the historical Palace Larderel-Giacomini in Via Tornabuoni, Florence

I leave the best for the end: keep strolling on Via Tornabuoni and on the left, just after the famous jeweler Pomellato you are going to find the XVIth century pietra serena stone Larderel Palace (built by the same architect that, Giovanni Antonio Dosio, who also built the Bartolini Salimbeni Palace at the beginning of this short article). You can rent a beautiful apartment, with a large terrace, in this Palace in the heart of Florence, the main art city in Tuscany, and you will feel like a true Florentine!  For this, you can easily inquire at Hotel Villa le Barone ( ) the elegant boutique hotel in Panzano in Chianti, in Tuscany !