Calligraphy In Florence, Reviving An Old Custom

Calligraphy allows you to gift your aesthetic in greeting to others, and there’s nothing quite like watching a finely wedged nib transform your loving scrawl into embroidery.

FLORENCE CALIGRAPHY
PHOTO DRISANA MISRA

After all my years of watching or participating in the Nutcracker, last Christmas, I was finally able to enter the world of the Sugar Plum Fairy. During Christmastime, the people of Florence bedeck their medieval city with tapestries, ribbons, snowflakes, candles, and sugared fruit. The streets are full of horse-drawn sleighs and dancing children. In the squares, performers from all over the world present the best of their cultures. And beneath the arches, young Russian opera singers sing “Nessun dorma.”

Since it was Christmas Eve and I had spent all day shopping for loved ones, I decided to find something special for myself. I was walking along the river Arno, where icy air wafted off the water’s surface. Whenever I felt the cold bite my cheeks, I stopped in cafes that served hot chocolate as rich as melted chocolate bars, smoothed with a spoonful of cream. I was headed for the Ponte Vecchio, a beautiful old bridge lined with jewelry shops. But along the way, a calligraphy and stationary store caught my eye. I decided to stop in.

I once had a friend whose grandmother came from a line of bygone southern aristocrats, and that fine lady possessed many particular qualities, which we no longer see today. She always wrote little notes— her version of e-mail— in exquisite calligraphy on spectacular hand-painted cards. Her thoughtfulness stayed with me, and I have since been drawn to the art of letter writing. Thus, I entered Signum Firenze (Lungarno degli Archibusieri, 14R, 50122 Firenze FI, Italy.)

FLORENCE CALIGRAPHY
PHOTO DRISANA MISRA

The store boasted everything from marionettes, prints, maps, globes, hourglasses, filigreed fountain pens, and bindery. And like an art store, they had nibs of every shape and cartridges of every shade. I chose a gorgeous fountain pen wrapped in Florence’s fleur-de-lis emblem with a silvery blue ink cartridge. The shopkeepers wrapped it as meticulously as one of Santa’s elves.

I couldn’t wait to send home post cards. Calligraphy allows you to gift your aesthetic in greeting to others, and there’s nothing quite like watching a finely wedged nib transform your loving scrawl into embroidery. Stumbling upon Signum reminded me to make room for an art form that used to be a daily ritual, to slow down every now and then and indulge in communicating not just words, but also beauty.

Drisana Misra

Originally from Mountain Brook, AL, Drisana can't travel without a compilation of short stories. Her secret travel tip is, "Write down every reflection, no matter how stupid and even if you think you’ll remember it later."

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