Stanley Moss, who calls Vicenza home, strolls around a town that is blissfully left alone by tourists, thriving on its authenticity and fashionable touches
principal photography by Paula Sweet
additional images courtesy Adolfo Courrier
Cento Rasoi photographed by the author
Stanley Moss is travel editor of Lucire.
Vicenza rarely figures in the Italian tourist itinerary, a very good thing indeed for those of us who reside here. Except on the infrequent festival days, one doesn’t ever encounter the infernal crowds of Venezia, Firenza or Roma. Our monuments remain blissfully empty, and the only travellers appear to be architecture hounds trolling the historic palaces of Palladio, and they stay for a day. Our biggest hotel in the mediæval city has 38 rooms, so nobody ever sleeps over. Those stationed at the nearby US military installation either live on base or rent places outside the old city walls, definitely a minority easily distinguished when they venture into town—and thus avoided—by their intoxicated howling and blatantly foreign-accented inglese.
Here we walk to the grocery, the produce store, the bakery, and we drop into little coffee bars or—season permitting—station ourselves at cozy sidewalk tables where we watch our neighbours on promenade. There’s nothing to do here. Everyone dresses up to go to the twice-weekly outdoor markets. This town is so small that the McDonald’s closed two years ago—it used to be a seedy fixture on the main street called the Corso Palladio, much improved since global fast-food monster beat its exit. Within these Renaissance walls small hereditary businesses survive, though the hunting shop which existed for half a century on Ca’Fogazzaro recently shut its doors. One of our benchmarks when we return from our overseas travel is to inventory who has closed since we last were here.
One such store which prevails on its own momentum is the 50-year-old Centro Rasoi Elettrici Coltelleria, located at via Pigafetta 7/A, tucked away next to the finest Gothic house in Vicenza. This is the third location the business has occupied since Stefano Moro’s uncle started the store after World War II. His Dad operated the business from the 1950s. These days Stefano can be found minding the classic blond wood cabinets, surrounded by all manner of cutlery and electrical shavers and clippers. In the back room he’ll sharpen your scissors, but not while you wait. As in all things Old World, you need patience to get hand craftsmanship.
Recently he innovated carrying a traditional line of gentlemen’s shaving products, surprised by the interest in men’s cosmetics: the growing global category was a phenomenon of which he was unaware. Shops like this don’t exist any longer in a world of disposable items, at least in the hyper-accelerated west, where such objects can be found in big box stores or sold by Amazon. You need to go to the small rural cities for the wistful experience of specialization. Vicenza has mysterious store hours, a strange coalescence of tradition and collusion which can’t be easily explained without a complex list of arcane caveats. The store’s a time capsule which luckily survives. There’s no website, no online sales, no advertising, yet a well established base of local clientèle keeps the tradition going. Well worth a visit if you come to town. No need to rush.
The other reason people come to Vicenza is for the Fiera d’Oro, the yearly gold fair, and the other end of the local commercial spectrum which reaches across the globe. This year we wandered the vast space, and we marvelled at the sheer magnitude of the event. Of course the world’s largest jewellery fair occurs in Hong Kong, a monolithic experience of overwhelming proportions. But Vicenza’s fair is a surprising bustling enterprise with all the adjacent big-brand hotels filled to capacity and shuttle buses running to and from the train station until all hours.
Lucire had the opportunity to spend some time at the Fiera in the company of jewellery designer Adolfo Courrier. A handsome, charismatic presence, his accessible personality makes the conversation flow, and he quickly communicates intense passion for his craft. Years ago Mr Courrier pioneered the stacking ring, and today is recognized as a master of technique and material, which he applies to gold bands with an artful precision in a galaxy of evocative colour. His best-selling Pop collection draws its inspiration from the signature palettes of artists like Warhol and Lichtenstein. Rings rendered in gold, precious and semi-precious stones, hand-formed and shaped in his own studio, intricate textures, chromatic pavés, enamels and combined precious metals make an instant impression. Huge globular star sapphire half-domes sit perfectly balanced on modern gold bands. Adolfo Courrier is a designer adept at interweaving beauty and function, successfully transiting the subtle statement to the theatrical flourish with an astonishing technical mastery.
Four years ago, Palladio’s Basilica reopened in the city centre on Vicenza’s Piazza Signori, and today hosts cultural events like blockbuster art exhibitions and special evenings. There’s even a sit-down outdoor bar up on the terrace, with panoramic views of the plaza below and the surrounding Berici Hills. During a recent event about sustainable architecture (organized by Claudio Pozza), Vichy Gritti from Laura Corner, a boutique local jewellery and accessories’ maker introduced us to two new items from the Soft Touch collection just released. We were espcially taken with a beaded clutch bag, supple in texture, easy to travel with, and a shiny lightweight knit and bead neckpiece, both feel-good, fun and must-have pieces. These fit in the category of practical luxury, and they come with a guarantee! See www.lauracorner.it. •
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