Warming weather and budding blooms herald the reopening of Belmond’s Italian hotels. This season sees the arrival of a new range of unique and exclusively bespoke experiences, showcasing some of the best places to visit in Italy.
Whether losing yourself in the storied artisan markets of Venice or visiting an expert shoemaker in Sicily, we’ll take you to some of the country’s top craftspeople. Discover a whole new world of creativity, and experience the spirit of the renaissance first hand.
For budding Michelangelos
Would you like to learn to sculpt like a Florentine master? It’s not as impossible as it sounds. At Studio Gallería Romanelli you can try your hand with the help of two eminent sculptors, each from a family line which has been in the business for five generations. The concierge at Belmond Villa San Michele will be happy to arrange your visit.
Classes are open to all levels. You can do a single three-hour lesson, commit to a longer course, or arrange bespoke, one-to-one classes for more intense tuition. You will master the basic technique called sight-size method, that enables you to model a realistic sculpture in clay. You can also learn how to prepare your artwork for kiln firing, or study the moulding technique required to cast it in plaster. In more advance courses, you can apply your new skills to clay modeling ‘from life’, sculpting while working directly with a model.
Discover many of the Veneto’s top artisans at the new Mercatino dei Granai, a market held in Belmond Hotel Cipriani’s Granaries of the Republic.
Around 30 sought-after jewellers, fashion designers, leather crafters and gourmet producers showcase their wares in the two beautiful converted buildings overlooking the lagoon and St Mark’s Square. You might find brightly coloured silks, Venetian marionettes and sophisticated garments made with retro flare. Peruse through semi-precious jewellery, sample homemade liqueurs or delicious cheeses and cured meats. The event is organised to support the local community, and in 2015 funds raised helped the tornado-damaged communities of Pianiga, Dolo and Mira. Get in touch with our concierge for details of our next event.
A passion for pottery
It’s no coincidence that Amalfi’s La Caravella Art Gallery shares its name with the Michelin-starred restaurant nearby. Chef Antonio Dipino owns both, founding the gallery in 2009 to mark 50 years of the restaurant.
His own ceramic collection dates from the 1800s to the present, some of which can be found on display in his restaurant. The gallery, just a few steps away in Amalfi’s historic centre, showcases new works by local artists. Among the pieces on display, you will spot ‘cuiccio’ (donkey) statues in various sizes and guises—a favourite subject of ceramists since the beginning of the 20th century. Dipino says of his selection: “To appreciate the colours, shapes and tiny particularities, you must touch the ceramics, see them close up. Our gallery has to be visited and ‘lived’.” The team at Belmond Hotel Caruso will be more than happy to arrange your excursion.
Soap in all its glory
Guests at Belmond Hotel Splendido and Belmond Splendido Mare may use their complimentary Bvlgari soap and wonder what makes it so special. As they are crafted by Genoa-based Valobra, a mere 40-minute drive from the hotel, it couldn’t be simpler to find out.
Valobra was established in 1903 by Virgilio Valobra, with an ambition to preserve the techniques of the 18th-century soap masters. Today, Guglielmo Valobra continues his father’s work and welcomes you on a tour to witness the production process. From boiling, processing soap noodles, milling, stamping and packaging, the result is a silky smooth, ultra-rich, heavenly scented soap that will add a sensuous dimension to your beauty regime.
Best foot forward
Hotfoot it to La Bottega del Sandalo and find your Sicilian summer style. Neapolitan artisan Luigi Di Caro and his wife Simona Di Gregorio man the shop, fashioning leather sandals, thongs and flip-flops from scratch. You’ll love the selection on offer, but for those seeking something even more exclusive they also create custom designs. Based on the shape of your feet, your eye and hair colour, and your personality, the resulting product is a unique reflection of you.