Bringing the Splendor of Florence to Providence
Rhode Island native Joyce Acciaioli Rudge shares Italian art and Florentine soaps in American cities.
You know what they say about people from Rhode Island: We never leave, and if we do, we always come back. When Joyce Acciaioli Rudge finished high school, and after doing a bit of modeling locally and in New York, she decided that – much to the chagrin of her parents – she was going to see as much of the world as she could. That’s not unusual for a teenager; traveling is fun, romantic and exciting. But Joyce chose to stay in Europe, although she keeps at least one foot across the pond in Rhode Island to this day.
While in Florence, Acciaioli Rudge found her calling while working for the Italian government in international cultural affairs.
“My grandparents were artisans and the artisans in Florence weren’t getting any recognition, they were old and their children didn’t want to do what they did because they didn’t see a future in it, so I brought the artisans here,” she says.
Slowly but surely, she gathered hundreds of people to create the first Splendor of Florence Festival in Providence in 1999, showcasing artisans, artists, musicians and more, all from the city of Florence, Italy. She even managed to persuade the Uffizi Gallery to loan a few paintings to the festival – something they’ve never done, unless to another museum.
The Splendor of Florence Festival was a rousing success, and then it traveled to Philadelphia – a sister city of Florence – in 2001, followed by a trip to Manhattan in 2004. Spread all across the city, and concentrated around Ground Zero, the festival carried on. Acciaioli Rudge got many offers from other cities to move the festival around the country, but she decided that it was time to move onto something else.
After the festival, while back in Florence, she felt the desire to develop a product that would help and recognize the city further. The final idea was Splendor of Florence, a luxury line of soaps and candles that, from the beginning to the end of production, is “only ever touched by Florentine hands,” according to Acciaioli Rudge.
After creating artisanal soaps with the help of a master craftsman in Italy, Acciaioli Rudge created a custom fragrance to go with it. She worked with a perfumer in Florence to find the right scent while taking long walks through the gardens of Tuscany. Acciaioli Rudge tried to translate the aroma into the Splendor Of Florence fragrance. When the pair found the right scent, Acciaioli Rudge named it “Passeggiata,” which is Italian for “a walk or a stroll,” the olfactory memory of her time wandering through the gardens.
So what’s next for Acciaioli Rudge?
Her soaps are available locally at Wendy Brown Home in Providence, the Cottage in Tiverton, Daisy Dig’ins in Barrington, Contemporary Classics in North Providence and the Wickford Collection in Wickford. She also has plans to resurrect the Splendor of Florence festival in 2020, though, for now, the project and location is very secret.
“What I can tell you is that we’re hoping to put the festival on in a university setting, open to the public, but geared towards students who are interested in art and music, and hopefully, we can set up exchanges and send students to Florence to study,” she says.
Joyce Acciaioli Rudge loves what she does and will continue to spread her love of art, history, music and culture through the world, and especially, her home state of Rhode Island. Pick up some of her soaps locally and you’ll soak up her inspiration too. splendorofflorence.com