December 6, 2010

Angela Caputi Chain Link Bracelets Connect the World Link By Link

One of the aspects of my career which I like the most is that it affords me the possibility to interact with people worldwide. We get requests for our Italian jewelry, Italian handbags, and Italian accessories not only from the US, but also from several countries in Europe, Australia, Canada, and other parts of the world.
Recently, a woman from British Columbia found our website and was looking for a specific Angela Caputi bracelet. She had seen it, worn by Viviana Volpicella, in a stunning photo taken in Milan, seen here. And by the way, if you don’t already follow The Sartorialist Blog, do yourself a favor and start looking at it. The daily photos of people give us a glimpse at individual styles worldwide. Who knows, you may even start incorporating new flair into your own style, and get some fashion tips.
The following day, we received a message from a woman in Virginia, once again sending us a link to that same photo. And today, Minnesota and Australia! A picture says a thousand words!
Fortunately we carry this Angela Caputi bracelet, and offer it in several colors.
There are some classic designs by Signora Angela Caputi that endure year after year, that are simple and well-priced. They also are easy to wear, and go with just about anything. Three easy pieces that come to mind are her Circle Bangle, Click Bracelet and Chain Link Bracelet.
Serena Italian Imports carries all of these. They make great holiday gifts and are loved by everyone.

Make sure to rub this nose to ensure a quick return to Florence!

November 23, 2010

Simply and Elegantly Dressed, with Annalisa Miniutti Over My Shoulder

Many of you know that on my last trip to Italy I spent a day in Rovigo with Italian handbag designer Annalisa Miniutti and her husband Massimo. While there, we decided that it would be great to import a new shipment of leather handbags to the U.S.

The group of bags that we’ve received is varied- tote bags for travel, leather shoulder bags, leather clutch handbags- some casual, others a bit more dressy. And some have chains as handles, reminiscent of the Chanel bags. Because we are direct importers, we are able to showcase designer handbags for less.

We like to keep our color palette simple- black, navy, neutral, off-white. For me, the more simply colored I am dressed and accessorized, the clearer I can think, and the better I can go about my day! That doesn’t mean boring. But I do focus on clean lines, with a bit of an edge, and nothing frilly.

I also feel that quality is key. Your Italian handbag doesn’t have to shout out identifiable logos. In fact nothing about your outfit has to shout out anything. And you don’t have to spend a crazy amount of money. For me, I prefer a quieter sophistication. It’s all in the cut, the fit, and the way you put it all together.

November 16, 2010

Ahhhh- Italian Leather…Those Italian Boots…The Italian Handbags…

The 10 days that I recently spent in Florence were fulfilling, breathtaking and overwhelming. Maybe you’re familiar with the Stendhal Syndrome! And if not, you can read about it here:

Some of my own swooning was over the abundance of styles of Italian handbags and Italian boots. It is just endless! Ankle boots, over the knee boots, thigh high boots, regular boots. Soft leather, grey suede, black, grey- lots of grey. Flats, high heels, low heels. Many of the higher heels are a bit chunky, and are reminiscent of the 1970’s styles.

Those of you who have been to Italy have surely noticed how merchandise is so beautifully displayed and arranged in store windows. This makes all the bags and boots even more attractive and desirable. I desired them all! In addition, usually weekly, the display windows are changed- which gives everyone who passes by a chance to see even more merchandise.

Italian handbag designers for this season are highlighting some lovely shaped shoulder bags, handbags and totes. All of the neutrals are able to be paired together, and some of the combinations of beiges and greys are refreshing and unexpected.

Here’s a look at my own personal boots- and some Gianni Chiarini and Annalisa Miniutti handbags.

November 9, 2010

The Pleasure of Giving to Dress for Success

This past weekend, Serena Italian Imports was welcomed into the home of a generous Greater Boston family, to have a fundraiser for Dress for Success Boston.We entertained approximately 50 women, and turned them into Italian fashionistas for the afternoon. A wide variety of merchandise was available for sale, including italian handbags, Angela Caputi jewelry, Annalisa Miniutti handbags and scarves, Gianni Chiarini handbags, Sambonet stainlesss steel bowls, and more.

Thankfully, we had lots of volunteers helping us. The hours were a whirlwind of activity, with women trying on jewelry and belts, planning gift-giving, dispensing fashion advice and making new acquaintances. One of the hot items of the day was an Angela Caputi chain link bracelet, as seen on the Sartorialist blog, worn by the beautiful Viviana Volpicella. The most popular colors of the day were amber, black, lucite and jade.

While shopping, everyone was able to snack on veggies, fruit, luscious mini-pastries and cookies. It was an invigorating afternoon- and the best part came at the end.

As we tallied up the sales of the day, 20% of which was going to be donated to Dress for Success Boston, I couldn’t help but start to cry. We had far surpassed my expectations and my goal for the day, and were able to make a substantial donation to the organization.

Having volunteered at DFSB for many years, I am acutely aware of what this money could go towards- a few weeks’ salary for an employee, computer equipment for the office, blouses, suits, shoes,- a myriad of items come to mind.

Every little bit counts, especially during these trying times. I am honored and proud to have done my part and I cannot tell you how wonderful I feel today.

November 1, 2010

The Art of the Passeggiata on the Streets of Florence

Despite what one may say about Florence- there are too many tourists, it’s not like it once was, the locals can’t afford to live downtown - locals abound, they love to be out and about, and they love to be seen.

I saw this every day as I walked around the city, even on weekdays, and especially on a perfect fall Sunday afternoon. There are a few obvious differences between the passeggiata of decades past and the one of today. In the 70’s for example, everyone got all dressed up- in their Sunday best- and the stores were all closed. I was a part of that in those years, strutting along in my very high heeled Italian leather boots. But other than that, it’s exactly the same.

Young and old are out strolling with no specific destination. The purpose is to be outdoors and be seen, get a coffee, see friends, window shop, maybe buy a little something, and get refreshed for the busy week ahead. Even people from smaller local towns come to Florence on a Sunday, to pass the time and take a walk.

My friend Pia and I stopped in Piazza Santo Spirito where vendors were selling their wares. It was a combination of farmer’s market and craft fair. Inexpensive, local, and easy.

I’d love to find a way to incorporate this into my life here! The closest I’ve come is to take a walk on Newbury St., although the stress of parking certainly diminishes the experience. Need to keep working on this!

Sunday market in Piazza Sto. Spirito
Beautiful window in Florence

Busy lunch spot

October 26, 2010

Italian Handbags- A Day at Annalisa Miniutti

We’re back from Italy with lots of stories to tell!

First off, we’d like to share a bit about our wonderful day with Italian handbag designer Annalisa Miniutti and her delightful husband Massimo.

After about an hour’s train ride from Florence, we arrived in Rovigo, which is in the Veneto region of Italy – and Massimo was there to greet us and take us to Lendinara, home of Annalisa Miniutti. It’s a sleepy little town- and much quieter than our home base of Florence- but there’s much activity in the showroom and offices of Annalisa Miniutti.

Annalisa described for me how she creates a collection. Here are some excerpts from our interview-translated from Italian:

“I always have a notebook with me to take notes and to sketch. I look all around me, especially when I travel, to see what people are wearing, the colors, their styles. This gives me ideas for the following season."

“Every year I go to the preview fair in Bologna, to see leather colors, styles of bags and shoes, and I go to Milan to see the fashion shows. After that, I decide what colors would be best as accessories for clothing”.

It was a pleasure to see a young couple working so well together- while Annalisa concentrates on the creative side of the business, which comes so naturally to her, Massimo works on the production side, with lots of work to oversee. Here's Annalisa in her showroom:

There’s more to tell next time!

And here are some photos of Lendinara:

September 27, 2010

Does One Really Need to Pay $1500 for an Italian Handbag?

Does the label really matter?

At our home, we have been getting the usual fall catalogs in the mail these days (and I thought we were all trying to save trees and save money- what happened to that?) But, never mind the political correctness for a moment- the PRICES of handbags.I just don’t get it.

First of all, yes, I love Italian leather handbags. Italian leather is of superior quality, the workmanship is magnificent; the attention to detail, the comfort, style, and durability is unsurpassed. But one can have all of that without paying a crazy amount of money. I’m not saying it’s ever cheap, and while cheap handbags are fine, you all know what I mean. Are the designers laughing all the way to the bank? And sometimes the bags aren’t even leather!

Let’s talk for a minute about the necessity of having a well-known designer label on a bag. Why does one need it? I’m just posing the question. It gives us prestige,we think it shows our sense of style without having to create our own. Does it tell people that we are wealthy, or happy, or well-adjusted or does it tell the designers that we are willing to pay whatever it takes to validate ourselves and show off to others their labels on our purses, and on watches and jeans?

The designs themselves are stunning. Granted. But often it really is just the name that is generating the high cost. Soft leather handbags can be found online for a quarter of the price- and it gives us the chance to create our own style and look without having to follow the pack.

September 13, 2010

Murano Glass Jewelry by Ercole Moretti

Anyone who has been to Venice and its island of Murano, or has seen jewelry online, knows how overwhelming the choices of glass jewelry are to the eye. We know how confusing it can be. Well, you’re not alone.

The initial vision of colors, luminescence, shapes and sizes is enough to scare away even the most trained person. We have learned to eliminate fairly quickly what we don’t want for our clients, and to focus on what interests us the most. What we pass over first is jewelry that’s commonly seen in shops in the US. At Serena Italian Imports, we specialize in bringing unique gifts ideas and unusual designer costume jewelry to our clientele.

We are featuring Murano glass jewelry from Ercole Moretti. One of my favorite pieces from that line is our Moretti Rectangular Ring, a very simple Murano glass ring. A Moretti Square Ring is also available. At $32 they are sweet treats for yourself or for a friend. This adjustable ring is perfect for any size hand.

There are glass beaded necklaces in various styles and also an adjustable bracelet, our Moretti Murrine Bracelet.

Trust our eye at Serena Imports to bring you all that is special and unique from Italy. We’ve done the legwork, and can bring Italy to YOU!

Here’s a video of Ercole Moretti’s glass jewelry from Murano. You’ll also see some of our necklaces from Raffaele Piccoli. Hope you like the accompanying music, too!

September 1, 2010

Importing From Italy Is What We Do Best

Next month Serena Italian Imports' staff is heading to Florence to see some Italian designers, order new merchandise, and check out a few showrooms. Once travel dates are chosen, and our day to day schedule starts to take shape, I get these fabulous butterflies inside; the excitement of returning to my beloved city of Florence overtakes me.

Tempered with that though, is the sadness of leaving my family for a week. Even though I know that everyone will be fine, and that they can all get by quite well without me, I still don’t love leaving them.

We’ve got some great appointments lined up: leather handbags at Gianni Chiarini, a day’s trip to Rovigo, near Venice, to see the Annalisa Miniutti handbag showroom, a morning at Angela Caputi for a new look at her stunning fashion jewelry and to see what next spring and summer’s jewelry will look like, a short train ride for a visit at the Tuscan glass IVAT showroom. And that’s just what we’ve planned so far!

In addition, you can be sure we will be doing our own personal shopping every possible minute, as well as taking lots of photos and videos to show you what’s happening on the streets of Florence.

I must get to my favorite museum in Florence, the Bargello, a stop I make every time I’m there, plus much more cultural activity still needs to be planned- not to mention get-togethers with dear friends, and restaurant plans. And- I get to speak Italian for a full week!

August 25, 2010

IVAT Tuscan Glass at

Sometimes I get so fixated on my clothes or my home being put together in neutral colors, that I forget how much excitement, lightness and happiness a splash of color from Tuscan glass can add to a table. I suppose that’s what we all had in mind when we saw these IVAT handmade glass bowls and platters in Milan at the Macef trade show. It was mid-January, the sky was grey, and we were indoors all day seeing Italian merchandise all around us.

Here’s a video put together by Serena Italian Imports, especially for you, so you can see the colors and gorgeous design of our IVAT collection:

We hadn’t been too familiar with the IVAT name before the show, and each day the show booth was so crowded, we hesitated to stop. Finally we did, and we’re so glad! Gorgeous, hand blown and hand-painted glass platters and decorative bowls that match, and are gorgeous! There’s a colorful set of IVAT Sinatra Harlequin Bowls, which work perfectly as glass ice cream bowls. They have been selling so well that we hope to even get to the IVAT showroom in the fall, in Arezzo, not far from Florence, to see what other goodies they have come up with. Can’t wait to get there.

August 23, 2010

Italian Handbags by Gianni Chiarini-What do they do for us?

We all love our high quality handbags and we all have particular tastes and needs- just like we do with our wallets- shape, feel, additional extra compartments. But let me tell you something- there is nothing like Italian handbags. From design to execution you can’t beat them.

When I carry a Gianni Chiarini bag, from a utilitarian standpoint I’m all set- everything I need is in my bag, I feel confident (I know, it sounds really trite to say that a bag makes me feel confident)- but I never feel that the design nor shape is over the top, nor is it dwarfing the rest of my look.

Serena Italian Imports’ Gianni Chiarini City Collection is a group of Italian handbags, with clean design, crisp lines, and there’s something for everyone, including suede bags. Take the Cortona foldover bag, for example. The shape is simple, it’s easy to open and close, and can be worn in your hand, or else fold it over and attach the accompanying strap for a leather crossbody bag. I’ve mentioned before how I love that look and wear many of my bags that way.

Another personal favorite is the Winter city bag. It zips all the way across, is available in black patent leather or dark brown crocodile embossed leather. Both are stunning and great for the fall.

All Gianni Chiarini bags at Serena Italian Imports are 25% off!

Hope you enjoy this video of our Gianni Chiarini City Collection.

August 17, 2010

Sambonet Stainless Steel at

I love stainless steel bowls and platters. There’s something about the clean, crisp simplicity of them that makes these pieces easy and pleasing to use. Stainless steel doesn’t corrode or rust as ordinary steel does, and low maintenance is certainly what we all need in our lives. We’re all familiar with the beautiful luster that stainless steel brings to a table. And the designs are timeless.

We’ve created some videos of our merchandise for you, and here’s the first one, where you can see our Sambonet collection. Hope you like the background music!

Our collection of Sambonet stainless steel contains a variety of shapes, sizes and prices, and each has a multitude of uses. Small bowls can be used for nuts or candy or just decoration on an end table, and the larger bowls can be used as serving bowls for side dishes or a fruit salad.

Some of my favorite pieces of the collection are the Sambonet Linea Q Rectangular bread basket and Sambonet Linea Q Square fruit bowl. They kind of remind me of simple and functional Scandinavian design.

Have you ever needed a house warming gift or hostess gift? These pieces are ideal for that, and the prices are so reasonable. Let us know what you think!

August 10, 2010

Thinking about the Fall

Is anyone starting to think about fall clothes yet? I know, it’s only August, but at our house we’re already getting lots of catalogs in the mail showcasing the newest fall trends. I don’t know about you, but when they arrive in the mail, I start to feel the same thing I feel on Sundays, like around 3 or 4 in the afternoon. Does anyone know what I mean? That acknowledgement of a weekend ending, or a lovely summer starting to wind down, and it’s time once again to think about getting serious.

Thankfully, fashion is always fun, and we get to see what the designers have come up with for the fall. I’ve seen so much texture in outfits- and I love monochromatic ones that can be easily personalized- as your outfit can be used as the canvas on which to accessorize as you wish-shawls and wraps, Italian scarves, Italian leather handbags, costume jewelry- it’s all good.

Today I was out to lunch with some very dear friends – and we all agreed that the fashion police are gone for good. Phew! So anyone who was worried about wearing the wrong thing can just forget about it. Just feel good about your choices. And make a style for yourself, at any age.


July 23, 2010

A Cause Very Dear to My Heart-Dress for Success

I have been connected to Dress for Success Boston since July 2001 when the organization first opened its doors in Boston. Dress for Success (DFS) is an international organization that provides interview appropriate clothing to women re-entering the job force after overcoming tremendous obstacles in their lives - drug addiction, physical or sexual abuse, homelessness, poverty- and are on their way to self-sufficiency. We are but one small step in the process.

How can you get a job if you don’t even have anything to wear to an interview?

So the volunteers at DFS fit clients with a suit, shoes, hosiery, a handbag, and accessories, and get them ready for that first step-the interview. All clients have been referred by job training or transitional agencies, and they all have interviews lined up.

DFS Boston has dressed 5000 women since 2001, and this year, through the end of June, has dressed close to 600 women.

Clothing and accessories are donated by people like YOU!

For 6 years I volunteered every Thursday at DFS Boston. Without a doubt, that day was the best and most rewarding one of my week, no matter what else was going on. You may think that I was giving our clients strength and courage, but actually it was the other way around.

Women empowering women is an unbreakable chain.

With so many affiliates of Dress for Success in the country, I’m sure there’s one near you. Please contact them to see what needs they may have - tailored costume jewelry, earrings, handbags - leather or otherwise, shoes, hosiery, a stylish suit. Anything that you can reasonably say is in style, wearable and clean, that you no longer need, can be put to use. It’s a safe bet that it will look really nice on a woman as she walks into that corner office. It’ll make your day.

July 10, 2010

The Beautiful Catalan Language

You all know how much I adore learning and speaking foreign languages. Barcelona turned out to be the perfect place to combine my knowledge of Italian, French and Spanish, in order to understand the Catalan language, and to put the pieces of the puzzle together. It’s a really beautiful language to listen to.

One of the reasons I started Serena Italian Imports was so I’d be able to speak and write Italian every day, as most of my vendors in Italy don’t speak English too well. When I’m buying designer costume jewelry  from Angela Caputi, or Italian handbags from Gianni Chiarini, it’s all done in Italian.

Catalan, the other official language- besides Spanish- of the region of Catalunya, is called an Iberian Romance language by some, and a Gallo-Romance language by others. It is also spoken in the country of Andorra, and in a few other places in Europe, including the city of Alghero, on Sardegna. Fascinating!

It turned out to be remarkably easy for me to understand the written word in Barcelona, but- sometimes a word in Catalan seemed to have no rhyme or reason to it- very common words, the derivation of which was impossible for me to discern. Take the word for “closed”- as in the sign on a door indicating whether a store is open or not.

So- in Italian we have “chiuso”, in Spanish we have “cerrado”, in French we have “ferme’” and in Catalan? “TANCAT”. What is the derivation of this? Are any of my readers familiar with Catalan?

Here are a few photos of Barcelona: 

 A little lunch after much sightseeing:

Pastries at Farga

Casa Batllo' by Gaudi'

Our hotel Casa Fuster

July 3, 2010

A Wonderful Week in Barcelona

We’ve just returned from a terrific week in Barcelona. What a vibrant European city! Barcelona is sophisticated and fun, culturally stimulating, and there’s something for everyone. The city is on the beach, but it’s very cosmopolitan with a real city feel to it. The food is terrific- I’d say it’s good to be a seafood fan although not a necessity- and a pitcher of Sangria can cool anyone off on a June day. My favorite is Sangria made with Cava, light in taste and in color, and very refreshing.

Our sole (no pun intended) means of transport were our poor and tired feet! We walked everywhere, and explored a different part of the city each day. My favorite for shopping is the Born-Ribera district, where there are lots of interesting boutiques. I also enjoyed shopping in the Eixample area, an upscale and sophisticated part of town where there are larger stores, some designer stores that we see in the States, but also some uniquely Spanish and Italian shops.

Just like in Italy, all women wear their pocketbooks across their bodies. It’s a functional, safe and stylish way to carry a bag, and is so very European. Here are some photos of women walking in the city:

You can find bag of this style on our site:
More blog posts and photos to come about all that Barcelona has to offer and about the beautiful Catalan language!

June 15, 2010

Loving Angela Caputi, In Grande Stile

I happen to adore Angela Caputi and her jewelry. The company makes designer costume jewelry and has been around for decades- and there’s a reason for their success and continuity. As an importer, it’s important to me that a company be easy to work with, that they ship items on time, that they be responsive to my needs, and more importantly, to the needs of my clients. Angela Caputi and her staff live up to all of that.

From a creative standpoint, Signora Caputi never fails to outdo herself, over and over again. Just when you see a piece, and ooh and aah over it, and think it’s the ultimate, she pulls out another piece or another season’s line, and the creativity and colors are new and exciting. And the quality of her work is consistent and reliable.

I always ooh and aah when I’m in her showroom choosing items for my clients. Decision-making is tough!

Sometimes people say her pieces are big- and that you have to be a big, tall woman to wear them. Not so-there are plenty of necklaces and bracelets that even on a smaller woman are just perfect. I’m a petite woman, and confidently I wear her jewelry with simple clothing.

We ladies know that we love to buy costume jewelry. So add Italian imported resin jewelry by Angela Caputi to your list of must-haves. If you’re a fan of hers, join the group- and if you haven’t tried her yet, knock yourself out and give it a whirl. We’ve got a great selection.

Here’s a video of her workshop:

June 8, 2010

Passing on the Love of Travel

We were young ourselves, with two 4 year-old sons. And after several years of local travel, to the beach, to Disneyworld, and to all the fun places young parents go with their kids, we longed to go back to Europe, children in tow.

There were no plans of doing the grand tour of Europe like all the American painters did, or anything remotely like that. All we wanted to do was be there, and live. So we rented an apartment for two spring weeks in Piazza Sta.Croce in Florence.

We brought a dear aunt of our sons along, to help us when the two of them decided to run in three different directions and to have another adult around for the usual craziness.

It couldn’t have turned out better. The apartment was gorgeous, with plenty of bedrooms to go around, and kitchen and washing facilities to make dishwashing and laundry very convenient.

We spent our days doing simple things in Florence, made it child-friendly, with lots of time built in for just running around the piazza chasing pigeons- which turned out to be a favorite past-time of theirs. And I will never forget the blue skies- every single day of the trip. We saw not one cloud in 15 days! Cielo sereno, as they say.

And I got to run off by myself a few times to buy an italian leather handbag, some Italian gold, Angela Caputi jewelry, and gifts for all my friends while my husband and sister-in-law took the boys to the nearest park with a playground.

Over the years we have returned with our sons to Florence several times. One eventually studied there (or I guess what kind of passed for studying) for many months, and the other travelled there with a girlfriend, so proud to show her his intimate knowledge of the city. In both instances my husband and I couldn’t have been happier.

We have seen in our sons the love of travel extend to all corners of the globe, and are thrilled to see that they have embraced and assimilated it to be a part of each of them.

June 1, 2010

How do I Choose My Designers?

Clients and friends often ask me how I choose a particular designer – and it’s so fun to think about because really there is a unique story that goes along with each one. Take Gianni Chiarini for example, a handbag designer whom I came to know just a few years ago.

I was shopping in my favorite clothing store of all in Florence, Macel, which is right near the Pitti Palace. In addition to clothing, they also sell a selection of shoes, boots and handbags, and everything in the shop is made in Italy. And much of it is Tuscan. I bought a bag there a few years ago, not even looking at the label. But I liked the soft leather, simple design, and knew I’d get a lot of use out of it.

The following day I was walking down Via dellaVigna Nuova, and went into a fabulous handbag shop called Contemporary Bags. The store sells solely Gianni Chiarini handbags, which turned out to be the label in the bag I had bought the day before.

I just knew when I saw this collection, that American women would love these bags. The prices are fairly reasonable, considering what imported handbags cost these days, the bags aren’t fussy, and they look sturdy and stunning. And best of all, it’s a Florentine company.

Once back at home in the States, I contacted the company and made arrangements to visit their showroom in Florence on my next trip. Imagine walking into a really big space- like an enormous supermarket- and all the rows, on either side, are filled with handbags. What would you do? I think I was drooling! They must have thought I was out of my mind. And I was swooning from the scent of so much leather. And by the way, Gianni himself is a pretty young and friendly guy.

As I’ve mentioned before, I follow my instincts. If I like a bag, I’m pretty certain my clients will too!

May 24, 2010

The Greatest Compliment of All

One of the tremendous advantages of living in a foreign city for an extended time is becoming fluent in the local language- and for me, one of my goals was to pass as “one of them”. This takes total immersion of mind and body, a good ear, the confidence to use new words and phrases every day, and the courage to try out and adopt the local accent. Forget speaking with an American accent. Train your ear, listen hard and repeat. Over and over again. Eventually what initially seems forced, becomes comfortable.

After graduate school in Florence, wanting to stay for a while, I worked for Macy’s . They had their own buying office in the city at the time, not far from Piazza San Marco. My friend Debbie and I were the “americanine”, the little American girls working there. We were so happy to have jobs in Florence, and did whatever was necessary in the office- we answered the phones- that job is called being the “centralino” or operator, we ran the telex room (any readers old enough to remember what that is?) we typed orders, and when American buyers came over from the States for trade shows, we travelled with them, translating and showing them around. And what perks- luxury hotels, fashion shows, shoe shows to die for- and I wore sample size!- Italian was my language, all day. It was heavenly.

After a while, reality set it, and I knew it was time to make a decision- like the old song says “Do I stay or do I go?” For a gazillion reasons, time to go-but with a heavy heart.

So I got on the plane, with eyes red and swollen from all the crying and all the goodbyes, with a pile of Italian fashion magazines in my bag, and I suppose after all this time, looking somewhat Italian.

A flight attendant came by offering candy, magazines, and newspapers. In Italian, she asked me if I wanted something to read, and in my heavy Florentine accent, I told her I had some magazines, but would like a newspaper, please.

And her response? “I’m sorry, they’re all in English.” And she walked on. What a compliment. Mission accomplished.

A presto.
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May 18, 2010

How do YOU buy online?

How do you buy merchandise online? Do you only buy things you’ve seen in stores and are just looking for a lower price? Do you have favorite sites where you’re sure to find what you need/want? Are you "just browsing?"

Young adults have told me that they don't really care about the look and feel of a site-- but for me, and I think for all of our clients here at Serena Italian Imports, it’s crucial. You all want to know us. Before buying from a new site, I always read About Us – just like going into a brick and mortar store, I need to have a feel- what is this place about? Who are these people? Can I trust them? Are they like me?

I buy as much as I can online- from shoes, to boots to thigh hi’s to body lotion. Sometimes I know exactly what I want, and other times, I have a general idea. Take Gianni Chiarini leather handbags for example- maybe you’ve seen a few in some department stores, and others online. You know the leather is soft and supple- but you’re not sure- it is the right size? Is the color well represented? We do the best we can to show you – and describe for you - our merchandise. I take chances online often. What’s the worst that can happen? And the rewards far exceed the risk.

So get to know from whom you are buying. We love letting you get to know us! You can always e-mail us or call us at 617-329-1439. Here’s a photo from our website kick-off party in December. The prosecco flowed and even the strictest dieters couldn’t resist the cake.

And tell us your own tips for shopping online, on our Facebook page discussion:

A presto.

May 10, 2010

Creating Elegance with Simplicity, Without Spending a Fortune

Elegance, fun and simplicity- they can go hand in hand- and very easily. One of the tips I learned from my years living and shopping in Italy is that lots of pieces that are in your closet right now, you probably don’t need. Less is more. When I worked for Macy’s buying office in Florence, sometimes Italian women would come to work a few days in a row wearing the same clothes- and they had slept at home! Can’t say I’ve ever dressed that way.

Italian homes are smaller, their closets are way smaller than ours and they know that some special accessories or a new leather handbag can add simple elegance. A pin, a shawl, a strong necklace or a pair of earrings can freshen up last year’s outfit – and give you a lift.

And keep your colors neutral- whatever neutral palette is best for you- is it black and grey? Is it brown and beige? I use my clothes as a background on which to add texture, a burst of color, a particular necklace that I love, a pair of boots- or even a special red lipstick that goes well with my coloring.

Please- don’t try to make your bag and shoes and necklace and scarf all matchy matchy- and wear just one or two special items at a time. Sometimes a bag and a scarf are all you need. That’s where the clean elegance comes in. Nonchalantly all put together.

So have fun dressing; life is too short not to. A presto.

May 4, 2010

My First Buying Day aka "What On Earth Am I Doing?"

In 2006 after what I thought was much planning and thought, I was off to Florence, on Mother’s Day, tearfully waving goodbye to my family at the airport. Feeling a bit bold, but mostly like a selfish mother and wife who was leaving her teenage children and husband to fend for themselves, I sat down in the waiting area, opened up my trusty journal and wrote to my heart’s content.

Thinking that I had to do this “Italian style” right from the start, I had decided to fly on Italy's national airline, Alitalia. In Milan, we were told there would be a slight delay in our connecting flight to Florence- well that delay turned into a cancellation of the flight, and instead, a six hour bus ride. I have no idea how a 3 hour ride could turn into 6, but it did. Great beginning.

The following morning I headed to my first stop, a silversmith whom I had met the prior year, and with whom I had exchanged several e-mails and lots of info. He had sent me prices, I had calculated all of my costs and was ready to place an order. Quite the business woman am I. Upon arrival, what became evident, was that the prices he had sent me didn’t include the price of the silver! They only included his labor! The silver cost fluctuates for him depending upon the market and thus fluctuates for his clients. So the final cost per item was going to be almost double what I had originally planned.

Nowadays, I’d say “thanks but no thanks”, walk out the door, and go have a cappuccino somewhere, but as this was my first stop, it felt like my entire identity hinged on this first placed order. So that’s what I did. Most of it has now been sold, and the silver is all very pretty and well made, but if anyone is looking for some sterling….

We now carry Sambonet stainless steel, with simple lines, very reasonably priced, that doesn’t have to be polished. Let us know what you think.

Early AM breakfast

View from room at Hotel degli Orafi

April 27, 2010

The Unforgettable First Time

So I introduced my boyfriend, who became my husband, to Italy. And he loved it, and we got engaged in Florence, travelled to Rome, visited my “Italian family” at their house in the countryside and all was good.

A year or two later, we’re back to Europe and it’s time to show him Venice-the city, the canals, all the Venetian glass and more Italian beauty. We had travelled extensively in those years, as we both worked in the travel industry at the time- we had been to other parts of Europe, Hong Kong, Bangkok and Kyoto. But nothing prepared him for seeing Venice for the first time.

My husband was a relatively sophisticated traveler even then, back in the mid-80’s. Maybe we’re all jaded now, and some people say that Venice has become a sort of Disneyland, but this was around 25 years ago….

Train travel was de rigueur for us in those days, and suitcases didn’t have wheels, or at least ours didn’t. So we get off the train, walk straight out of the station, and lo and behold, waddaya know- water! Well, you would have thought I was married to Gomer Pyle! Golleeeee. You know that delight when you see your toddler realize something for the first time? Well, I felt that same sensation seeing his face. Now he gets it; the lightbulb just went on. And it made me love him all the more.

Enjoy these photos of Venice, brought to you by my friend and fan Jodie!

April 21, 2010

Savoring Life

Italians relish their daily rituals and pleasures, and being around them gives us the freedom to do the same. The pleasure of feeding someone a home cooked meal- or of eating it- to be present in body and mind- are all qualities present in that delightful environment. All the mindfulness we endlessly hear about- it’s right there. While a lot has changed since I first started spending time in Italy, the essence remains.

Thirty years ago, I was a young student living with a family not far from the Ponte Vecchio in Florence. My “Italian brother” Giorgio, who at 29 was still living at home, would come home every day for lunch, as did I. (And yes, of course I had a mad crush on him...) Mamma was always ready with a hot meal for all of us, pasta, meat, wine and all, finished off with fresh fruit which she dutifully peeled for her adored son. Try going back to work or school after that every day!

Fast forward to 2010, and mealtime, even a lunch during the workday downtown, is still sacred. Now, there are plenty of Italians who eat a quick panino at a bar- they certainly do. But it's way different than eating a burger out of paper bag. And there’s always a caffe’ to drink, albeit tiny, that must complete the meal, along with conversation with the barista and the other regulars.

I’ve got my favorite bar, Le Logge, right near the Straw Market, which at lunchtime turns into a restaurant, with tablecloths on the small round tables, hot pastas, full meals, and salads, ready for the 1PM rush, all served on lovely dinnerware. And all the local office and shop workers pile in, ready to be fed by the mammas of the 21st century. The pleasure is reciprocal!

If you spend time in Italy, you certainly notice the care taken in preparing your purchase- and maybe it makes you feel as if the shopkeeper’s job, to wrap your selection- be it an Italian bracelet or leather purse, or even your morning brioche- with flourish, care and attention, is the most important thing they have to do in that moment. And in fact it is.

April 15, 2010

The Light in the Piazza

“It’s something about the light.” That’s what I said to myself one afternoon as I stopped in my tracks in Piazza della Signoria. One day last May, as I was walking through the piazza, which of course I’ve done thousands of times, something very special caught my attention. The late afternoon spring light, so pure, clean, and soft, as it shone on the ground, in the air, over the people sitting at Cafe' Rivoire, and on the walls of the Palazzo Vecchio across the way, was transporting me to another level of awareness. I know it sounds crazy, but my senses, from head to toe, were heightened to a new place. Tears came over me, and I just stood, bursting with joy, marveling at the light in the piazza.

I had just come from a dizzying but exciting visit at Angela Caputi on Via Santo Spirito. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the name, Signora Caputi is an elegant Florentine woman, who has been designing high-end creative costume jewelry in Florence since the 1970’s. We love to import merchandise from her because each season, she manages to wow her beloved and loyal followers with colorful creations- necklaces, bracelets, earrings and pins- in a variety of styles and colors. And with Angela Caputi jewelry, there’s always something for everyone- whether your style is conservative or more edgy.

The art of choosing what to import from Italy for our website takes quite a bit of practice and a fair amount of confidence. I guess we just follow the light inside of us, helped along by the light in the city. Can’t go wrong with that.