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Floto – the Older the Better

Floto – the Older the Better

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Joe Floto’s Parma Duffle has been a trusted travel companion for the past 5 years – making countless trips to Italy and Europe. As the bags designer and tester, Joe has put his Parma through the wringer – “I always check it, toss it and kick it – my old apartment in the West Village was a walk up – on several occasions I had too much to carry and kicked it down 3 flights of stairs – I just brush a little dirt off and it’s fine!”

We recently commissioned artist Selene De Condat to shoot Joe’s Parma Duffle in Paris.  Selene perfectly captures the patina and beauty of Joe’s loyal Parma Duffle Bag.

The Parma Collection is the very top of our leather line and is handcrafted from premium full grain Italian calfskin.  We do not use any chemicals to make our Parma leather – it’s leather tanning the natural way. To make a Parma bag we start by selecting the leather hides with the least amount of blemishes.  Next, we tumble the hides in drums with our special cognac vegetable dye. The result is a soft, natural leather that will get better as it ages – each bag takes on a unique look and darkens like a saddle over time.  All Parma Bags are finished with precision Swiss made stainless steel zippers and hardware.

#theolderthebetter

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Explore the Heart of Rome

Explore the Heart of Rome

Floto Leather Bags in Trastevere, RomaTrastevere means “across the Tiber River,” which is where this bohemian quarter sits, abutting the Gianicolo Hill on the south side of Vatican City. Like many European cities, Rome has its “Left Bank” area, and Trastevere is it: an ancient neighborhood once populated by the city’s Jewish community. It is now an eclectic mix of old-school Romans, artists, expats, and international students. Its inexpensive trattorie and pizzerie are renowned, and its night life is (in)famous. Trastevere’s narrow, cobblestoned vicoli, strung with laundry lines, look like they’ve been ripped from an opera set, and the elderly ladies hanging out of windows and chatting across ancient palazzi seem straight out of central casting. Sure, sometimes the streets are overrun with tourists and drunken college kids on semester abroad. Sometimes Piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere gets crowded with street performers and beggars trailed by packs of dogs. But look beyond the chaos, and you can find not only authentic Italian charm, but pockets of peace and tranquility among the urban hubbub.

Accommodations

For the classic Trastevere experience, we suggest renting an apartment in the neighborhood. There are no big chain hotels in this area – part of its charm – but you can find some cute, caratteristico lodgings below…

Relais Le Clarisse Trastevere (www.leclarissetrastevere.com) – great location and beautiful courtyard garden with lemon and olive trees.

Hotel Santa Maria, Trastevere, Roma
•  Hotel Santa Maria (www.hotelsantamariatrastevere.it) – We love the tranquil charm of this Renaissance-era former convent. Simple, clean ground floor rooms encircling an interior courtyard dotted with orange trees, where one can eat breakfast or enjoy an aperitivo before venturing outside for dinner.

Dining

Roman cuisine is about simple, hearty, flavorful food. It’s prepared with local, seasonal ingredients and follows long-held traditions. No cream in the carbonara. Guanciale in the amatriciana. Baby lamb with artichokes and fava beans in the spring; Figs and melon and prosciutto and seafood in the summer. Gnocchi on Thursdays only, for good luck. And many, many more rules that one picks up after experiencing la cucina Romana season after season. The dining rooms may not be Italy’s most elegant (though there are plenty of those places here in the capital, of course), the lighting might be bright and harsh, but dammit, the food is really good.

Feast at Alle Fratte di Trastevere, RomaAlle Fratte di Trastevere (Via delle Fratte di Trastevere 49/51): Owner Francesco passionately runs our favorite trattoria in town – we often indulge in the simple, delicious fare at this neighborhood favorite. They feature a great variety of Roman and southern Italian dishes, from octopus carpaccio to pasta all’amatriciana, pizza to steaks, and they do it all well. Great food, great service, great atmosphere, all at reasonable prices, keep us coming back time and again.

Ripa 12 (Via di San Francesco a Ripa 12): On a major artery leading out from Piazza Santa Maria in Trastevere to the church of San Francesco a Ripa (which contains a gorgeous Bernini statue not to be missed), sits this upscale seafood spot. It’s been a local favorite for years, and a few seasons back it got a facelift and is now lovelier than ever. A coveted sidewalk table under the umbrellas is ideal, particularly in warm weather, and the better to enjoy the delicious antipasto sampler, with super-fresh tartares and carpaccios and the like. The offerings change with the catch of the day, but a great variety of antipasti and a seafood-centric pasta like spaghetti con le vongole (clams) can be a very filling and fulfilling meal. Add a bubbly spumante for even more festive fun!

La Gensola (Piazza della Gensola 15): For a taste of the “exotic,” head to this beautiful tavern-like restaurant for a meal of the foods of Sicily. This largest of Italian islands was once conquered and ruled by Normans, Arabs, Romans, Greeks, and Spaniards, among others. The flavors of these ruling states influenced the local fare, creating a unique cuisine featuring lots of great seafood, spices, herbs and aromatics you won’t find in food on the “mainland.” Try tuna “meatballs” or gratineed scallops with squid ink, then move onto a spicy pasta with calamari, or sardines, bread crumbs, and wild fennel.  Perhaps try a fillet of turbot with capers, red onions, and tomatoes as a main course. But leave room for dessert: Sicilians are famous for their sweets, like cannoli and cassata cake.

Bars and Cafes

Bar “Bar” or Il Mojitaro di Vicolo del Cinque (Vicolo del Cinque 5): No one really calls this bar by its official name, because there is a sign that simply reads “BAR” above the entrance. Calling it Bar “Bar” is just what you do. And their steadfast stream of Brazilian baristas explains the great caipirinhas and caipiroskas in this place (and great coffee as well). Friendly owners have even given in to our expat requests for ginger beer, so this is one of the only places where you can find a decent Dark and Stormy in Rome.

Freni e Frizioni (Via del Politeama 4/6): Housed in what was once an auto repair shop (its name means “brakes and clutches”), this repurposed bar from the Torinese team behind successful bars in the north and other Roman hotspots like Société Lutèce, is now a Trastevere staple. They’re known for their ample aperitivo setup, where you can nibble from the buffet table for free with the purchase of a beer, wine, or cocktail. Try the ginger mojito. Hipsters overflow into the piazza by the Ponte Sisto.

Akbar (Piazza in Piscinula 51): Also known as “il nuovo Pucci,” as the owners moved their old bar, Pucci, from a piazza down the street to this address. This location is much better, bigger, cooler. But the crowd makeup is relatively the same: artsy types, bohemian expats, poseurs and party girls. While here one night in January, we were surrounded by paparazzi hiding in bushes and going to extremes to get their photos: turns out Sorrentino, the director of La Grande Bellezza, chose this bar to celebrate his Oscar nomination (yes, he eventually won for Best Foreign Language Film). Like many hot spots in the Eternal City, much of the fun happens outside in the piazza. The bartenders are slow, but they’re cute and theatrical. Molto Romano.

Ma Che Siete Venuti a Fa’ (Via Benedetta 25): It’s miniscule and could be overlooked completely if it weren’t for the fairly consistent stream of noisy carousers overflowing from its entrance. But this bar is a serious stop on the craft beer circuit, along with Bir e Fud caddy-cornered across the vicolo. Be prepared to have your preconceptions about quality Italian beers (as in, there are none) shattered. It’s also a rowdy spot for watching calcio (soccer) matches, so forewarned is forearmed.

About the Writer

Dana Klitzberg is the Executive Chef and principal of Blu Aubergine, through which she offers private chef, catering, and consulting services, as well as cooking classes, in both the U.S. and overseas. Ms. Klitzberg founded the company in Rome, Italy, where she spent 8 years working her way up the line in restaurant kitchens, and honing her craft through travel around the Italian peninsula and beyond.

Dana has served as chief restaurant reviewer for publications like Time Out and Fodor’s Rome and Italy guides for the past decade. She has consulted for various restaurants in New York and Italy, including The Hotel on Rivington and Il Convivio in Rome.

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Florence and its Suburbs, and Tuscan Wine Territory

Florence and its Suburbs, and Tuscan Wine Territory


Florence, or Firenze, in Italian, is hardly undiscovered territory . The Tuscan capital is the crown jewel of Renaissance cities: human in scope and scale, it boasts well-preserved architecture and invaluable art at every turn. Yet it’s also a modern city, its residents timelessly chic. Florence is small enough to be quite walkable, with a historic center packed with museums and churches full of priceless masterpieces, gorgeously-curated shops, a fabulous people parade of fiorentina fashionistas, and countless restaurants serving everything from rustic peasant fare to sophisticated international cuisine.
Floto Leather Bags in Tuscany - 2013
Just outside of the city itself, and on the hilltops overlooking the Arno River valley, centuries-old villas and lovely landscape await those brave enough to venture outside the confines of Florence proper. It’s amazing how quickly the scenery morphs from cobblestoned city streets to olive groves and grapevines. But then, just a handful of kilometers from this urban center, you look outside the window of your Fiat Cinquecento and realize: you’re in Tuscany. Bella toscana . Chianti, to be exact. It’s the region after which the famed wine is named, site of country homes of countless famous Florentines and international celebrities, and capital of destination weddings, honeymoons, and anniversary trips. Again, undiscovered territory this is not (which doesn’t mean that there isn’t something new to discover each time one visits). But it’s renowned for good reason. Tuscan wine country and the city of Florence, as travel destinations, are as close as one can get to perfection.

Below are our recommendations for two perfect days in Tuscany. Of course, how do you improve perfection? Stay for a week…

Florence and its Suburbs

Accommodations


For the classic in-city experience, we always love…

JK Place Florence (Piazza SM Novella 7) – a favorite of the fashion crowd.

Gallery Hotel Art (Vicolo dell’Oro 5), Hotel Lungarno (Borgo San Jacopo 14), and Lungarno Suites (Lungarno Acciaiuoli 4) – all properties owned by the Ferragamo family, and are as tasteful and elegant as the name would suggest.

Hotel Savoy (Piazza della Repubblica 7) – a Rocco Forte gorgeous revamp of a Florentine classic, just around the corner from the Duomo.
Floto Parma leather duffle bag in Italy
For a lovely respite in the suburbs only 5 miles from the center, we love the muted opulence of the Villa Villoresi , in Sesto Fiorentino (www.villavilloresi.it). The villa was a 12 th century fortress that was remodeled during the Renaissance into a country villa. Today its loggia – the longest in Tuscany – overlooks the pool and beautiful garden full of orange and lemon trees. The villa itself is full of beautiful frescoed hallways, antique sitting rooms, apartments that open onto the loggia, and a medieval interior courtyard.

Dining
Florentine and Tuscan cuisine is known for its simplicity, its clarity of flavor, and its top-quality ingredients, including the famed Chianina beef and various types of wild game. Florence is renowned for its fabulous dining scene; we’ve given just a few favorites below, but the visitor (and resident) is really spoiled for choices here.

Trattoria Cammillo’s Pappa al PomodoroTrattoria Cammillo (Borgo San Jacopo 57/r): Classic Tuscan cuisine in 2 elegant rooms. Items to try: Tuscan chicken liver crostini, fritto misto (mixed fry), pappardelle with fresh porcini mushrooms, and roasted rabbit.

13 Gobbi (Via del Porcellana 9r): Warm and wonderful casual trattoria with a welcoming staff serving classic dishes like pappa al pomodoro (Tuscan tomato and bread soup), mixed salumi and cheeses, and the mother of all steaks, the bistecca alla Fiorentina . It’s a 3-inch-thick monster T-bone salted and seared on the outside, rare on the inside. Drizzle with peppery green Tuscan olive oil and squirt with lemon as the locals do.

Enoteca Pinchiorri (Via Ghibellina 87): Considered by many (including Michelin) to be the best restaurant in Florence, this romantic spot not far from Santa Croce boasts incredible tasting menus and wine pairings that exhibit the highest echelon of Italian cooking. Very expensive, but a must for special occasions and true food fanatics.

Chianti Countryside
Floto Piazza Messenger in Chianit
Chianti is peppered with gorgeous villas, seemingly at every turn in the windy road. Many of these villas have been converted into lodging, and many of the famous vineyards of Chianti have restaurants and sometimes hotels on their grounds.

To navigate the Chianti wine road, the fun and authentic way to travel is by renting a car from Chianti Classic Cars (www.chianticlassiccar.com) in Sesto Fiorentino. Driving through the Tuscan countryside takes on a whole new feel when you’re in a vintage Italian car!
Chianti Wine Graps
This is the heart of Tuscan wine country, so it’s worth seeking out vineyards that conduct tastings and tours. A good place to start is with Badia a Coltibuono (www.coltibuono.com), a well-established name in Tuscany, where they conduct tastings and tours and cooking classes – and even have a B&B.

Map of the Chianti wine road – better known as Chianti Classico

Accommodations

In the town of Gaiole in Chianti sits the lovely Castello di Meleto (Gaiole in Chianti, www.castellomeleto.it). Founded in 1256, this converted castle and fortress was used by the Florentines in their war against the Sienese in the 14 th century. It sits atop a hill dotted with pines and cypress trees overlooking the Chianti Valley, and the 1000 hectares of vineyard grapes that the Castello owns. The grounds are gorgeous, with an outdoor pool, various gardens, a wine center and store offering guided tastings, an 18 th century theater, and a restaurant.

Another castle nearby (and also in Gaiole in Chianti) is Castello di Spaltenna, (www.spaltenna.it) a complex including a castle and church that date back to 1030. There’s a spa, outdoor and indoor pools, tennis courts, gym, and Turkish bath to make your stay relaxing. There are also 2 restaurants on the grounds of the castello.

Dining

You’re in prime wine country in Chianti, so it makes sense to drink the fabulous local wines and eat the specialties that are made to accompany these gorgeous Sangiovese-based vinos. Meats (fresh and cured), cheeses, and game all figure heavily on local menus, and vegetables are seasonal and fresh.

Ristorante La Cantinetta di Passignano octopus saladRistorante La Cantinetta di Passignano (Via di Greve 1/A, Badia a Passignano, Tavarnelle Val di Pesa). A gorgeous modern restaurant on a beautiful hillside, this is the perfect place to enjoy an aperitivo outside during warmer months, or a cozy meal in the sun-filled dining rooms in cooler months. Try the delicious pastas (even the seafood is great here), the octopus salad, the Chianina beef tartare with a super-fresh local egg yolk and shaved truffles, or a tagliata (sliced steak) smothered in porcini mushrooms. Fabulous desserts, and a very reasonable wine list.

Ristoro di Lamole (Lamole, Greve in Chianti). This casual spot with beautiful views offer up local specialties, like white truffle pasta, roasted pork, and of course the classic bistecca alla fiorentina .

Il Pievano (Localita’ Spaltenna 13, Gaiole in Chianti). The dining room is inside a 15 th century monastery in the Castello di Spaltenna resort. The dishes served are as gorgeous as the space: Tuscan vegetable ribollita soup, Pici pasta with lampredotto (stewed tripe) and fava beans, local Cinta Senese roasted pork ribs, and a medieval dish of pigeon with an apricot and almond chutney. Worth the splurge on a great wine to accompany the meal.

About the Writer

Dana Klitzberg is the Executive Chef and principal of Blu Aubergine, through which she offers private chef, catering, and consulting services, as well as cooking classes, in both the U.S. and overseas. Ms. Klitzberg founded the company in Rome, Italy, where she spent 8 years working her way up the line in restaurant kitchens, and honing her craft through travel around the Italian peninsula and beyond.

Dana has served as chief restaurant reviewer for publications like Time Out and Fodor’s Rome and Italy guides for the past decade. She has consulted for various restaurants in New York and Italy, including The Hotel on Rivington and Il Convivio in Rome.
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Behind the scenes - making Parma Leather

Behind the scenes - making Parma Leather

Floto Parma Edition Leather is a premium Italian calfskin that has been tumbled with our special chestnut extracts and natural tanning oils. The result is a soft, natural leather that will get better as it ages - each bag takes on a unique look and darkens like a saddle over time. No chemicals are used in the tanning process - only natural vegetable dye - it's leather tanning the natural way. 

Recently, we visited the tannery that makes our Parma Leather in Santa Croce, Italy. Take a quick tour with us below to see how our Parma leather is made:

leather tanning drums

 

 


Giovanni loads a drum with raw Parma hides, chestnut powder, and our special cognac vegetable die.

 

 

 

 

 

leather tanning drum

 

 

 

 

The Parma hides timber in the chestnut chestnut extracts for 48 hours

 

 

 

 

Floto Parma Leather Hides

 

 

 

The Parma hides are then taken to the drying room where they will dry for two weeks.  Each leather hide on average will produce one Parma Bag. 

 

 

 

 


Pelle VegetaleKnow where your leather comes from
- Floto only uses natural vegetable dyes and tanneries that are part of Italy's Pelle Conciata al Vegetale. Find out more about the ancient passion of vegetable tanning at www.pelllevegetale.it
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