MY NINE: Elizabeth Orchard

An artisan in Florence

Known in the art world for her reflective and abstract paintings, Elizabeth Orchard’s canvasses blend harmonious colours that work well on a large scale and in a contemporary setting. Her particular technique, always using a knife to work the paints, both in oil and acrylic, has won commissions all around the world to collectors attracted to her flowing style capturing the beauty of nature and the essence of the changing seasons, often inspired by her adopted home of Italy.

Of Anglo-Dutch descent, Elizabeth lives between Florence, in an old yet revamped coach house on the grounds of a grand villa on the leafy outskirts of the city’s southern border, and her home on the Isle of Man in the United Kingdom. With an early career in fashion, Elizabeth went on to create a successful business designing gesso-mouldings based on centuries-old European styles working for many of the world’s top international hotels and for private clients. Yet, today, it seems creative life has come full circle as a foray back into fashion is now on Elizabeth’s cards, bringing her artistic talent onto silk, creating individual, hand-painted scarves.

Elizabeth began to create one-off silk scarves after being inspired by a client who was married in a hand-painted sarong and then commissioned Elizabeth to interpreted its design onto a canvas as a wedding memento and she was immediately inspired to work on silk treating each scarf as an individual piece of art to create one-of-a-kind pieces for fashion savvy women. So what venues does this fashionable artisan frequent when in Florence? Find out, as Elizabeth shares her NINE.

1. Galleries I Love

As much as I love galleries I have very little time to enjoy them so I love popping into the Gallery Art Hotel by the Ponte Vecchio; it’s fabulously cool. With its ever-changing contemporary art displays, including on the hotel façade, I meet many of my clients in the library as it is discreet and quiet enough while being in the hub of Florence. Plus they make a mean martini come cocktail hour, which isn’t a bad thing. Fusion bar is such a chic space and their Herbal Martini must be tried when in the city!

2. For A Perfect Dinner

That’s tricky as Florence is filled with so many great eateries but I’d have to say La Cucina del Garga on via San Zanobi is a favourite. Just on the north side of the historic centre, chef Alessandro offers Florentine food with a twist, and its dining room is arty, buzzy and very colourful. They even leave you crayons on your table so you can become an artist on the paper tablecloths during your meal! It’s one way to keep entertained during a meal.

3. For A Sweet Treat

I adore Caffe Gilli in piazza della Repubblica with their cakes, sweets and chocolates all so perfectly wrapped; even the window displays are a visual experience. I’m not a big chocolate lover, I much prefer jellies, nougat and candied fruit, which Gilli also offers, so its a treat for any sweet tooth! In the warmer months, sitting in their lounge-style open terrace is a must for people watching especially come nightfall. Another favourite, a little out of the historic centre, is Giorgio’s in Scanndici, whose cakes and pastries, in my opinion, are the best in Florence. Suburban yet this patisserie is filled with chic, professional clientele who are friendly and the pastry chefs are incredible at making hand made sweet treats.

4. My Florence Style

I prefer tailored, clean cuts, and I’m my happiest in jackets whatever the season, so how could I not love Italian fashion?! I wear a lot of black offset with statement jewellery and, of course, my scarves wrapped simply as a head accessory, a belt, over leggings or around the neck – they suit any look, time or place. Day or night.

5. Favourite Shopping Stores & Streets

Luisa da Roma is simply a divine place, it never fails to give me a buzz; just walking through the door is sensory experience. It offers a variety of independent and established high-end brands and their racks of clothing are ever changing – it’s tantalising. I get more kick from this fashion experience than any chocolate bar! My work is heavily influenced through fabrics and Luisa da Roma is not short on inspiration, so go take a look when in Florence for a dreamy fashion experience you wont forget.

6. For Sunset Cocktails

Villa Cora, my local, aren’t I lucky? It’s a 19th century former private, and rather palatial, residence just outside the old city walls of Florence surrounded by greenery… you feel you’ve stepped into the Tuscan countryside in a matter of minutes of leaving the city walls. It has a fabulous pool for summer drinks and their cocktails never disappoint. When in Florence, Fusion bar at Gallery Hotel Art is a must. I’m a Martini with a twist girl however do try their Herbal Martini if feeling brave, a combination of gin, green Chartreuse and a sprig of thyme.

7. For Art & Culture {beyond the obvious galleries}

I am an opera buff so having the “new” opera house in Florence is wonderful and in May they have a large selection of performances as part of Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, which has been a festival in operation since 1933. In the warmer summer months, many of the historic buildings use their outside spaces for open-air concerts, including my favourites, Pitti Palace and Bargello, which makes this time of year even more exciting to be in the city for a culture vulture.

8. Favourite Green Space In Florence

I am a little biased but my garden in Bellosguardo is a small haven, with blue hyacinths and white tulips in the spring, English roses in the summer and the gazebo smothered in sweet smelling Jasmine until mid-summer; it’s my personal heaven. Although I do share it with visitors who come to my studio to see my work (open by appointment, details below), it’s all too tempting from the first warm day to serve tea to guests surrounded by the colours and smells it offers. Everyone loves it as it’s quite hidden plus my double swing is rather popular and serves as a calming influence to me after a busy day. It’s a good place for me to dream and make future plans.

9. Escape To The Countryside {best day trip from Florence}

Nerbona, an agriturismo near Colli di Val D’ Elsa, is an incredible estate not too far from Florence, less than an hour drive by car. They have wonderful meadows to walk through, beehives, and grand gardens… I have a complete “drop out” feeling the minute I arrive. Plus their rooms are lovely for a long weekend getaway when craving some country time away from the city. I also love the quaint medieval town of Monteriggioni, on the road from Florence to Siena. Its walls date back to the early 13th century and within this pretty hill-top town are artisan shops and a few trattorias overlooking to town’s only piazza. Perfect for a day of shopping and lunch in the countryside on a sunny Tuscan day.

You can arrange to visit Elizabeth at her studio with a private appointment when next in Florence. Discover more of her artistic talent at

Photo credit: Dorin Vasilescu