The Oltrarno district is one of my favourite neighbourhoods in Florence. Commonly known as the ‘Left Bank’, it’s a charming area still retaining much of the old Florence ‘quartiere’ essence of the past. Ask any Florentine or expat and they’ll probably say the same thing; this is a neighborhood where you can feel like a local.
Via Maggio is lined with antique stores with window fronts resembling the grandest rooms of old Florence palaces. Yet nestled between these is a space dedicated to modern design for the home, & Company.
Opened 2 years ago by Betty Soldi and Matteo Perduca, & Company is a shop and design studio in one, combining Matteo’s love for vintage furniture and Betty’s background in calligraphy and graphic design.
Betty explains she wanted to create a “place and voice” for designers to showcase their work. The result is a collaborative space to feature products by a variety of designers, not just this design duo.
The store is filled with home furnishings sourced around Italy and up-cycled by Matteo. These larger pieces sit alongside original crockery creations and stationery featuring designs by Betty’s hand skills. Then there are cut paper decorations and leather goods by Danish artists, Edition Poshette, and unique wall-hangings by artist Roberto Menchiari, who recreates real Florentine streets in miniature.
Betty is also currently working with historic Florentine glassware company Moleria Locchi on a forthcoming bespoke range to be featured in store in a kind of collaboration that is key to & Company’s philosophy.
Betty’s business heritage however is in fireworks; Pirotecnica Soldi has been producing handmade fireworks since 1869 and is responsible for creating Florence’s famed Easter display for Scoppio del Carro, outside the Duomo each year. Yet this wasn’t considered a future for a young girl, so the family relocated to Britain when she was just 6 years old. This is when her passion for calligraphy began.
During her first months in in London Betty recalls writing on blackboard in English for the first time and how “magical this felt, compared to writing in Italian”. This ignited a passion for handwriting and design that still remains thirty years on.
After a period in Paris and New York, Betty launched a design company in London creating packaging for luxury retail including Fortnum & Mason and Waitrose. Yet there was always a pull back towards Florence, for both life and love, and in 2010 she returned, this time permanently.
Beyond the shop and design studio, Betty and Matteo have just opened an 11-bedroom boutique hotel, SoprArno Suites, featuring themed rooms (typography room, paper room) also on via Maggio. So it’s fair to say this charming neighbourhood has become even better.
Part of this charm is seeing inside the studio and meeting the artist. At & Company you can do this plus come away with a gorgeous trinket for your home. Betty’s energy and passion is intoxicating and what makes the store such an intriguing space. Come discover for yourself, and see if you’re not mesmerised too.
Via Maggio 60r
Tel: (+39) 055 219 973