Leonia Frescobaldi tells her stories, passions and itineraries in the city
Discovering the 31st generation of one of the oldest families in Florence
Leonia Frescobaldi descends from one of the most ancient, illustrious Florentine families, linked to the history of the city for no fewer than eight centuries. Bankers, politicians, entrepreneurs, but also artists and poets, the Frescobaldi family tree includes many distinguished characters, starting with Dino, a man of letters and friend and contemporary of Dante Alighieri. As bankers they also made loans to Kings Edward I and II of England. Supporters of the Guelph party, since the 1200s they have always had their towers, houses and palaces in the Santo Spirito district in the Oltrarno. It was they who financed the construction of the Santa Trinità bridge, and gave the Augustinian friars permission to build the Basilica of Santo Spirito on their land. The branch to which Leonia belongs has, by inheritance and descent, added the name Franceschi Marini, which means they also descend from the great Renaissance artist, Piero della Francesca. Leonia is the daughter of Eleonora and Lamberto Frescobaldi, one of the major producers of fine Tuscan wine.
Which of the members of your ancient family are you most attached to?
To my great-great-great grandmother Leonia degli Albizzi, a formidable, determined woman I am named after. In the 19th century, a time when women still did not have today’s freedoms, she lived in France, between Champagne and Burgundy. She married Angelo Frescobaldi in 1877, bringing him the castles of Nipozzano and Pomino and the villa of Remole as a dowry, and on those lands she planted the French vines she had discovered in Champagne. She was one of the first women to drive a car and she was awarded a gold medal at the Paris Expo in 1889 for bringing French vines to Italy.
Today Frescobaldi is a great wine brand known worldwide, what is your signature project?
The humanitarian project started by my father ten years ago on the prison island of Gorgona. He was the only one, among the 100 companies contacted by the prison director, to answer his email. When it was decided, he called me and my brothers and told us: “Of all the projects, this is the one that moves me the most, because I understand that life can change in an instant. So, guys, get busy and always give your best”.
Which is your favourite wine?
The champagne method Leonia dedicated to my ancestor.
What do you do and what are your interests?
I live in Paris and I’m Marketing Global Brand Manager for a leading Champagne company. I love cooking, especially for friends. I like travelling with a spirit of discovery because I am a very curious person. I practice a lot of sport, my favourites being tennis and skiing.
Can you suggest an itinerary around Florence through the most iconic places linked with your family?
Wherever I turn in Florence, I always have a piece of my family history in front of me and I am proud of this. When family come to visit from abroad, the first stop is usually the Basilica of Santo Spirito where there are many traces related to the history of my family, starting from the fact that much of the land on which the Basilica was built was donated by we Frescobaldis. This donation is made evident inside the church by some symbols: white circles on the ground, or looking towards the altar over which a sun stands out (the same that we find today on the label of one of the family’s most prestigious wines, Brunello of Montalcino ‘Luce’). From here - we are in the Oltrarno district - we cross the Arno river on the Santa Trinità bridge, which was built by my ancestor Lamberto Frescobaldi, and we continue towards the Duomo where on one of the facades, ours is one of the coats of arms of the families who contributed to its construction. Being present on one of the most beautiful buildings and places in the world has always had a certain effect on me, and when I climb to the top of Brunelleschi’s dome, I always feel great Florentine pride as I admire the breathtaking view of the city spread out before me.
Which is your most precious legacy?
The values that my mother and father instilled in me: to always be determined. generous, humble and always give credit to the work of others.