Summer Trip to Italy
I’ve been meaning to document my recent trips to Italy. This trip was summer of 2018 where I took Terry Hurst (friend, photographer, intern – industrial engineering) with me to visit some manufacturers, cloth mills, and the trade show Pitti Uomo in Florence.
The first half of the trip was spent in Florence. I booked an airbnb next to where I thought the trade show was – I assumed it was at the Pitti Palace. We could see the palace from our window. Instead it was a 25 minute walk north to Fortezza da Basso (facepalm). Complaining about having to walk through the most charming city in the world would be a sin though. My rookie mistake turned into an opportunity to see almost the entire city on foot. Florence is like nothing else if you haven’t been.
The second half of the trip was spent in northern Italy, mostly Milan and its surroundings. First we took a 3.5 hour drive out to a rural town north of Venice. The drive itself was so calming. After being in a cramped, fast-paced environment, it was so nice to see such an open part of Italy. We drove back the same day to our airbnb in northern Milan. Terry and I searched forever to find a place that was open late to eat and we happened upon the best place, Porter’s Good Stuff. Now, I’m not one for eating American food abroad. Porter’s was a bbq joint with the most amazing brisket sandwich and “chips” which were thick-cut potato chips with a perfect seasononing on them. We went there 3 nights in a row, maybe 4. It was to the point where I knew how to drive to and from there to our apartment without using GPS.
Anyway, I digress. If you know me, you know that in another life I’d be a food blogger. I could write 3 pages on Porter’s alone, not to mention other places we went and the gelato we ate.
By this time it was the weekend so there wasn’t much work to be done. So we took a train into central Milan. We visited the famous Duomo (amazing), and the mall just next to it, Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II. The mall had every luxury brand ever known to man. It was fun to pretend like we could afford things there and test out the nicer colognes and check out the latest products from our favorite brands. That night we ate at Porter’s again…
The next day we drove up to Como to see what the lakes were all about. It’s amazingly beautiful and I recommend visiting. I can’t say much more. We ate at Porter’s again that night on our way home.
Then dreadful Monday came along which was the last full day of the trip. We had visits to cloth mills to visit that day which I was really excited about. The first place we visited was in Como. It was a large tie fabric mill and manufacturer. They make ties for the biggest luxury brands out there. It was a blast searching threw the patterns and archives. Though after visiting, I came to the realization that the company was too big for us, and we were too small for them. They were a rather large corporation that required really high minimums. And truth is, after we visited another mill, we realized that their patterns weren’t that great to begin with (especially compared to the other.
After this visit, we drove out to Biella. I wish we had an entire day in Biella. This is the heart of suit fabric mills. It’s extremely green, up in the mountains with the water from the Swiss Alps running through which supposidly is what makes the fabrics so soft. And unfortunately, we only had time to go to one mill. We visited REDA, a mill that’s been around since the 1800’s and is the most sustainable mill in the world. They don’t waist any wool whatsoever. Any wool that isn’t up to their standards they sell to surrounding mills. They own the entire milling process, even down to owning their own sheep farm in New Zealand. The two people there to give us a tour, Sole and Domenico, were the nicest people and were so stoked that we were visiting. The machinery was unbelievable. The coolest thing to see was watching a plaid pattern come to life. The way they orchestrated each spool of yard to be woven into the correct places was amazing. I wish we had more time to visit there, but we had to run back to Como to make our last work visit.
After Reda, we drove back to Como to visit another fabric mill for ties. They produce some of the most unique silks, wools, and blends out there. They also produce a shirt fabric that costs ten times as much as any shirt fabric I’ve used and it has to be stored in a damp room like cigars. The guy running the show, Giorgio, is the innovation behind it all. The patterns and color combinations were unlike any tie fabrics I’ve seen. I felt like a kid in a candy store looking at the patterns, some used by the most unique tie/accessory brands out there. Their minumums were small and a lot more friendly to small businesses, since they are one themselves. We had to jet because it was towards the end of the work day and Italians do not like to work past the normal work day (who does though, right?). You might be wondering why I don’t have ties, the purpose of visiting was to get started on an online accessory company separate from Magro, but products that I could sell through Magro as well. It’s coming along and I’m excited to share what’s in the works.
That same day I reached out via Facebook to an old friend of mine who I had known while living in Madrid, Carlos. He was from Milan and I was hoping he was still around there. He was just accross the border of Switzerland in a small mountain town near Lugano. We drove up there to eat dinner with his beautiful family. In order to drive on the highway/freeway in Switzerland you have to pay a heavy fee to put a sticker on your window so he advised to just take the surface streets. I’m glad we did because it was so much more scenic on that route. His town was unlike anything I’ve experienced before. When you see pictures or movies of Switzerland, it’s actually like that. They lived in a modest home on the mountainside. While there, he took us to his “quiet place” so to speak. We walkted through someone’s gate and up a steep hill with tall, thick grass. It was on a hillside overlooking the lake in Lugano. Again, it was like nothing else. Being from Arizona, I couldn’t believe how green it is there. We sat and just enjoyed the moment, then hiked back down and drove back to his home to eat (the food was amazing – but I’ll save you from my food blogging for another day).