Patrizia Bambi and Claudio Orrea open the doors to their home for the first time

Tuscan Dreams

CLAUDIO ORREA, managing director of the fashion house Patrizia Pepe, relaxes by the pool at his family estate near Florence – and all alone. Because it happens so rarely, GALA paid him visit. Read more!

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A village for our friends

 An olive grove for two? A rare occurrence for Patrizia Bambi and Claudio Orrea. Their LITTLE ITALIAN PARADISE is a hangout to enjoy with lots of friends

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PHOTO: PHILIPP RATHMER

Love and business: twenty years ago Patrizia Bambi and Claudio Orrea brought the Patrizia Pepe fashion house into being. They then built this retreat in Tuscany to share with friends, along with laughter and delicious lunches.

Preferably around the large table on the pool terrace.

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An armchair by the Danish designer, Hans Wegner invites you to relax in front of the old stove. Two buffalo welcome visitors at the entrance – an artwork by Davide Rivalta. The two owners have a passion for art: there are often displays exhibited in their gallery. Lemons from their garden. As well as figs, oranges and walnuts, artichokes and courgettes

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The family in its entirety (from left to right): Claudio, his brother Stefano, Patrizia, Ronaldo Fiesoli architect, and Filippo, Claudio and Patrizia’s son, under the vine pergola.

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The next project for the couple: a vineyard of their own. The estate is nestled among the hills just outside Florence.

The history behind the house has its origins in two places and unites the spirit of tradition with dreams that drive people to do extraordinary things. The first place is the Tuscan valley which extends out from the foot of the house. This is where Patrizia Bambi, creative director of the Patrizia Pepe label, grew up: “As a child I would wander through the fields and loved to collect poppies”.

The second place, on the other hand, is thousands of kilometres from here, on the Caribbean island of Barbados.

It was there that Patrizia’s husband, Claudio Orrea, managing director of Patrizia Pepe, travelled on holiday many years ago. “I stayed in a complex with lots of apartments. Of an evening everyone met up for a barbecue around the pool. I loved the idea so much that I thought: one day I want to live just like this.” Patrizia comments: “Our dream was to build a small village where we could enjoy spending time with friends and family.”

For five years they searched for the ideal location to realise their dream. In the end they found it on top of a hill, just one hour west of Florence. “When we discovered this plot of land, we found ourselves facing a 13th century tower and a collection of ruins” explained Claudio. He then showed the property to an architect friend, Ronaldo Fiesoli. He had already designed the headquarters of the company in Florence and the interiors of the first ten Patrizia Pepe sales outlets. “When I told Ronaldo about our dream, he warned me: ‘We’re in Tuscany, not Hollywood!’ I replied: ‘Don’t worry, I love Tuscany and it’s you that will be building the house.”"

 

IT TOOK FIVE YEARS to build the complex. Fiesoli, the architect, used walls that were still standing and some feature elements and then directed the choice of new stone, beams and doors on the basis of the elements still present.

Moreover, he used Tuscan shades for the walls. The interior spaces are extremely airy, with a living room that extends over two floors. A photo album shows all the phases of construction. Patrizia Bambi: “Our son, Filippo, was a kid when we started the work. By the end he was almost an adult. Instead of the room we had planned for him, we built him his own independent apartment.” The barns were converted into rooms and the old tower is now home to a cellar, amongst other things.

The former chapel, on the other hand, became Patrizia’s studio.

“When everything was ready I realised that we had so much space, but I didn’t have a corner just for me.” In the best tradition of Virginia Woolf, she then created her very own refuge, where she can think, relax and work.

On the wall: a poppy reminiscent of her childhood.

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IN THE TWO ANCILLARY APARTMENTS live Claudio’s brother, Stefano, Sales & Marketing Director for the company, and Sebastiano Lombardo with his family. Lombardo is one of ten employees who has been present right from the very start of Patrizia Pepe and today works as General Manager, as well as being a close friend. It’s clear to see that living and working at Patrizia Pepe go hand in hand. The company is a family business in the truest form, as even employees are considered as part of the Patrizia Pepe family. Patrizia and Claudio are hoping that their son, Filippo, will also join the business. But naturally that needs to be a decision made by the twenty-four year old himself.

At lunch by the pool, they are joined by Stefano, Sebastiano and his wife Silvia.

Does living and working so closely not become too much after a while? Claudio smiles and shakes his head.

“Patrizia and I have one strict rule”, he declares. “We don’t talk about work in the evenings.” It’s worked for the last 20 years. Claudio explains about the first few years: “We started for fun.”

Patrizia continues: “in this area, the textile industry is a home industry. It seemed natural to do something that was related to fashion. I’ve always had a great passion for fashion, I simply designed things that I liked. My clothes are tailored for women like me, who work and want to feel comfortable in what they’re wearing.”

Lunch by the pool consists of vegetables from the veg patch and olive oil produced from the olive groves behind the house. Claudio and Patrizia are very environmentally aware. The pool is heated with solar panels, the thriving gardens are watered with water from a small lake. For Patrizia the olive grove is a special place: “I come here a lot, the trees give me energy.”

In reality she’s a city girl, as she freely admits herself. “But here I feel immediately at home. When I wake up in the morning, I look out at the olive trees, I hear the birds tweeting and I’m happy.”

Even as a visitor you feel immediately very attached to the spot.

There’s just one thing missing.

“I’d love to have my own vineyard”, explains Claudio. And it’s back to dreaming…

“The poppy on the wall reminds me of my childhood in this area.”

Patrizia Bambi’s studio is adorned with mural paintings by the artist, Alessandra Ragionieri. She likes to reflect and relax here.

“When we started the project our son was just a little boy. By the end he was almost an adult.”

The living room of the house extends over two floors (above). In front of the mirror there is an Andy Warhol portrait of Mao, the sofa is from De Padova, the “Lumen” lamp is a classic piece from Fontana Arte. The dining room has been converted from an old barn. The “mummy” coloured chairs were designed by Peter Traag

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The courtyard fountain collects rain water. Left, Filippo, Patrizia’s son on the steps outside her studio. Always there: the Labradors Magia and Pepe. Patrizia loves family photos. The black and white image is of her parents, originally from this region

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Patrizia Bambi at the fall/winter FW 11/12 collection launch

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The Patrizia Pepe label

When Patrizia Bambi and Claudio Orrea set up the company in 1993, they sought to fill a gap in the market: offering an ultra-modern collection that would meet the highest quality standards.

Patrizia’s style? Feminine, sexy and glamorous, while still urban and suitable for everyday wear.

Today Patrizia Pepe has a worldwide presence with 100 flagship stores and around 2000 multi-brand outlets, and the company with its headquarters in Florence continues to grow. In Germany, Patrizia Pepe has three stores of its own: in Berlin, Munich and Nuremberg.

The choice of “pepe” [meaning pepper/zesty] was because it was the best fit to match Patrizia’s ideal woman. An urban women, who is creative, intriguing, loves to travel and discover the world, and who always wants to be feminine without having to give up practicality.

“Off to Neverland” is the theme for the next fall/winter collection, which will also include footwear and accessories.

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