Modern Italian history teaches us that the country is at its finest when its collective back is to the wall.
When the European Economic Community was created in 1957, Italy seized the opportunity, despite largely still being an agricultural nation. “Everywhere … there were entrepreneurs, engineers, designers and skilled craftsmen ready to meet the challenge,” writes Paul Ginsborg in A History of Contemporary Italy: 1943-80. In a more recent demonstration of the country’s reaction to adversity, on April 30, Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte delivered a rousing speech in front of the final steel span of the new bridge in Genoa, nearly rebuilt in less than two years since the Ponte Morandi’s tragic collapse in 2018.
In these testing times, many Tuscan companies have converted to the cause. Florentine perfumery Dr. Vranjes moved swiftly at the start of the emergency, transforming most of its production to the making of perfumed hand sanitizer donated to hospitals, care homes and council offices. Family-run shirtmakers Ingram (Inghirami Group), whose factory is headquartered in Sansepolcro, have temporarily modified part of their manufacturing plants to make face protection devices. The group has donated the 100 per cent washable cotton masks to various institutions in Tuscany and Umbria. Iconic fashion houses Ferragamo, Gucci, Ermanno Scervino and Peuterey, among others, have all manufactured, supplied and given masks and hand sanitizer to the Tuscany region. The French group Richemont, which ordinarily crafts leather goods for luxury brand Montblanc on its Scandicci premises, is currently Tuscany’s single largest producer of non-woven surgical masks at between 250,000 and 300,000 pieces daily.
Sewing cotton masks at Ingram, in Sansepolcro, Tuscany
While we wait for more information about the government-approved, voluntary-use Immuni app, innovation continues to emerge. Supermarkets are trialling skip-the-queue apps—check out Esselunga’s UFirst and Unicoop Firenze’s Salt@LaFila, in addition to the DoveFila.it and FilaIndiana.it platforms to see what the queues are like at the supermarkets near your home. A supermarket trolley deep cleaning system, Sanitizer 2020, has been fine-tuned by Prato firm TTTecnosistemi and Umbria’s Safest World, allowing stores to augment safety in addition to the measures already in place, with the possibility of extending the equipment to warehouses and stations. Florentine-Milanese business Binoocle is tweaking pre-existent webcam technology to create AI named Vision2, based on sound alerts if people enter stores without face protection and whenever overcrowding occurs in restricted spaces.
The need to restrict human contact is obliging the country to innovate its notoriously clunky bureaucracy, transferring in-person processes to online platforms. Florence’s city council has distributed food vouchers and managed rent subsidies to the needy via comune.fi.it as well as setting up a nifty map and guide to home delivery. And while the central government continues to come under fire for the inefficiency in disbursing unemployment benefits, the Italian social security service is starting to show signs of technological innovation with its click and renew benefit system for the self-employed.
Restaurant owners are being forced to devise tempting new ways of feeding Florentines, given that the reopening of establishments is scheduled for no earlier than June 1. Ristorante Accademia recently delivered a spring Thanksgiving dinner to the city’s American-loving diners, Red Garter is distributing a family meal pack (includes chicken wings and even sour cream), La Ménagère furnishes lunch, wine and flowers for your table, while Acqua al 2 looks to tomorrow with restaurant bonds for future dining. Tuscany’s wineries, whose hospitality income has vanished for the foreseeable, are supplying cases straight to your door (Malenchini, Vicchiomaggio, Potentino and Gualandi all offer superb deals and discounts) and local wine shops such as Vino al Vino bring the bottles to you. Wine apps like Winelivery and Vino.it are experiencing a spike in sales and producers like Ruffino are seeing buoyant results for the application-based retail of ranges, such as new rosé Aqua di Venus, during the Easter, April 25 and May 1 holidays.
A final word must go to the region’s tourism industry, whose immediate future looks bleak. Here, too, companies are striving to seek innovative solutions to the crisis. Tour operator ArtViva has moved its high-quality experiences online on a mostly donation basis and established tour guides Elaine Ruffolo, Paola Vojnovic, Alexandra Lawrence and Rocky Ruggiero, among others, are keeping Florence lovers around the world informed through zoom lectures and podcasts. The Creative People in Florence group is doing its part for the city’s artisan community, stricken by a dearth in local trade, with a new support page on Patreon and an informative blog series for creative business owners.
The Florentine wants to help
Founded as a grassroots magazine in 2005, our primary purpose is to provide a service to the international community of Florence. In March and April 2020, the focus on Italy during the pandemic has led to extraordinary increases in traffic across our web and social media channels. We, too, have seen our advertising revenue plummet, but we remain resilient and innovative in our approach. Please contact us if your business requires publicity at this time—we are open to collaborations: firstname.lastname@example.org.