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Sophie Habsburg and Violante Guerrieri Gonzaga chatting over a cup of tea in Violante’s lovely drawing room

text Sophie Habsburg photo Valentina Stefanelli

December 14, 2023

Violante Guerrieri Gonzaga, queen of Roman hospitality

Sophie Habsburg interviews her friend Violante Guerrieri Gonzaga, her ‘next-door neighbour’ in the historic Palazzo Taverna

Sometimes life brings with it happy coincidences. This was the case with the meeting between me and Violante Guerrieri Gonzaga, neighbours in life - we both live in the historic Palazzo Taverna - and in work, with our shops - I with bags, she with tableware design - almost opposite one another in via degli Orsini. Our daughters who attended the same school, the smiles and the first greetings from our terraces overlooking Rome from a unique perspective. This is how a friendship was born, based on a shared passion for beauty and for our city. And it was admiring it once again, from the terrace that Violante transformed into the Roman open-air living room most loved by the international jet set - that my dear friend told me about her most special Rome.

Violante and Sophie pictured together in Sophie’s bag shop

Sometimes I think back to your story and wonder, how did you have the idea of expressing your love for beauty in tableware collections, events, cooking lessons and table settings?

After graduating from the Academy of Fine Arts, I looked for a way to combine my greatest passions, which are painting and cooking. So, I started holding the first cooking lessons with a view of Rome, which soon became a success also with celebrities.

A breath-taking view of Rome from Violante’s panoramic terrace

Yes, I remember, Cindy Crawford, Angelina Jolie…

That’s right, Michelle Pfeiffer, Chiara Ferragni, Totti and Ilary Blasi... Taking Kristen Stewart to the market in Campo de’ Fiori, with all the fans crowding around her, was a real feat!

An encounter that you remember with particular fondness?

Among the many I think of Piero Angela, a truly unique and likeable person.

Violante’s dining room

From you I learned that tablescaping is a real art, or rather, a ritual.

The table is an intimate moment of sharing. This is why my terrace among the rooftops of Rome is the ideal place, a home surrounded by beauty. And every occasion has its own tablescape. I like playing with colours and combining them with the flavours and aromas of dishes but also flowers, an innate love that I inherited from my grandmother, who loved taking care of our garden and, like me, welcoming guests and making them feel special. My father pampered them with his wines from our estate in Trentino (Tenuta San Leonardo, ed.). This is the atmosphere in which I grew up and which today is reflected both in my tableware collections and in my events and cooking experiences. Even the recipes I propose are family memories that I gladly share with my guests.

How did the first Vio’s collection originate?

I have always painted porcelain, fascinated by my family’s beautiful tableware. A real collection, which I also contributed to enriching. Then, with the forced lockdown due to Covid, I was able to dedicate more time to this passion, creating entire sets that my guests immediately liked. So I expanded my production and created Vio’s, entirely Made in Italy lines with which I then enjoy creating ever-changing tables for my events. I like to combine styles, while maintaining a visible leitmotif in each collection, combining glasses, coasters, cutlery, plates, tablecloths and so on. So that everything is perfectly harmonious.

Violante Guerrieri Gonzaga in her homeware shop

Speaking of Rome, what are your favourite places?

I love Piazza Navona and its unique light, and I really enjoy browsing through the small shops on Via dei Coronari.

Where are we going for dinner?

Osteria Da Francesco or Il Corallo, with one of your beautiful Salander bags, and tomorrow to my house, of course.

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