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Antique Chimneypieces and Inspiration In Italy
27 February 2015

I have just returned from a buying trip in Italy to add to our Antique Chimneypiece collection. First we took the children for their half term to Venice. A city like no other.

Venice: A collection of Islands connected by over one hundred canals and bridges

What makes Venice so utterly charming is not just the extraordinary mix of the Moorish, Gothic, Byzantine and Renaissance architectures and the ornate carvings reflecting the wealth and power of those centuries past; but that the only transport is by water or foot. Although that wasn’t so appealing to our five year old son who had to be constantly bribed by the lure of Italian ice cream as we walked just “one more minute around the corner”.

We managed to get him to the St Marks Basilica: the Church of Gold, built in the twelfth century in Byzantine style it illustrates the Italian pre occupation with rare marbles procured from around the globe. Porphyry from Egypt, Bianco Nero from France and ancient Verde antico from Italy.

The obsession with marble has been in the Italian psyche since time began. The palette and tonal combination strictly adhered to, blended to perfection. I strive to reflect this when buying antique chimneypieces and in our reproduction fireplaces when inlaying colour by using similar rare marbles from our stock.

I bid my family farewell as I moved onto Florence. No buying trip is complete without the obligatory pilgrimage to Brunelleschi ‘s Santa Maria del Fiore. It was Brunelleschi with his sculptural background, technical brilliance and time spent in Rome who came to complete the Cathedral in the early fifteenth century. The largest dome (45.5 metres diameter) built with inspiration from the Pantheon, making it the largest church at that time in Europe. To put it in context it is larger than St Paul’s but built nearly two hundred and fifty years earlier! It traverses the medieval and Renaissance worlds in a brave new vision of modernist classical thinking and I love it! For me it generates the same exhilarating excitement as the sky line of Manhattan.

First Sighting of the Santa Maria del Fiore

In between hunting for new treasures ( I’m particularly excited about a seventeenth century stone Italian fireplace) I also ate unforgettable food in the nineteenth century Trattoria Sostanza where the cuisine is as good as the interiors. A ‘breche di serravezza’ counter and Onyx border with a terrazzo floor is sublime.

I had the most unbelievable starter: Torino di Carciofi (Artichoke omelette to you and me )and then a steak cooked to perfection on charcoal. Finishing at the Parma Fair on Thursday I returned to England fully sated.