The Head Office of Busatti, the Italian artisan fabric house, is adorned with magnificent art, antique furniture and photographs featuring world leaders and royalty with whom the eight generations of the Busatti-Sassolini family have, throughout history, been associated. It’s none of these veritable treasures however that Giovanni Sassolini - former CEO and 7th generation head of Busatti - most proudly discusses. Instead, it’s a photo of a small boy, photographed in a moment of pure joy, running along what appears to be a dirt track. Behind the boy in the photo however rises the towering ruins of Ancient Rome’s Palatine Hill. “I love this” Giovanni says “...my son, as a young boy running at Circo Massimo...running through time.”
The Town of Anghiari, Tuscany
It’s another glorious morning in Tuscany as we’re making our way to the “small medieval jewel” that is the town of Anghiari. Through our friends Kate and Tim of Busatti, Australia, we’ve arranged to meet Stefano and his father Giovanni, custodians of the house of Busatti. We could not have imagined the experience that awaited us… Just arriving in Anghiari is spectacular!
Driving through the green, fertile Tiber Valley and making our way up the hill upon which the town is situated, we immediately feel immersed in history. There’s a worldview that’s so immediately obvious! A rich, food-producing valley below, and the town situated high on the hill, protected by massive stone walls built in the 13th century. Everything takes its’ cue from these primary needs for food, protection, safety, security - and the perennial mantra: “Higher is safer!”
The Custodians of Busatti Today
We meet Stefano and Giovanni at the “Palazzo Morgalanti” in what has been the Busatti headquarters for centuries. While the building dates from the 16th century, Busatti itself was officially founded in 1797 and began trading from here in 1842; it has done so continuously ever since.
Upon entering the ‘Palazzo Morgalanti’ we can hear the rhythmic sounds of the shuttle-looms emanating from the historical, 16th century work-rooms in the basement of the building. But to begin our experience, we are introduced to the Busatti brand courtesy of Giovanni, as we enjoy a tour of the ‘head office’. It is immediately apparent to us that in meeting Giovanni, we are meeting Busatti.
Busatti: An Incredible History
In conversation with Giovanni, we learn of the rich history of the Busatti-Sassolini family and how intertwined that is with the history of Anghiari, of Tuscany - and of Italy itself. From the balcony, the ‘bella vista’ of the Tiber Valley below comes alive as he describes the strategic importance of the “Roman Road” and the efficient movement of armies along it to defend invading forces from the north. It is the same valley that in 1440 was the focal point of the battle between the forces of Milan and Florence. The ensuing battle was won by the Florentines and secured for them control of central Italy. It also inspired the famous Battle of Anghiari painting (although now lost) by Leonardo da Vinci.
Giovanni recounts the fascinating origins of the family’s textile processing which began with the invading Napoleonic army in the late 1790’s. From here the Busatti story weaves together the key family members who found, develop, grow, adapt, persevere and prosper throughout the centuries. Through the rise and fall of political and economic cycles, through the time of Garibaldi, the First and Second World Wars and the challenges of modern textile manufacturing today, the House of Busatti continues to endure.
Busatti: An Enduring Philosophy
Throughout this remarkable story, it is much more than just a story of survival and family ownership. Upon first gaining an insight into Busatti, one is immediately moved by the passion of Giovanni. More than that however, one begins to appreciate how Busatti lives and breathes, how Busatti literally weaves together threads of history, family, art. The Busatti products are the result of an unwavering commitment to - and celebration of - the land and its’ people.
Busatti is what provenance feels like. Such integrity and authenticity can not be imitated. Only with a commitment to these values throughout the centuries can something like Busatti be created. Quality textiles and timeless design mean that the Busatti products are to be cherished and passed down through generations. As Giovanni says, “Only timeless, beloved things become tradition.”
Busatti: Both beloved and timeless
Busatti combines style with an “Italian sensibility” to create pieces drawn from the Busatti archives, created by leading contemporary designers, or inspired by the spirit of occasion and local Tuscan produce. For instance, the local Tuscans’ love of their land and their environment can be seen in many of the motifs that adorn the Busatti fabrics. These patterns are inspired by Tuscan flowers and plants like olives, oak and ivy - or images of fruit and local produce like pomegranates, grapevines and wine - or ripening grain and glorious colours inspired by the famous light of Tuscany. Busatti evokes the sensations as it accentuates the experience of the simple pleasures of home, family, food and of coming together and sharing. Busatti is imbued with a spirit that celebrates the very enjoyment of life. In such a way, the Busatti aesthetic is founded upon “the fellowship between the lands, the people, and our values.”
The fabric of Busatti:
In the finished fabric from Busatti then, one sees and feels the result of this “fellowship” woven into each piece. Whether made from wool, cotton, linen or hemp - each piece is made with extraordinary care through the processes of dying, spinning and weaving. A love for the local, natural environment includes a love for the natural fibres that come from the land. In turn, this respect is translated into the manufacturing process as gentle, natural dyes are used to produce 100% organic fabrics.
Raw threads are treated with olive oil before being spun and custom-dyed before weaving. Shuttle looms slowly insert weft-threads that give each piece the unique Busatti softness, texture and character. Both Giovanni and Stefano speak of the artisans who hand-finish each piece as “family” - great artists who “work with Busatti.” Again, the Busatti values of humility and gratitude for the land and the skill of the people are literally woven into each piece.
Busatti: The unique character of each piece
What makes Busatti all the more endearing (in addition to the use of natural fibres, organic dyes and environmentally sustainable, hand-crafted production) is the ever so subtle variability in the finished product. Indeed, it is the Busatti values that keep the brand so close to nature. The historical production methods preserve that natural integrity in the product. As anyone connected to nature knows - seasons are always changing! But rather than lament the challenge that this poses for textile production efficiencies at Busatti, this very seasonality and natural variability is celebrated.
Often just a tiny detail such as an ever so subtle variation in a natural dye, or perhaps as a result of a seasonal change that affected the natural fibre in its’ growing stages; these “imperfections” are only visible to the discerning eye. Like what a lover of antique furniture might describe as “patina” - these imperfections go beyond just the softness, colour and feel of the fabric. They add that special something that makes each piece unique; they give each piece character. In the words of Giovanni: “...the imperfections are the character.”
Anghiari and House of Busatti - an extraordinary experience:
Speaking with Stefano about the global operations and the opportunities for the future of Busatti, watching the artisans at work, listening to the rhythmic looms, seeing the decorative designs, feeling the delicate patterns and the natural textures of the different fabrics, we are immersed in the experience of Busatti. Wandering the streets of old, medieval Anghiari and listening to the wisdom, experience and passion of Giovanni, we hear endlessly fascinating stories from ancient times, from down through the centuries, through the Renaissance, to now. But threading all these together - there is really only one story - the Busatti story.
Through eight generations, it is a remarkable, incredibly rich family history. It is the story of an unwavering commitment to the vision, values and traditions that have remained at the heart of Busatti. It is a story of a love for Tuscany, for the land and its’ people. It is the story of artisans crafting products with local, natural fibres; of producing them with natural, environmentally sustainable methods and finishing each piece in vibrant colours, delicate patterns and motifs inspired by Tuscany and the spirit of celebrating life’s essential luxuries. In short, Busatti is a brand of unparalleled provenance - an enduring story running through time.
Charles Roche, The Gift Collective
Charles and Amanda travelled of their own accord as The Gift Collective.
“We’re sincerely grateful to Kate for arranging such an extraordinary experience for us in Tuscany. To Stefano and Giovanni, we can’t thank you enough for sharing with us not just your passion and vision and history - but the gift of your humour, hospitality and friendship. We’re fortunate to have experienced your story. We look forward to one day sharing ours with you here in Australia.” Charles and Amanda.
For further information and a list of Busatti stores worldwide, please visit www.busatti.com
For all enquiries about Busatti in Australia, please contact Kate Nixon at Busatti Boutiques, Australia Head Office.
Please visit Kate Nixon's interior design studio at her Busatti Boutique in Double Bay, Sydney. Kate offers clients a complete interior design service, including onsite consultations and a comprehensive made-to-measure service from Busatti (as exclusive stockist).