An Italian Holiday

Showroom manager Lisa Mikels and her family tour through Italy, soaking in the country’s splendor, coming back inspired with a touch of renaissance culture.

Traveling inspires and excites us; it allows us to bring a piece of adventure home with us, to incorporate fresh elements and perspective into design, and if we’re lucky, a sense of peace. Recently showroom manager, Lisa Mikels and her family, toured through Italy. She came back invigorated and ready to bring a few changes to the store.

Starting in Florence, Lisa and her family took the train through Northern Italy then down the coast, taking their time to see the details that inspire. The cathedrals and museums, the statues and history called but a designer finds beauty in the every day. The artfully curved stone arches, the cobblestone paths that beckon, doors that are from a different era, boldly colored details and even mailboxes that are truly Old World.

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Cinque Terre, the rugged Italian coastal area that is closed off to cars: paths, trains and boats connect the quaint villages. The six-mile trek between the picturesque towns was perfect in October: Ideal weather and few tourists. The coastal hillsides are dotted with gelato shops and brightly colored villas, are perfect Italy.

“When I think of Italy, one thing stands out… color!” Lisa said. Words don’t do it justice, so feast your eyes on the deep blue waters and spumoni-colored homes.

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San Gimignano, the walled city in the heart of Tuscany, is like no other place on earth with its towers, the sweeping views, the twisted, gnarled branches on the miles of vineyards. But what really grabbed Lisa’s attention were the Gothic and Romanesque architecture and an ancient skyline.

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Farther south is the town of Pisa, known, obviously for its leaning tower, but there is so much more there too. The Fallen Angel Statues in Plaza dei Miracoli (Miracles Square, a name that perfectly fits this place of beauty) created by Polish artist Igor Mitoraj bring the plaza to life. Lisa loved that Italy embraces the juxtaposition of the new with the old: it’s the 950th anniversary of the laying of the Cathedral’s foundation stone. Living in Vail, a town that just recently celebrated 50 years, it’s hard to fathom, even when standing right there.

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Next door is the Pisa Baptistry, a sacred destination, the Romanesque building that was built in the mid-12th century. The largest baptistery is even more  impressive when considering it was completed well before cranes. This type of detail and architecture reminds us what we can do, what is possible and how the littlest details matter in design.


Just when Lisa thought Italy couldn’t be any more beautiful, on the stroll back to the train station, the magic Italian light took her breath away. “This is a beautiful example of a Pisan Gothic church on the right side, Santa Maria della Spina,” she reminisces. All that glitters is not gold but is indeed golden.


Florence, Firenze, the birthplace of the Renaissance, is an artist’s dream city. The colors, the architecture, the people—it’s a feast for your senses. There are so many buildings not to miss, and Lisa managed to capture each one: the fairy-talesque Buontalenti Grotto in the Boboli Gardens—an open air museum that transforms the visitor and encourages lounging, lolly-gagging and latte-sipping.


The Santa Maria Novella stands out with its inlaid green and white marble. The striping shows that religion doesn’t have to be dour. Nearby the Giotto’s Campanille, part of the complex at Piazza del Duomo, is a showpiece of Florentine Gothic architecture with rich sculptural decorations and marble encrustations. It looks like something a child dreamed up with flourishes and details.

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Re-entry can be hard, but Lisa is holding on to the memories and working small details of sculpture and history into her own living space with art and accessories… until her next trip.