For this post I thought it’d be nice to find a special Florentine shop, one that was modern but old at heart, a fun place to stop in that could represent something of present-day Florence too. I wanted an example of local passion vs. standardized globalization.
I was ready to go on an all-out hunt through Florence’s streets and alleys. But it ended up that all I had to do was cross our hotel’s Piazza Santa Maria Novella and head down Via del Sole. At the start of the street, at number 11 to be exact, Palazzo Magnale’s grand door opens wide.
Right past the entrance, on the left, another door opens bringing you into the palazzo’s erstwhile court, today the entrance to an absolutely special, original furnishing and decor store called Bottega di Corte.
Opened on December 2013, the shop was created in the inner courtyard where carriages parked in the days of yore. Customers are greeted by the owner Leonardo Niccolai and the super sweet Rodolfo (look close and you’ll find him immortalized in one of the pictures; see him?)
The setting is historic, featuring the arches, columns and high vaulted ceilings of the past. At first the ceiling seems in glaring contrast, made of cement glass blocks to cover the courtyard and bring light to the rooms. But I learned that that ceiling actually has an interesting architectural history, as it was the first to be built in Italy in the early 1940s. More importantly, the light that comes through creates a perfect effect to make the most of its many spaces and furnished corners, touching them with a Caravaggesque effect.
When you first come in, the overall effect of the things here might bewitch you and you could not notice the individual objects. But if you look more closely at the compositions of furniture and objects, you gradually start to realize that you are looking at beds, wardrobes, chairs, coffee tables, paintings, lamps, lampshades and knick-knacks, either carefully arranged or tucked, as if in storage, into an old leather suitcase, like someone had been interrupted packing for a trip.
I found a good explanation of what Bottega di Corte is on a postcard of theirs: “A singular plurality creating something different. This is what we want to express in our shop. Many different objects together make your decor singular.” Of the multitude of pieces, most are antique or vintage, and the new ones have an antique feel too. There are ideas and gift objects for wallets of all sizes (and suitcases, for that matter). There’s everything from a king-size bed made with four old entry doors to a big selection of Sheffield pieces. There are gold metal hearts for €9 or paintings for €10,000.
Everything is given a second life here. Antique trunks made of leather and other materials, typewriters, old buggies for children made into handy carts, and a coffee table made from old wooden boxes. They are many things that had been “old” and “broken”, their original purpose lost, to which Leonardo gave new life, a new purpose, rendering them original furnishing pieces. He finds them by scouring the markets of Tuscany, Italy, France and northern England.
The last room is for candles and essences. The Bottega di Corte had a Florentine artisan workshop (Aqua Flor) make a special fragrance for them, blending scents of cassis, wild strawberry and bamboo. You can buy it only here, and it’s absolutely original and really good.
English translation by Miriam Hurley