1774. Those four digits below the name Pineider don't look all that significant, but close to a quarter of a millennium for a brand is no mean feat. From when Francesco Pineider left the snowy Germanic Alpine region of Val Gardena, emigrated to Florence and set up shop, there was time for the American, French, Russian and Industrial revolutions, the rise and fall of Napoleon, steam trains, the invention of electricity, Italian independence, not to mention a host of other important things such as Dr. House and flared jeans. Francesco had learned the craft of engraving on wood and metal, but in his native valley there wasn't much call for these trades and so he left for Florence, whose wealth and culture were perfect for his ambitions. From his store in Piazza della Signoria, he became supplier to the aristocracy first in Florence and then the whole of Europe and beyond. Pineider letterheads, pens and sealing wax became de rigueur for anyone with a family crest.
Pineider and its three pilasters
The Pineider story hasn't been a bed of roses. When the river Arno broke its banks in 1966, the muddy waters flooded the shop and its cellars, destroying its precious archives. They have had a more difficult problem over the last two decades: a company that makes writing paper and pens is working in a niche that is getting progressively smaller as more and more people progressively rely on touchpads and T9 dictionaries to communicate. This year, the company has launched a remarkable series of new products, firmly grounded on three pilasters.
Pineider's points of strengths are its history, its artisanal culture, and its design prowess. Its history comprises countless anecdotes, such as the light blue letter-paper commissioned by Liz Taylor, the same hue as her eyes. The brand’s customers include many familiar names, from Barack Obama to Angela Merkel, from Giorgio Armani to Valentino, from Asia Argento to Ridley Scott. Their pens have been used to sign treaties and armistices, and they are routinely requested for cinema productions in which scenes featuring momentous signatures play an important part.
But history is the past, and Pineider has its eyes focused on the present and future. Its precious heritage of artisanal skill is what sets the brand apart from its competitors. Its pens and products in paper and leather are all made in-house, including some super-specialized trades such as nib engraving. Everything is made in Tuscany.
Contemporary products ideal for the modern traveller
Pineider's designers have brought the brand rapidly up to date. The latest capsule collection of leather goods, to be presented in October ready for launch in spring 2018, has introduced some new contemporary colours such as orange and turquoise in addition to its traditional black, brown and the classic Pineider dark green. The lines of its briefcases and weekenders have become softer and sexier, and its duffle bag looks like becoming an outright best-seller. In sumptuous butter-soft leather, it is packed with thoughtful touches, such as the top-strap – in addition to the usual two handles and shoulder-strap – ideal for carrying the bag close to your shoulder when you are running to your gate in the airport. Hardware is robust and reliable. Every bag is comprehensively accessorized, including things like pencil cases and pouches for business cards. In short, they are products that become part of your life, and age with grace and beauty, the leather responding to your own habits to make something that is entirely your own.
A unique boutique experience in Florence
A visit to Pineider in its native Florence is highly recommended. No longer in Piazza Signoria, the boutique is now in Piazza de' Rucellai, close to the top shopping streets of the city. Inside, it's a multi-sensorial experience, with the fragrance of quality leather, its different textures to be explored with your fingertips, the exquisite colours, and the subtle sounds of the pens. Just try opening the fountain pen, or operating the propelling pencil. The mechanisms are smooth and precise, actions that give you a moment's supreme pleasure analogous to winding a mechanical watch. Pineider's products are not cheap, but they're not the most expensive either. They are realistically-priced, and purchasers immediately understand their value in terms of the artisanal processes involved in their production.
In addition to the boutique in Florence, Pineider can be found in Rome, Milan, and soon with shop-in-shops in New York and Tokyo. The brand's management have no intention of expanding beyond their capacity. And they are quietly enjoying today's growing trend of a return to tradition – from wet shaves to vinyl records – that suggests that connoisseurs will still be enjoying the feel of a fine nib sliding across quality paper on a leather desk-set many years from now.
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Pineider store details
Piazza de' Rucellai, 4/7 R
tel. +39 055 284 656
Open Mon-Sat 10.00-19.00
Via dei Due Macelli, 68
tel. +39 06 6789 013
Open Mon-Sat 10.00-19.00
Via della Fontanella Borghese, 22
tel. +39 06 6878 369
Open Mon-Sat 10.00-14.00 / 15.00-19.00
For more ideas on how to Do, Dine and Spend in Florence and beyond, visit our Destinations pages.