The Jewel of Tuscany’s Hidden Gem
An article written by spring ’15 Cortona student, Ansley Walker, pertaining to her time in Cortona and the opportunity to work with a local jewelry and design shop.
It was not only the charismatic smile of CEO, Sebastian Ghezzi DelBrenna, that welcomed me when I entered the astounding DelBrenna showroom in Cortona, Italy. As he handed me a glass of crisp prosecco and gently poured some silver powder into it, I knew it was going to be an experience! I originally thought that this was offered to me only out of courtesy before we conducted our interview, but as we talked, I came to discover that Ghezzi does this every time a client enters his store to set the tone for a unique shopping experience.
DelBrenna, a jewelry and accessories company, epitomizes the long-lasting Italian tradition of family businesses. From generation to generation, the country’s small, family businesses have been passing down a deep respect for quality craftsmanship and exceptional service. The history of DelBrenna traces back to the early 1900’s when Ghezzi’s grandfather, originally a Florentine farmer, started the business. He set out to learn the trade of goldsmithing. He passed his expertise onto his son, Massimo, Ghezzi’s father, who took the skills he inherited, and created their signature style: the DelBrenna chain. Any DelBrenna product or service has a connection to this iconic chain.
The DelBrenna chain is the symbol of the brand’s identity. By definition, a chain is series of links that supports and holds things together. Therefore, this chain perfectly represents the DelBrenna family, who through their company stay linked together, and continue to uphold the tradition of jewelry making started by their grandfather in the early 1900’s. When Sebastian and his twin brother, Alessandro, took over their father’s business in the early 2000’s, they choose to expand their brand beyond jewelry. Inspired by the iconic DelBrenna chain, Ghezzi and his brother developed a lifestyle brand in which every product exudes the allure and luxury of fine jewelry.
“We use our chain to decorate all our shoes or anything we’re doing,” said Ghezzi. By incorporating jewels, chains, or gold and silver into every product and service of the company, DelBrenna has successfully created a very distinguishable brand. “Even our jewelry is embellished with chains, because this makes the DelBrenna style immediately recognizable,” Ghezzi continued.
DelBrenna literally incorporates jewels into their footwear and even adds silver powder in a glass of prosecco to convey and symbolize the essence of their brand identity, which is luxury and a glamorous lifestyle. Therefore, a DelBrenna woman can don a precious necklace, slip into a pair of jewelry encrusted stilettos, and pamper herself through a variety of sensuous homeware products.
DelBrenna has two retail spaces in Cortona. One store rests adjacent to Piazza della Repubblica and predominantly features jewelry. The other is their showroom that is tucked away in what was originally used as an ancient olive oil mill. This space is truly spectacular. DelBrenna delicately balances the original Etruscan architecture with chic and modern visual displays. The magnificence of this space sets the tone for the Ghezzi to provide unique services to his upscale clientele. “We don’t sell bread here.” Ghezzi understands that DelBrenna’s jewelry and accessories are not a necessity, but a rare luxury. Similarly, visiting their showroom is not an ordinary shopping affair, but a memorable experience. The ability to enter a store in which the merchandise is produced in-house, customized, beautifully crafted, and authentically Italian, while at the same time having a drink and engaging in conversation with the designers is a truly a lost art. The DelBrenna shopping experience entails all of this, because Ghezzi sees his consumer as an individual, and treats her as kindly and delicately as he would his precious jewels.
The DelBrenna showroom features a line of footwear that is decorated with gold and gemstones. Bejeweled shoes are a current trend and have been popularized by top brands such as Dolce & Gabbanna and Versace. However, DelBrenna conceives of his bejeweled shoes in a completely different way than these designers. The jewelry not only acts as decoration for the shoes, but the shoes are constructed around jewelry. In 2012, Delbrenna was ready to “do something crazy,” said Ghezzi, and produced a stiletto with a gold-plated Eiffel Tower functioning as the heel. These shoes were introduced at Paris Fashion Week to critical acclaim.
As a student participating in the University of Georgia Studies Abroad Program in Cortona, I believe that I’ve come know to Cortona well. Although this small town’s charm is undeniable, it does not come to mind as an ideal location for a luxury accessories company. “So, why Cortona,” I asked.
“We’re talking about one of the most famous towns in Italy,” Ghezzi responded. “Cortona is very international, and communicates the best of Italian style, because the influence of big corporations doesn’t reach here. While here, you can enjoy the beauty of a small town and still feel like you are in an international city.” Cortona is a highly desirable destination for tourists, especially after Under the Tuscan Sun gained popularity. The town possesses a unique sense of history and a relaxed way of life. For Ghezzi, more important than the global impression of their company is staying true to the Italian tradition, in which profit is secondary to upholding respect for artisanship, high quality materials, and local values.
“Cortona is something very difficult to explain, because in Toscana there are thousands of nice towns. But after you are there for one day, you say, “Eh,” there is not much. In Cortona that is the big difference. I can’t exactly define what makes Cortona so special, but it has a definite charm,” said Ghezzi. As I listened, I could feel that he was not only right, but his words were also igniting in me a newfound love and respect for my temporary home.
If Cortona is not on your list for future travel, adjust it immediately. This town will definitely steal your heart with its enchanting history, alluring spirit, and unbeatable views. Also, a trip to Cortona means an opportunity to visit DelBrenna, which, if it is still not evident, is a good enough a reason to visit in itself.