Finally, we stop at Vincenzo De Cotiis’s spectacular palazzo in Pietrasanta. Claudia Rose tells us the story of how she came across it and made it one of Vincenzo’s projects. “We fell in love with this palazzo the instant we discovered it,” she says. “We were fascinated by the traces of time that had etched themselves in the architecture. We discovered more and more details and colours. The perfection of the ‘unfinished’ appealed to us. We loved finding ourselves in an enchanting setting, surrounded by silence and light. It was almost monastic.” And that’s exactly what the palazzo was in its eventful past. Built in the 18th century, the building functioned as a nunnery, but also as the home of the artist Antonio Digerini, who particularly shaped it. Art has thus always been written into the DNA of the palazzo. Paintings from the Wilhelminian period adorn the walls in the large third-floor living room. De Cotiis added a work by the artist Felix Schramm to the collection; one especially designed for the place, appearing to fall dramatically out of the ceiling.
Vincenzo De Cotiis first made his name as an interior designer. He founded his own company and gallery with his wife in 1997, marketing De Cotiis’s collectible designs. The sculptural language of form and the special materials he uses to build them lend an unmistakable flair to his creations.
Materials are also an important feature in the region around Pietrasanta. Marble has been quarried in the foothills of the Apuan Alps above nearby Carrara for the whole world ever since the end of the Roman Republic. This noble construction material can be seen everywhere in the town of Pietrasanta. A marble skate park already welcomes visitors on the outskirts of the city. Michelangelo was a regular visitor to Pietrasanta to buy marble for his Florentine and Roman workshops, as was Leonardo da Vinci. Today, the Colombian art world star Fernando Botero lives in Pietrasanta. As does De Cotiis himself.
The architect reclines on the couch in a living room on the fourth floor of the house. “My wife and I have spent our summer holidays here since we were young,” he says. “Pietrasanta is a very special, exclusive pearl of Tuscany. It has a unique and magical ambiance that is difficult to describe. It rests on a hill, surrounded by mountains and ancient Roman architecture. And I really love that this attracts creative people.” De Cotiis’s designs are sought after, and he sells not only individual objects but also the interior design for entire houses. City flats, villas and houses around Milan and the world are discreetly filled with his creations. In reality, though, they almost seem too valuable and inspiring for only a few to have the privilege of living with them. They epitomise Italian nonchalance, a sense of surface beauty embedded in the DNA of Italian culture, and a belief in human creativity. “We wanted to uncover original materials and colours. Each new object is tailored to its surroundings and complements works by other artists. We handled the original architecture with tremendous respect, aiming to preserve and restore as many original parts as possible. I used many materials from the region for my work, such as different types of cipollino and breccia – natural marble-like stones.” Or real marble itself. “In the studio, I incorporate recycled and new fibreglass, as well as glass, stone and metals. The combination makes the object act as a new organic amalgam. I try to merge materials that at first glance do not seem to belong together, but form a unity in the finished object,” says De Cotiis. “My goal is to create something timeless.”
Portofino’s pure idyll embodies Plato’s philosophy. A place far removed from reality for most of us, a place only in films or memories, yet here it is. Of course, all this is the perfect setting for the Mercedes-Maybach S 580, which now gleams in the evening sun. The light refracts all the colours of the rainbow in its black paintwork, which is also where the beauty of the surface and the feeling of depth unfold. As with Vincenzo De Cotiis’s art, it is details such as the subtle complexity of the materials that create sensual multiple layers. As if it were telling stories. Those already written, but also those yet to be committed to paper – both by those who live with De Cotiis’s artworks and those who drive a Maybach. Both pure enrichment.