Sprezzatura: Part One - My Tuscan Aria

What Exactly is the New Luxury?

Sprezzatura, Part One: The New Luxury

“Luxury is in each detail.”
- Hubert de Givenchy

Today, I am thinking about two words: Luxury and Sprezzatura. Let’s begin with Luxury. Taken by itself, luxury can conjure up images of opulence, privilege and perhaps unattainable wealth. So what’s different about the New Luxury?

I have a morning ritual which includes brewing espresso. I make it in one of those iconic Italian stovetop machines. I use the best espresso available (Illy or Lavazza) and as it perks its intoxicating brew, I froth the milk and pour it all in a beautiful cup and saucer.

Because it is comforting, delicious and beautiful to look at, doing this feels luxurious to me.

Sprezzatura: Part One

I start my day doing something that delights me, indulges me, something I can savor and feel almost transformed by, yet it is a simple thing. The concept of doing things that contribute to our state of well-being, for me, is what is meant by the New Luxury.

What contributes to your well-being? A good night’s sleep? Delighting your taste buds with healthy and delicious foods? Nourishing your soul and senses by watching a sunset, gazing at a magnificent work of art, listening to a Beethoven concerto or walking a secluded stretch of beach?

This all has much to do with experiencing versus acquiring. When we experience something that nurtures us on a deep level, it is transformative, freeing and luxuriant (defined as lush).

When I designed the Aria Tour of Tuscany, this was my sole intent: to create experiences that were not only beautiful, but that sent people back home feeling transformed. This was not a mission statement I wrote or even a conscious goal. It was a touchstone of feeling I carried with me because that is what Italy had given me – transformation.

Sprezzatura: Part One
One of my tour guests, Deb, who has come on the Aria Tour three times now, said a couple of things to me that brought to light what this new luxury is all about and is a perfect segue to what “sprezzatura” is all about.

She said she was an insomniac, yet from the first night she slept in the Villa and on all nights she slept there on subsequent trips, she slept like a baby. I am not an insomniac, so I don’t have a sense of how frustrating it must be to have that as a regular experience. But she truly felt transformed by it and who knows exactly how, but experiencing this in Italy was something she could take back with her and re-create for herself.

Then she said something else which brought home to me what I was doing. She said that everything that happened during the week of the trip seemed to come off effortlessly – the timing, the pacing, the content, the flow of it all. She then said she realized at some point how much planning and time it must have taken for this to feel that way. It was a very astute insight.

Sprezzatura: Part One
Which leads me to my second word, “Sprezzatura”. I love this word because it conveys a complex idea. First used by the courtier, Castiglione in 1528, he said:

“Everyone knows the difficulty of things that are exquisite and well done, so to have the facility in such things gives rise to great wonder…..Sprezzatura conceals art and presents everything said and done as something brought about with laboriousness.”

Whether it’s making a luxurious experience out of brewing a cappuccino, or it’s driving on a road in Tuscany around a bend just before sunset so that the view of an ancient town perched on a cliff makes people gasp, or it’s selecting seasonal and fresh ingredients at a market that morning, assembling them artfully on a hand-painted plate that makes mouths water, or it’s bringing people together in Puccini’s salon to listen to a soprano sing just for us, or it’s following truffle hunting dogs in the woods to see how they playfully excavate these delightful morsels (which you put in your palm to inhale this one of a kind fragrance), or it’s tasting olive oil pressed a day before dipped in the unsalted bread of Tuscany:

Sprezzatura: Part One
Sprezzatura is the key ingredient of the New Luxury. It is paying attention to the beautiful details and concealing them like a thousand brushstrokes - so that a truly transformative experience can happen for people. And the New Luxury is the only thing I am interested in creating for people in Tuscany – there are many 8 day trips one can take in Tuscany that live up to the beauty of that place, but I want more - I want what you learn, taste, feel, smell and touch to become part of how you live every day when you get home.

I want to introduce you to someone else who is creating the New Luxury in Travel. I recently met Andy Swann, whose company Andy Swann Voyage, is based in the south of France. Andy, originally from the UK, curates experiences in France, especially on the French Riviera. I was just there in December and not only was the weather sunny and mild, there were few tourists. After Italy, France is my favorite country to explore. Cannes, Antibes, St Paul de Vence! A great Fall destination, in time for wine, truffles and exquisite experiences, which Andy can deliver superbly and just for you. Take a look at his beautiful website.

Until next time, what might you do today that would feel luxurious?

NEXT: Sprezzatura, Part Two: "Everyone has an Aria”

1 Comment

  1. […] how I love the name of this book.  Sprezzatura is my favorite Italian word.  It is the art of doing something really well as if it took no effort at all.  The word […]