By Evan Hughes
Su Misura means “tailor made” in Italian, and the unique sensory experience delivered by the luxury travel company are truly one-of-a-kind.
When Gabriella Contestabile, co-founder of luxury travel company Su Misura, watched her guests—travelers who had booked a “bespoke” vacation experience tailored to their tastes and interests—savor the sights, sounds, scents, and tastes of Florence at an artisans event at the Four Seasons Firenze, she knew it was an early highpoint in her fledgling company’s history. “I saw something more than cursory interest,” she recalls, describing how Su Misura’s guests mingled with the perfumers, jewelry designers, chocolatiers, and leather craftsmen. “I saw a desire to get inside the story, to connect on a human level with that artisan cutting stones using a 15th-century instrument, or a young shoemaker molding leather, or a young woman weave silk on an 18th-century loom.” She sensed a palpable and visceral energy in the room and knew that Su Misura as a concept “had legs.”
It’s totally appropriate that Contestabile’s five senses were key in determining the success of the artisans event. After all, Su Misura was founded by two well-traveled NYC-based women with a deep background in Italian crafts, art, and food. Contestabile’s mother was a seamstress and her father an Italian consulate representative, and she regularly visited her Italian hometown each summer, where the family’s clothing was made by hand. Norma Frassa-McGrody’s parents ran an upscale Greenwich Village eatery, where she learned that food was an art. Su Misura represents its two founders’ artisanal sensibility—the notion that well-made clothing, visual art, perfume, wine, and food are all part of what they have called an “experiential mosaic.”
A typical Su Misura travel experience—between five and 14 days, for groups of six to 12 women—includes lodgings at luxurious JK Place Firenze (Piazza di Santa Maria Novella, 7; jkplace.com) and visits to artisanal perfume-makers, emerging Italian designers (including consultations with stylists and tailors on finding your own personal style), the Oltrarno artisan district, Florence’s oldest silk mill (where the craft of luxury silk-weaving is still practiced and taught), the city’s oldest and most revered leather school, master mosaicists as they create radiant images with colored stones, and even a fashion-forward factory outlet store. Countryside excursions include unforgettable landscapes, castles, the distinctive Tuscan light—chiaroscuro—that has drawn artists to the region for centuries, and a private winery tour and tasting and seasonal olive oil tasting. Museum visits include the legendary Alinari Museum of Photography, the Gucci Museum’s iconic shoes and handbags, the Ufzi’s “secret” collection of Medici art via private tour, the Masac- cio, Lippi, and Masolino frescoes in the Brancacci Chapel; and Florentine must-sees such as the Palazzo Pitti, Boboli Gardens, with your very own art historian accompanying you. Meals—at JK Place and other fine dining locations—include tutorials on entertaining Florentine style and conversation with local artisans, art historians, fashion consultants, and other sensory experts. The Su Misura Daily Passport allows you to strike out on your own and explore a variety of museums, restaurants, artisan studios, and boutiques.
Su Misura’s “bespoke” itineraries are determined by each traveler’s own wishes and priorities via online questions and customized service (see “Bespoke Travel Made Easy,” opposite page). But the trips are much more than a living history lesson. Contestabile is consistently delighted by Florence’s fresh, contemporary vibe. “The Florentines draw on their artisan heritage to craft brilliant and innovative solutions and cutting-edge works of modern art,” she notes, citing such examples as the new Antinary winery, the photography of Massimo Listri, the new opera house, and La Strozzina Center for Contemporary Culture. “This is not so much a surprise to me as an affirmation that art matters; it is the vital thread to our collective consciousness. Art is more than a celebration of the past; it’s a path to a more innovative future.”
If the idea of putting together one-of-a-kind travel experiences for clients who expect the very best seems challenging, you are correct. But Contestabile is inspired rather than daunted. “The biggest challenge is what makes this fun,” she enthuses. “Delving into the desires and expectations of a truly passionate and curious traveler while respecting privacy and spontaneity.” The passionate co-founder of Su Misura must remain nimble and imaginative, and on top of whatever is happening in Florence at any given time. “But that’s why we travel, isn’t it?” she notes. “I once heard the director of Palazzo Strozzi say, ‘One should never walk away from a work of art unchanged.’ It’s the same with travel: We should never come back the way we left.”