Danella Lucioni @windowtotheduomo | The Florentine

Danella Lucioni @windowtotheduomo

Jane farrell

November 3, 2021 – 10:21 AM

People speak of a “room with a view” at an almost exhausting level (inevitable in Florence), but facing Brunelleschi’s Duomo at a distance that seems to be palpable, how not to be breathless by the beauty? The creator behind one of the city’s most coveted spaces, Peruvian American artist and designer Danella Lucioni, reveals the backstory of Italy’s most “loved” Airbnb in 2020 “Window to the Duomo” and its Antelux and Astrum Penthouse apartments. As Danella’s rescue cat, Apple (insta-famous single-handedly @ the.florence.kitty) purrs from a white sofa and a breeze breaks through the famous window, we discuss the 13th-century building and the carefully organized atmosphere.

Jane Farrell: How did you come to Florence?

Danella Lucioni: I studied abroad, like so many others. I haven’t thought about it too much. I was 19 and my school offered three choices: Paris, London or Florence, and I felt connected to Italy because I have Italian ancestors. Afterwards, when I was back home, I saw a picture of the piazzale Michelangelo and my heart skipped a beat, like an old lover who we never got over. I felt like I needed to finish what I had started, so 9 years later I bought a one-way ticket and jumped into a new life in Florence.

Ardium is the studio with a spectacular view of the Duomo specially designed for solo travelers. There is a practicality to this, given the size of the space, but are there other considerations or values ​​behind this decision?

This space has evolved: first, it was because of the size, but I could technically sleep three people here. I don’t want people to be distracted when they visit. I’ve seen people cry when they tell me about their stay, saying that their stay here alone was like a recharge, almost like a transformation. I did not purposely install a television or any kind of entertainment except books and painting supplies.

It is a creative space.

Are you spiritual in any way?

I am not religious and am not interested in horoscopes, but I strongly believe that there is an aura here. I look like a total hippie now, but I’m not the only one who felt it. There is just something beautiful about the energy. This building dates from the 1200s and I can’t imagine everything that happened here: Leonardo da Vinci lived on this street, Dante probably passed here. I don’t think the Renaissance happening in Florence was a mistake. There is a kind of energy that brings people together. I know a lot of people who moved here after their visit because they felt like they were called.

You shared that vibe with people by allowing them to come here and take pictures. What was the reaction to this?

Some people, and I can sense it, just come here to “like” them, to have leverage on social media. But for the most part, the people I have allowed (because I hand-select them) come here and really appreciate it and are blown away by the view and the beauty of the Duomo.

Ph / Marco Badiani

Antelux is the largest space on the second floor (all apartments are in the same building) which has recently been launched as a ‘dynamic’ B&B, two apartments which can be combined into a larger one. How did it happen?

I lived in the building and my neighbor on the second floor had a dentist’s office, which he has been since the 1800s. When the owner retired, I made an offer. I wanted to restore this place to its former glory and I wanted to keep its soul. Florence must be protected, so I kept everything as much as possible. The rooms face the Duomo, and from the other windows and balconies you look at the Baptistery. I was working on the wall and accidentally discovered a fresco! The dental office had been slightly remodeled in the 70s but not since then so we started discovering artefacts from the 1800s and then I added a lot of pieces that I got from my antique shops and have found in local markets such as piazza della Libertà, Santo Spirito, Sant’Ambrogio and Arezzo. I did a lot of the work myself as I started in January 2020 and then the pandemic hit. We had to replace all the shutters, but I couldn’t bear to throw them away, so I turned some into a closet and another into a bed frame. I also made a work of art from the Murano glass of the old windows, and I designed and created the olive wood countertops. I call these apartments ‘vibrant’ because I plan to use them for events such as pop-up dinners, micro-weddings, photo ops, classes, and art exhibitions involving local artists. I really want as many people as possible to be able to use this space.

How did the name Antelux come about?

The name Antelux came up during the pandemic because I was in a very dark place. During the pandemic, although it was peaceful at times, it was strange how empty the place was and the sound of silence was shocking. I heard a fly fly and I heard the windows slam from the bells ringing and the lack of people. Ante means “before” in Latin and lux means “light”, so it was “before the light”. I knew we would get over it eventually, but we weren’t there yet and I was in the dark. Now it feels like you’re almost out of the tunnel. Many of us have had dreams that were crushed or interrupted, and there was a feeling of collective depression, but yet there was hope, and I looked out the window and thought about how the Renaissance happened here for a reason: we can have a Renaissance 2.0.

Social media thrives in spectacular environments like this, but the truth behind it can often be so different. Where does over-exaggeration of beauty become a problem and where does over-criticism become a problem as well?

I know there are a lot of people who will look at Instagram and TikTok and think, It’s amazing, I’m moving to Italy, especially when they look at mine and see how I fell in love with the Duomo. I say to all my friends who want to move to Florence: you will clean the toilet, you will babysit until there is no tomorrow, you will do random chores until you can get up. Nobody paints a picture of those who come here and don’t get the career you envisioned. You have to work from scratch, especially when you don’t know the language. You can of course telecommute and there are a number of jobs available when you start. I was selling water bottles right under that window! When I first moved here I was embarrassed and didn’t want to tell anyone about what I was doing here because I thought people would think, This model from LA came to make it big and watch what she does, but now I’m talking about it because it’s something that I have overcome. If you are moving to Italy on your own, you need courage to make it work. People love to romanticize Florence, quite understandable because how not? There are good and bad in every city and you basically have to choose what is good enough for you and what is not too good for you.

Do you have a favorite Florentine?

All the Florentine women who are fighting to change society and their city for the better, who have voluntarily stayed to make Florence a better place.

Favorite place in Florence?

Well, I’m extremely biased to say my studio, but the other place I’m happiest in Florence is in San Miniato. This is where I find peace.

Favorite place to visit in Tuscany?

Places I haven’t been to yet! I still have so much to discover.

Favorite place for an aperitif?

I like to picnic at the Rose Garden.

Join us on The Florentineon Instagram at 5 p.m. on November 9 for an IG live with Danella Lucioni.

See @windowtotheduomo, @justdanella, @AnteluxFirenze, @AstrumPenthouse, @ArdiumStudio, @ the.florence.kitty and www.ardiumstudio.com.

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