In a land with copious amounts of tomatoes, pasta, and gelato, most travelers’ response is: “it’s the best I’ve ever had in my life!” Italy is the fifth most visited country by tourists in the world with 48.6 million tourists per year (2014). Surely, we can learn from them – they’re doing something right!

Growing up in an Italian home, comprised of 50% Sicilian blood, Italy has always been a dream vacation for me. Turns out Italy was only a short and relatively inexpensive plane ticket from Israel, so this summer it became a reality for me.

Business was clearly booming as we visited during the peak tourist month of the year, July. I would have loved to visit in a less busy month to observe the true flow of business, but I’ll take what I can get. Walking the streets of Florence and Rome you’ll see essentially the same businesses with different faces. Gelato upon gelato shop, espresso stands, and of course Italian-made products – purses, suits, and leather everything! The first city we visited was Florence and I was itching to buy a new purse, but the streets (even the ground – literally!) was teaming with leather purses. I didn’t know how to tell what was authentic and what was a tourist trap! So naturally, I didn’t buy anything.

A couple of days later we arrived in Orvieto. Turns out, this quaint picturesque town was my favorite stop in Italy. A dear college friend, Hannah, moved to Orvieto to marry her Italian husband. Naturally, I needed to see her in her new habitat while I was nearby!

Hannah and Frederico own a leather shop in Orvieto named after him – Frederico Badia – and I’m telling you, it is amazing. In the video below they introduce themselves and talk about how they started their family business.

My first question to them (among a million) was “how do you set yourselves apart from the other leather shops in Italy?” They both proudly answered: quality. It takes Frederico nearly 60 hours to create one pair of shoes. I can’t even imagine spending that long on one item!

In a world where craftsmanship can easily rely on shortcuts to boost efficiency (and possibly sales), Frederico explained, a true artist keeps his product 100% authentic with the highest quality possible.

I thought about this a lot, especially as Italy repeats its products on each street corner. This concept should also apply to business. Find your niche and do it well. Don’t overextend yourself with too many products or concepts. Keep it simple and do it well.

Frederico told me about his customer base – the types of people that typically purchase his beautiful work. Find yours! Identify who your customers are, who you want them to be, and cater your marketing and brand around that base.

It is ever important in an oversaturated market to find your niche, provide the highest quality item, and sell to your specific customer base. Stay focused and take pride.

Federico Badia, Orvieto, Italy: Quality Leather Craftmanship Federico Badia, Orvieto, Italy: Quality Leather Craftmanship Federico Badia, Orvieto, Italy: Quality Leather Craftmanship

Federico Badia, Orvieto, Italy: Quality Leather Craftmanship

The wind report didn’t look promising. I read there would be a whopping 5 knots of breeze and maybe even a bit of overcast skies on this September day. For all of you non-sailors, that would equate to a great day for other land lubber endeavors such as mowing the grass, fishing, or more painfully…golfing! For months, I had been anticipating this opportunity to shoot the 37th Classic Yacht Regatta in Newport with the great Onne van der Wal and learn from one of the most respected artists in the trade. We left the dock a bit skeptically and decided to make the most of the day. As the postponement flag was raised, I pulled out my Canon camera and proceeded to snap away at anything that would move patiently waiting for the cool sensation of breeze on my neck to fill these tall sails. As the wind came and the starting guns went off, I soon felt a bit inadequate in lens size as some of my compatriots in this class pulled out their whoppers! I giggled… I was not going to let size rule over subject matter. I knew what I was shooting; I let the sailor in me take charge of the artistic composition and kept my finger on the trigger.

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With all the technology in the world on foiling cats these beautiful hulls and rigs reflecting in the water in a simple photo prove that there is no substitute for true craftsmanship and the eye of an artist.

 

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During the shoot, Onne graciously came over and lent me his larger lens and faster camera so I could test run some new equipment. What I find most amusing, however is that my money shot (above) was made using my run of the mill 55-250mm lens when no one else was looking!

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Rounding the #12 red bell in front of Rose Island Light House.

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A sailor is an artist whose medium is the wind.
– Webb Chiles