A Planned, Chance Meeting with a Master Artisan in Florence, Alessandro Dari

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A planned, chance meeting with Alessandro Dari? How is that possible?

To authentically experience a place, you are going to have to genuinely immerse yourself into it. Feel it, smell it, taste it! This is my travel philosophy, my travel manifesto, so to speak.

Moon compass. From A Planned, Chance Meeting with a Master Artisan in Florence, Alessandro Dari
Alesandro Dari Moon Compass

Travel is not only about the slideshow of photos you took while holding your camera over the heads of the thousands of tourists around you. There is so much more in the stories you live. Your experiences hold the real depth, not those snapshots.

The best way I have found to do this is to walk. When you walk, you see things, you experience them, you get to the level of the local people. I could easily fill my days in Florence by marking off the endless lists of historical sites, which I sometimes do. Most days, I find the best way to get to know this glorious city, is to walk. I go out looking to get myself lost, in search of my story.

Florence is split in half by the Arno River. Most sites are on the north side of the river, keeping tourists from giving the south side (known as the Oltrarno), the attention it deserves. This day was for exploration, a day to uncover the hidden secrets of the Oltrarno. Even in the rain, it was a day to walk.

My nine year old daughter and I both have a necklace with a heart shaped charm. We wear them when we are apart, as a way to feel connected. We always kiss our hearts as we say goodbye. I had forgotten mine at home and had been looking in jewelry shops all day for something that could act as a substitute.

The Oltrarno is known to house the studios of local artisans. I had found myself in a more residential area when I walked past a small shop, my mind busy, I nearly walked right past. On the door, it read Alessandro Dari. Realizing it to be a jewelry shop, I decided to peek into this quaint atelier.

A Planned, Chance Meeting with a Master Artisan in Florence, Alessandro Dari

I realized instantly this would be well out of my price range for jewelry, though I knew I had to see more. In the end, it was more than I could have imagined.

I stepped into the small space. It was set up like a museum, glowing from the soft lighting, with the hypnotic sound of classical guitar filling the room. This is the first piece that I saw, I was instantly drawn.

Perceptive Time. From A Planned, Chance Meeting with a Master Artisan in Florence, Alessandro Dari
Allesandro Dari Perceptive Time

The piece, Perceptive Time, took Alessandro Dari five years to create. The label explained it to be a reflection on how we all perceive time in different ways, during different moments in our lives.

“Time is perceived differently by someone who is in the middle of a working day, to another who is falling out of a third story building, to someone who is in love, to someone who is not or, worse, someone who hates… Dari feels, as we all do, these different perceptions in various moments throughout life, and he attempts here to capture the changing of perception in a tangible object.”

As I looked to my right, I noticed a highly focused man working in the studio side of the space. He briefly stopped what he was doing and politely greeted me in Italian.

A Planned, Chance Meeting with a Master Artisan in Florence, Alessandro Dari

“His work is based on a constant spiritual quest of his own personal experiences, which both nourishes him and stimulates him in the creation of his works… For Dari, jewellery is a symbol of moral and spiritual integrity.”

A Planned, Chance Meeting with a Master Artisan in Florence, Alessandro Dari

I continued around the room, absorbing one exquisite piece after the next. The emotion lured me to unexpected places. It was as if he had recreated his entire life and had frozen each moment in time.

It would be the collection Neve d’estate - Snow in Summer, where I would find myself most drawn.

“This collection represents the greatest love that we all desire to achieve during an entire life. It is dedicated to the woman which I love. Two souls join together as one, forever.”

Making my way back to Dari’s work space, I nervously approached him. I shared with him how moved I was. I explained my awe in his ability to convey emotion so fully, so completely. I struggled to communicate how I thought his work was beyond beautiful, how it was like nothing I had ever seen.

I expressed interest in writing about my experience there. I told him what I do and how I would like to present his work. Eventually finding ourselves limited by the language barrier, he decided to phone Valeria. When he got her on the line, he handed me the receiver. With deeply accented English, she told me she would be arriving within the hour and could I meet with her then. I agreed, thanked them both, and left the shop.

For the next hour, I would stroll around the Oltrarno processing all that I had seen and felt.

Alessandro Dari and Valeria. From A Planned, Chance Meeting with a Master Artisan in Florence, Alessandro Dari
Alessandro Dari and Valeria 

In an hour’s time I return, now accompanied by my partner, Tommaso. He had just gotten off work and I invited him to join me. I felt compelled to share my discovery. We entered to find Valeria there with Alessandro.

Shortly after making our introductions, Valeria and I would discover that we have been living somewhat parallel lives; in life, love, and motherhood. As our conversation progressed, Valeria invited us upstairs to share with us her most treasured piece from Alessandro. It was here where she would tell me the story of this piece and where we would realize just how deep our connection would be.

A Planned, Chance Meeting with a Master Artisan in Florence, Alessandro Dari

Valeria met Alessandro after having her children. She had shared with him a powerful birth experience she had with one of her babies. Soon after hearing the story, he created this ring. The piece depicts the birth of her baby and the baby crawling up her body to reach her. Valeria could see, as she was telling me the story, that I felt it deeply. I told her of my deep connection to birth, photographing the maternal figure and being present during many births myself.

We walked back downstairs, rejoining Alessandro. As the men continued their conversation, Valeria and I stole a moment away together. It was clear that this meeting was not just by chance, and we both knew it. We embraced, promising to stay connected.

We would eventually leave Alessandro and Valeria. Saying our good-byes, I shot some photos of them and they expressed their profound gratitude, as these would be the only photos they have ever had taken of the two of them together.

Before leaving, Alessandro stepped back into his workspace saying he had something for me. I had seen him working, but had no idea what he was doing. Alessandro returned with this charm. He told me that it is a little girl reaching out for her mother.

A Planned, Chance Meeting with a Master Artisan in Florence, Alessandro Dari

I was in tears, speechless.

It won’t be until he reads this story that he finds out what I was in search for that day.

Perhaps, he already knew.

This is what travel, what life, is all about.

Take a brief tour through Master Dari’s atelier. See the beauty for yourself.

Alessandro Dari is not only a master jeweler and goldsmith. He is a classical guitarist, poet, sculptor, and a pharmacist five nights per week. A true Renaissance man. His passion for life, love, and his work is inspirational in every sense.

You can find his museum-workshop in Florence located at via San Niccolo 115/r, in the Nasi-Quaratesi palace, built during the Renaissance.

Dari’s work is on display in Paris, Venice, Rome, and Florence.  Including the prestigious Silver museum (Museo degli Argenti) of the Pitti Palace in Florence and in the Cathedral Museum in Fiesole. In 2003 he was awarded the Perseus Prize for the best artist in the city, and in 2006 he was nominated as the chosen artist of the Vatican.

What do you think about chance meetings? Are they just that? Chance? Or, is there something larger at work here, inviting us to cross paths at just the right moment in time?

Get out there! Create your stories!


Laurel Perry is an Italy Expert. She shares her passion, tips, and Italy secrets with travelers through her work as a Family Travel Consultant, Italy and Luxury Travel Specialist with Ciao Bambino

All photos courtesy and copyright Laurel Perry