Property

Inside the Ferragamo Family's Rarely Seen Palazzo in Florence

Outsiders rarely get a look inside the 13th century Palazzo Spini Feroni, owned by the Ferragamo family-until now.
IMAGE CYRILL MATTER
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Florence in the spring is already a cacophonous babel of tourists, guides, and souvenir hawkers clogging narrow streets, crowding ancient piazzas. But there’s a spot overlooking the Arno that’s a sanctuary from the frenzy, at least for the select few who are granted access. It is the Palazzo Spini Feroni, a 13th-century fortress that has been in the possession and care of the Ferragamos for the past 80 years.


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Rarely glimpsed by outsiders and shown here exclusively by T&C, it’s a prized family heirloom that may be the key to unlocking the secrets of a kingdom that began, rather inauspiciously, within this city’s medieval walls.

For Wanda Ferragamo, the family matriarch, who died in October, this hidden jewel was the soul of the company and a reminder of its roots.


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Salvatore Ferragamo created many prototypes in his studio next to a secluded chapel.

For Paul Andrew, who recently marked a full year as sole creative director of Salvatore Ferragamo, it is the brand’s Rosebud, its origin story. “You really feel like Salvatore in those rooms,” he says


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Paul Andrew, creative director of Salvatore Ferragamo

The footwear pioneer took ownership of the property in 1938; for him it was the ultimate mark of his success in America, where he had become “shoemaker to the stars.” His imprint is everywhere in the five-story monolith—from the basement, where an archive holds 15,000 pairs of shoes and prototypes, to the museum on the ground floor, which steeps visitors in brand lore. (There’s an exhibit closing in March that puts the spotlight on the founder’s Hollywood period.)


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The palazzo’s treasures include 17th-century Bernadino Poccetti frescoes.

His daughter Giovanna Gentile, who was appointed by her mother to design the label’s first ready-to-wear line in 1960, steers the building’s restoration, interior design, and upkeep. (The Ferragamos have also financed several other major restorations in the city, including the Ponte Santa Trinita and the Uffizi Gallery.) “Giovanna Gentile is a believer in the preservation of tradition, but she’s constantly encouraging me to push forward, to innovate, like her father,” Andrew says. “The whole company was built on that idea.”

“I joke that every shoe that came out of there was blessed by God."—Paul Andrew

Before coming to Ferragamo, the British designer had toured some of the areas open to the public on production trips to Florence he made for his namesake footwear label, but it wasn’t until he joined the company that he was welcomed into the inner sanctums where La Signora, as Wanda was called, maintained an office and where the company’s board of directors still convenes, in a stately chamber that recalls the Knights of the Round Table. 

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The palazzo Spini Feroni, including the room of watchfulness seen here, is off limits to the general public.

Last summer, in the throes of designing his first ready-to-wear collection, Andrew unearthed a modern-looking metallic leather heel in the bowels of the palazzo that he was surprised to learn was actually from the 1930s.

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Wanda Ferragamo, who died in October, with her husband, the late Salvatore.

“He was so ahead of his time it’s mind-boggling,” Andrew says of Salvatore. “Discovering that shoe dictated a lot about what I did for the collection.”

Later Andrew dedicated his Studio Bag to Ferragamo’s prototyping studio, which the founder set up adjacent to one of the palazzo’s most remarkable rooms: an immaculately preserved chapel, still in use and graced with frescoes from the 17th century.

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There, deep in the recesses of a priceless landmark, a designer—or a grande dame—can work in peace and summon the forces of the past. “I joke that every shoe that came out of there was blessed by God,” Andrew says.

This story appears in the March 2019 issue of Town & Country.

*This story originally appeared on Townandcountrymag.com

*Minor edits have been made by the Townandcountry.ph editors

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Erik Maza
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