I was a little lost in Florence’s Oltrarno quarter.
It might have by design, because I was only half-heartedly looking for my destination. As usual, I was hoping something more interesting would distract me first. It didn’t take long for something to capture my attention.
I looked to my right and saw an open doorway leading into a sunlit chamber stuffed to the rafters with sculptures. Roman busts, cherubs, ferocious warriors and voluptuous women clung to the shelves, walls and floor. Had I accidentally stepped into the storage room for one of the local museums?
After spotting price tags on some of the items, it became clear this sculpture studio was also a shop (Galleria Raffaello Romanelli, established 1860). Even as non-expert, I could tell the quality here was top-notch, museum quality-ish, so I was fully prepared to flip a tag, note the stratospheric prices and head back out the door before I accidentally broke something.
But instead, I experienced a rare episode of reverse sticker shock. These handmade sculptures (a mix of replicas and originals) were priced about the same as those mass-produced knock offs from your local home design store. Prices here started at about $15 euros for a small piece to 300 euro for a medium bust to a few thousand for a larger original (and upwards for custom pieces).
After browsing the sculptures, I was able to meet one of the sculptors, as well as owner of this family-run business which dates back five generations. He explained that in addition to the family’s own work, the studio was also a workshop for local sculptors and even offered classes to artists.
Deciding what sculpture to bring home as a souvenir was tricky. I was so tempted by the larger pieces (which can of course be shipped) but decided my current transient lifestyle doesn’t lend well to permanent fixtures. Smaller items for the walls seemed like a good bet (but the friend I was with snatched up the series of items I was eyeing).
But then towards the back of the studio I found the perfect piece– a first draft of an original sculpture, a six inch fox that would later become a much larger piece. I loved bringing home a piece of the creative process, and the low price tag (about 25 euros) made it a bargain. Back home, my fox stands guard on my windowsill.
Where: Studio Galleria Raffaello Romanelli Borgo San Frediano 70, 50124 Firenze, Italy
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