All eyes might have been on the House of Gucci since the eponymous film hit the screens last autumn, but the real fashion house has been quietly expanding its empire in piazza della Signoria, just metres from the 101-year-old company HQ, with the launch of a small but opulent new cocktail bar: Gucci Giardino 25.
Even without a grand launch party, word has got around. We visit Gucci Giardino 25 on a drizzly Tuesday in mid-February, just a couple of days after they officially open their doors, and there’s a small queue forming. Reservations are essential and it’s not hard to see why: the cosy little den only seats 16 people, and feels somewhere between a Tuscan enoteca and refined French bistro.
The first thing you notice—possibly before even stepping inside, if you catch a bartender on their cigarette break—is that everyone who works at Giardino 25 is kitted out from head to toe in genuine Gucci. No surprise, perhaps, since this is their flagship cocktail bar, but it makes a statement. Once past the bouncers, you’re greeted with peacock-blue sofas and a sparkling marble bar, but an otherwise pleasantly relaxed atmosphere.
For better or for worse, the plot of House of Gucci revolves around an incredibly powerful woman. Heading up Giardino 25, you’ll find a far more delightful and genuine matriarch: Martina Bonci. It’s rare in Florence to see a female bartender running the show, even less so when there’s a name as famous as Gucci behind it, but Bonci does so with a gentle grace that emanates through her immaculate team. Even in the first week of opening, she’s got a smile for everyone and time to pause and regale the stories behind each of the signature cocktails.
“Any woman who approaches the world of mixology, or really any jobs that are still considered predominantly masculine, knows that she will immediately have to demonstrate how much it is worth,” Bonci muses. “It is not always easy to be trusted by customers before the first drink, but our skill as women also lies in empathy and building this rapport with the customer, until eventually they place their trust in us to propose new flavours and introduce them to new drinks. Fortunately, there are already signs of a change bringing young women to the forefront in this sector as well.”
Bonci has worked in bars since she was 16, first in her native town of Gubbio, Umbria, then in various bars in Perugia while she was a student. After graduating, she spent seven and a half years working for a high-end tapas and cocktail bar, also in Perugia. “Ever since I was a child, I’ve felt a very strong bond with the world of mixology. I have always been enchanted, indeed bewitched is the most suitable term, by what the people behind the counter did. I like to think my passion for drinks began in my great-grandmother’s kitchen with furtive sips of wine, which she would give me at the end of lunch, saying it was good for the blood. My mum wasn’t of the same opinion!”
In September 2021, Bonci arrived at Giardino 25, where Gucci’s creative director Alessandro Michele drew inspiration in part from one of the location’s previous tenants, a historical florist. As such, the cocktail menu draws from the colours, scents and exuberance of a flower shop. “Our aim is to inspire all our guests with an air of sparkle, of international flavours, fun and romance all at the same time,” Bonci tells me over email before we visit.
The idea is for Giardino 25 to be an all-day sort of place, somewhere you can slip from a mid-morning coffee into lunch or an afternoon cocktail into something stronger. The food menu is interesting, if a little unexpected. Breakfast is a meeting point of traditional Florentine and Italian pastries, with a wide and varied selection. Light all-day snacks vary from Japanese ramen to vegan ceviche to Viaggio a Modena, an Emilia-Romagna classic sharing platter with mortadella, ricotta and focaccia. The menu is rounded off by afternoon tea from 3 to 6pm, a selection of sweet and savoury snacks served with a selection of Florentine blends from La Via del Tè.
There’s no denying though that this place is really all about the drinks. Twelve signature cocktails each tell a story, not only of Italy, but of Bonci’s adventures and experiences further afield. “I’ve always worked in Italy, but have travelled a lot. In every place I’ve been I have sought inspiration as much as I could to enrich my background and always create new ideas,” she explains. “The most attractive part of this work for me is—and will always be—that of being able to count on a potentially inexhaustible source of flavours, colours and raw materials that allows me to express my creativity. Over the years, I’ve been able to refine my way of mixing and creating, forming my identity today.”
Having put her heart and soul into creating the drinks list, choosing her favourite cocktail is difficult. In the end though, Martina settles on the Mémoire di Negroni, a heady mix of gin, yuzu sake, bitters and vermouth. “Every signature drink on the menu has a truly interesting personality, but this one is an homage to the city of Florence, where the most celebrated of all Italian cocktails was born just over a century ago. Our Gucci Giardino 25 version has an intense and vibrant colour—violet—the colour of our love for Florence.”
The secrets behind the Mémoire di Negroni
Vermouth Riserva Ambrato
Peter in Florence gin
Left to infuse with butterfly flowers
Cocktails start at 16 euro; lunch dishes 16 euro; afternoon tea 30 euro.