For 152 years, Maglia Francesco has been using the same methods to make exquisitely detailed umbrellas, passing the skills and the family traditions down through five generations.
In Italy, consistency is hard to come by. Trains and TV programmes don’t often follow listed times, and governments rarely survive a full term in office. Which makes the feat of Milanese firm Maglia Francesco all the more impressive. Since 1856, the family-run bottega has used the same methods for crafting its stylish umbrellas. “Handmade and never any plastic,” declares Francesco Maglia, waving his index finger to emphasise the point.
Known to everyone as “Chino”, Francesco, together with his brother Giorgio, are the fifth generation to pursue the trade. By tradition, the founder’s name, Francesco, is passed down to male offspring – Giorgio’s son is Francesco VI. The company’s logo, meanwhile, has kept the original format: last name first. “It’s the old-fashioned way,” explains Chino.
Old-school is also the way in which the Maglias go about their work. First, cloth from Como is handcut into panels. Popular patterns include regimental stripes and tartan, but livelier designs do appear. “My English clients are nervous when I propose colour. They prefer black but then they always sell the coloured ones I send in a snap.”
To form the canopy, the panels are stitched together and the edges hemmed. Next, an artisan diligently sews the cloth to each metal rib in three spots – as an extra detail, the crown on the runner is concealed. After this, canopies are hand-steamed to remove creases.
Only the finest wood is used for the handles and shafts, which come in seven lengths. As well as chestnut, cherry, malacca and maple, Maglia Francesco has skilled craftsmen able to work with delicate Japanese bamboo – these parasols are prized in Japan.
Putting the final touches on each brolly are the Cella brothers, Alan and Emanuel. They fit the various handles, which can be covered in calfskin, ostrich feathers or lizard skin on request, onto the umbrellas before the painstaking work of attaching the name plate with the tiniest of nails. Naturally, bespoke orders are not a problem. For a US customer, Chino designed a chic beach brolly that comes with its own canvas carrying case. “These things are hard to find today. The culture of craftsmanship is being lost,” he says. Well, at least not at Maglia Francesco.
Forget mountain treks, it’s the season for a pastoral stroll in the lowlands.
Nothing lifts the spirits and puts the spring back into your autumn step like spending a day outside the city. Eschew heavy hiking in favour of a brisk walk in the foothills, stopping at market towns for lunch and a little rural retail. Tie a scarf around your neck, turn up your collar and fill a knapsack with a few energy enhancers and a sturdy pair of binoculars.
Five semi-strenuous walks
01 Andorra La Vella to Ordino (Andorra)
02 Biella to Trivero (Italy)
03 Bastia to Saint Florent (Corsica)
04 Midhurst to Goodwood (UK)
05 Kita Kamakura to Hase (Japan)
01 Serra Hiker boots by Visvim (JP)
02 Skerry olive Wellington boots by Tretorn, tretorn.com
03 TPS 520 hiking boots by Asolo, asolo.com
04 Back pack by Fjällräven, [fjallraven.se](http:// fjallraven.se)
05 Notebook by Gekkoso, vesta.dti.ne.jp/~gekkoso
06 Quick-aid jelly and Pocari Sweat drinks, Pocky snack and Oronamin C
07 Boot care by Granger’s, grangers.co.uk
08 Flask by Sigg, sigg.ch
09 Hip bag by Porter, yoshidakaban.com
10 Binoculars by Leica, leica-camera.com
11 Face balm and lip salve by Decubal, decubal.dk
12 Penknife by Victorinox, victorinox.com
13 Hat by Sophnet, soph.net
14 Scarf by Drakes London drakes-london.com
15 Kansas jacket by Moncler, moncler.com
16 Woollen trousers by Sophnet