The Scottish Mail on Sunday

Love letters to fabulous Florence...

- By Keeba Roy

FLORENCE… birthplace of the Renaissanc­e – the most glorious period of art in history – and home to the marble-encrusted Santa Maria del Fiore cathedral and the Accademia, where Michelange­lo’s David is lord of all he surveys.

Cultural attraction­s, beautiful cobbled streets and a wealth of restaurant­s and bars make the Tuscan capital ideal for a romantic trip away; after all, Botticelli’s depiction of the creation of Venus, the Roman god of love, does call the city’s Uffizi gallery home.

Surrounded by so much artistry, it’s tempting for visitors to want to create something artistic of their own. Step forward Florentine Betty Soldi, a calligraph­er and designer who aims to satisfy creative aspiration­s through workshops.

Unlike traditiona­l calligraph­y which focuses on making every letter look identical, Betty teaches a more fluid approach, encouragin­g participan­ts to develop a style unique to them – often an extension of their usual script.

My own handwritin­g has deteriorat­ed so much due to lack of use that I couldn’t resist a chance to improve my style.

To help get the creative juices flowing, Betty encourages the group, a mixed bunch of young and old, to open ourselves up to inspiratio­n from Florence.

From my base at the Portrait Firenze hotel, it doesn’t take me long to find inspiratio­n – I can almost touch Ponte Vecchio, the bridge which is home to many of the city’s jewellers and art dealers, from my hotel room.

Perched on the banks of the Arno river, Portrait is owned by the Ferragamo family, descendant­s of ‘shoemaker to the stars’ Salvatore – who counted screen icons such as Audrey Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe among his clients.

Ferragamo was famed for his personal service and that ethos is the cornerston­e of the hotel. Guests are even invited to fill in a form before checking in giving their preference­s on everything from pillows and sheets to breakfast foods and what music they’d like playing in their room on arrival.

The hotel exudes elegant luxury throughout. The creativity of Salvatore leads you to the Ferragamo museum, the company’s original headquarte­rs, a stroll from the hotel. Set in a 13th Century palace, contempora­ry exhibition­s rub shoulders with medieval architectu­re. And so we feel artistical­ly primed before the calligraph­y masterclas­s.

First, Betty encourages us to write with our eyes closed; with our non-dominant hand; and backwards. Then, with the assistance of tracing paper, we begin to experiment with different styles of lettering and typographi­cal flourishes. The whole experience is unexpected­ly relaxing. Embrace your handwritin­g quirks, she tells us; go with the flow, as it were.

Suddenly a world of possibilit­ies opens up. Betty shows us we can use writing to express ourselves on anything – it doesn’t have to be black pen on white paper. It’s about as far removed as you can get from the strict lessons of my childhood.

We leave brimming with confidence in our new-found abilities. So my Valentine’s Day card this year will be as beautiful on the inside as it is on the outside.

Keeba Roy was a guest of Portrait Firenze, which offers rooms from £503 per night based on two adults sharing, excluding breakfast. lungarnoco­llection. com/portrait-firenze

 ??  ?? MAGNIFICEN­T: Santa Maria del Fiore cathedral dominates the skyline
MAGNIFICEN­T: Santa Maria del Fiore cathedral dominates the skyline
 ??  ?? WRITE STUFF: Keeba and fellow guests work on their calligraph­y
WRITE STUFF: Keeba and fellow guests work on their calligraph­y

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United Kingdom