Florence through the transversal and creative gaze of Monica Sarti
The woman who turned the stole into a sought-after item reveals the unseen face of her city
Monica Sarti lives and works in Florence. “The beauty of the city, the museums and the art that I’m fortunate enough to see and experience every day are a constant source of inspiration for my work”, says the entrepreneur and designer who opened her first boutique in Via della Spada, a stone’s throw from Via de’ Tornabuoni (followed by others in Milan, Rome, Cortina, Porto Cervo, Forte dei Marmi, and, probably next summer, Capri).
We’re in the fashion quadrilateral, between Piazza Santa Maria Novella and Palazzo Strozzi, an impressive area that greets luxury shopping with nonchalant elegance: “All my foreign customers”, Monica adds, “are amazed when they see we’re living in a sixteenth-century city whose charm remains intact”. Her extra-wide scarves and large foulards in cashmere, cashmere jersey or silk have become must-have items for fashion lovers worldwide. “After finishing my studies and spending some time in New York, I decided to take on the most neglected section of the family business: accessories. A minor branch, but I glimpsed its hidden potential”. What she had in mind was breaking the rules: “I got rid of the fringes and added poetry to the scarves. For my first shawls, I wanted to lighten their typical heaviness and find the familiar, silky-soft feeling of the favourite t-shirt I used to sleep in, hence my well-known use of jersey”. With the same inclusive approach and a passion for contemporary codes, Monica takes us to her Florence, to neighbourhoods still populated by artisans and new hubs where the most creative energy in the city is emerging, in search of art with a capital A, foodie escapes and fashion icons.
5 PLACES NOT TO BE MISSED
Palazzo Strozzi, The Renaissance palace in Via de’ Tornabuoni is now a venue for major international exhibitions. This autumn it hosts the stunning solo show of an artist I’ve always loved, Jeff Koons.
Sant’Ambrogio market, An ancient food market that’s still inhabited and frequented by Florentines. You can find excellent local products at great prices, and the genuine atmosphere of bygone days.
Manifattura Tabacchi, A former cigarette factory converted into a space where art, music, craftsmanship and fashion come together in a centre that’s also open to the public. A place where the air’s buzzing with dynamic energy.
Santo Spirito, I adore this area, it’s packed with art and artisans, among monumental buildings that are unique in the world. In the mornings there’s a market where I find amazing plates, glasses and bedlinen.
Museo novecento, An incredible collection of modern and contemporary art. It’s also hosting a solo show by Jenny Saville until February, and along with the Pecci Centre in Prato, it’s bringing Vezzoli’s work to Piazza della Signoria and Palazzo Vecchio.
SHOPPING, FOOD & WINE
An experience to try at least once in Florence. Since 1885 they’ve been tickling Florentine tastebuds with their panini filled with truffle cream made to a secret recipe (the bar’s longstanding foodie trademark), served with courtesy and professionalism in heartwarming vintage surroundings. If you go there once, you’ll have to go back. In Via de’ Tornabuoni.
One of Italy’s most respected galleries of modern and contemporary international art, overlooking Lungarno Benvenuto Cellini. It has hosted some extraordinary solo shows (Campigli, Fontana and Burri, to name just a few) and retrospectives (De Chirico, De Pisis, Carrà and Warhol, among others).
A small shop packed with vintage clothing and accessories in Via dei Serragli in the buzzing Santo Spirito quarter, full of artists, designers, antique dealers, old trattorias, new bistros and artisan workshops. There’s a great selection of items that bring together streetwear and eighties glamour in original and creative ways. And there’s a tastefully curated section of iconic brands like Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent, Moschino, Versace, Courregès, Vuitton and Hermès.
In the most popular corner of Santo Spirito there’s food that lies somewhere between tradition and experimentation, and it’s won the hearts of all, Florentines first and foremost. It combines Tuscan simplicity with a more sophisticated creativity; flavour with substance and the elegance of the setting. You have to try the Casentino prosciutto with vegetables in olive oil, the macaroni with rabbit ragout, the beef tartare and the saddle of venison and, for dessert, the creme brulée with Sarawak pepper. It’s best to book well in advance.
Osteria delle Tre Panche - Hotel Hermitage
On the terrace of the Hermitage in Vicolo Marzio, this restaurant offers one of Florence’s top culinary experiences based on white truffles. The setting is truly gorgeous: on the sixth floor with views of the Ponte Vecchio from the main rooftop terrace or Palazzo Vecchio from the secondary one. I recommend the tagliolini with truffle and the steak tartare; the Chianti foie gras and the cheesecake with forest fruits are unmissable too.