An instagram DM, an invitation to visit Solomeo and a dream come true.
I received an instagram DM, it was @brunellocucinelli. Inside was an invitation to visit Solomeo, the heart of Brunello Cucinelli. Of all the places and things I could do in Italy, this was at the top of the list. Now I was going.
I arrived in Perugia. After all, Solomeo is only a village. Trains don't go there, and I think they like it that way.
Federico was waiting for me at the train station. The same day I was in Solomeo there was a Mongolian embassy, another group of American's sat adjacent to me at the on-site restaurant and others experiencing the headquarters of 'New Humanism,' Brunello Cucinelli.
My first experience with Brunello Cucinelli was an article extolling the virtues of this philosophical business. It began with the innovative idea of dyeing cashmere and selling sweaters to women. With early success and steady growth the brand is now worth more than $1 billion.
Brunello Cucinelli purchased the castle in Solomeo, the town of his wife's childhood and the place that consumed his passion. He renovated the Hamlet, the castle, the church and invested in building an amphitheater and theater on the Hamlet grounds. Recently he has built a soccer stadium for the community of Solomeo and is working on a passion project to clear out defunct factories from the 80's to restore the beautiful landscape.
I'm reminded of the myth of the Du Ponts. Their massive wealth was invested in the landscape around their homes, in architecture in paying decent wages and protecting the natural beauty of the Brandywine River Valley area.
Standing in the halls and paths of the Hamlet is like standing in a land out of time. That illusion is broken when you come upon the modern Brunello Cucinelli store inside the castle and the very modern offices that were recently built in the shadow of the Hamlet. The distraction is forgiven when you dwell on the investment and effort that has gone into re-creating this small corner of Italy.
My tour of the Hamlet was short and I wished I could have stayed for days, soaking in the architecture, soaking in the history, soaking in the energy, soaking in the view. On the tour I saw the schools of artisanal crafts which now live in the castle. We walked through the classes of cutting, sewing and tailoring.
Brunello Cucinelli provides tuition to the students which covers the vast majority of the costs. The intent is to maintain the knowledge of these traditional skills. There are also agriculture and masonry schools where students are given practical training maintaining the Hamlet.
My visit overlapped with lunch. All of the employees have an hour and half lunch break and all are highly encouraged to use it. Lunch is subsidized in the on-site restaurant where it's always an all you can eat buffet.
We sat down at a long table where food began to magically appear before us. The food is cooked fresh each day. The olive oil is produced in Solomeo from a nearby orchard and the olive trees on the grounds of the Hamlet. There is also a vineyard in the village.
This day lunch was a classic Italian pasta. I want to say it was Pasta in Bianco but someone is surely reeling at reading that. There was wine and vegetables roasted in bread crumbs. To finish the meal we had crostada with coffee.
Aside from the generous lunch, the office shuts down at 5pm sharp. Lights go out and employees are 'encouraged' to leave. Emails are eschewed for phone calls. The idea is to have a balance between work and life and to be as human-centered as possible.
The Brunello Cucinelli Creed
"I believe in a humanist enterprise: business should comply in the noblest manner with all the rules of ethics that man has devised over the centuries. I dream about a form of modern capitalism with strong ancient roots, where profit is made without harm or offence to anyone, and part of it is set aside for initiatives that really make a difference in people's lives: services, schools, places of worship and cultural heritage. In my organization the focal point is the common good, which is the guiding force in pursuing prudent and courageous actions. In my business, people are at the very center of every production process, because I am convinced that human dignity is restored solely through rediscovery of the conscience. Work elevates human dignity and the emotional ties that derive from it. On my daily path I heed the words of giants from the past, from Socrates and Seneca to Marcus Aurelius and Alexander the Great." -BrunelloCucinelli.com
I hold back any criticism due to my blind love for the brand. I have drunk the koolaid, I have sipped the wine I have the BC bug. By nature I lack any objectivity. My loyalty is fierce. I hope that my passion for the brand holds to be a sound investment and that I can continue to share my respect of Brunello Cucinelli.
After a short day, a packed day, a day that fulfilled a dream of mine I was headed home to Rome. I left with a gift. In what is a measure of the care that the Brunello Cucinelli team invests in people this gift was a perfect fit for me. It included plain paper journals, pencils, an eraser and a ruler. It felt a little like going to the art store and purchasing a drawing starter kit, but very very luxurious. They get me.
Purchase the 'Sunflowerman x Solomeo' print.