A Conversation with Marco Campomaggi

One of my goals for this trip to Italy was to meet with Marco Campomaggi. I love his bags so much that I wanted to ask him about how he got his inspiration–something I did not get to do when I visited last year.

I’ve been selling Italian leather bags for a few years now and I had tried unisex bags and briefcases. But I had never fallen in love with one until I tried my Colombo. Because of its shape, the Colombo is extremely comfortable to wear, although it is a bit heavy. But the weight comes from its rugged genuine leather.

On the last day of the fair I saw Marco at the booth and asked him about his line. He told me that when the Emergenti Italiani business started running profitably he was finally able to take a moment and start a project that did not absolutely have to succeed financially.

Mr. Campomaggi told me that this freedom removed any boundaries to his creativity and that is how he came up with the current line of bags which is built around the patented dying process he conceived in which the bags are dyed after they are completed. As to the design of his bags, he looked back at his first days in the business: the days when he was still in school and selling his creations from the sidewalks of the seaside towns of the Riviera Romagnola.

To me, this seems to be one of those cases in which a genius is allowed to express itself fully. Marco’s bags are tremendously successful and even a lot of his competitors saw the bag I was wearing, praised his work and one even wished that he had come up with the concept. At the show, I have already found some imitators. But imitations should be easy to spot: Campomaggi bags are not cheap.

To the Fair, and Beware!

It’s our first day to the fair. Milan’s newer fair complex in Rho is truly gigantic and I haven’t been to a fair that filled it to capacity, yet. It is conveniently connected via metro and train, so we chose to take the metro. We buy enough tickets to last us through both fairs and were given tickets that appeared to be good in the entire city, plus the two extra stops to go from the edge of town to Rho. They cost 1.60 Euros instead of the 1 Euro cost for the regular ticket that lets you ride inside the city limits only.

So what did I find out on the last day of our stay in Milan? That those ATM tickets are only good on the line 1 of the Metro. That’s it! You can’t ride any buses or metro lines 2 and 3 with that ticket. The ticket that lets you have it all is 2.60 Euro and there is a round trip ticket worth 2 rides for 4.00 Euros. Hint: for 2.65 Euro you can catch a train that only takes 15 minutes to Rho Fiera from stazione Centrale.
Gianni 1981
Once Gianni let us in at the fair we had access to all of the different pavillions, but, first things first, we went to catch up with our friends Gianni and Pina, checked out their new products, let them offer us an Illy espresso from the machine in the back of the booth, and exchange our stories of the year. I am particularly fascinated by Gianni’s experiences because he fell in love with leather when he was 20-years-old, created some bags, successfully tried to sell them from the back of his Vespa by touring from town to town around Italy. He never looked back.

Ten Minutes Late: Not Bad!

We landed in Fiumicino about on time, we got our luggage and started lugging towards the train tracks to catch the link to Roma Termini. On the way we decided to see if any of the foreign exchange companies didn’t charge a monstrous fee, but our fears were confirmed: at a time when the exchange rate is below 1.3 we were not able to find better than 1.69… A 30% fee… Ouch! Note to self: at the end of the trip make sure to bring back at least 100 Euros, maybe 200 for comfort.

After a 30 minute ride we got to Roma Termini. Here are a few things I did not know:

  1. The tracks for the train going to Fiumicino are a good 500 meters (I would say 1 km. but you wouldn’t believe me if I said that) from the head of the station where the ticket counters and restaurants are. I did not even know that Roma Termini was a terminal type station where trains end their ride in one direction and have to leave in the opposite.
  2. There is an underground moving walkway that will take you towards the head of the station. You will also see tunnels to take you to the other tracks. If you are carrying approximately your body weight in luggage and have a 2-year-old with you, don’t do what I decided to do: cut across to get to track 4 where our train to Milan was to leave. That was a bad decision because there are, of course, no escalators to take you back up to the tracks. But, it turns out, there was another unbelievable reason why that was a bad decision: some workers were on strike and the doors from the tunnel to tracks 2-9 where closed shut! I wasn’t sure why but the Roman gods were not smiling at me. We took the exit at the end of the tunnel and for a moment could not figure out what to do. We were still so far from the head of the station that I could not see it. Eventually we got there.

We had some time to kill because we had booked for 3PM just to be sure that we could make it. By the way, I couldn’t book tickets through trenitalia.com from the States: I had to enlist the help of a good friend.

After lunch we boarded. There is no room for big luggage above the seats. Luckily there is a luggage compartment at the beginning of the car, but it is not too big. We had to put ours at the very top and then it was full.

We had booked two seats that were next to each other thanks to the fact that my friend knew how seats are distributed. The numbering system is designed to confuse you. Seats 1, 2, and 3 are on the left side. Seat 1 is window facing forward, 2 is window facing back, 3 is aisle facing forward. Seats 4-7 are on the right side. Seat 4 is aisle facing back, seat 5 is window facing forward, seat 6 is window facing back, and seat 7 is aisle facing forward. Seat 8 is on the left side aisle facing back. So, the seats that are close together are: 1 and 3; 2 and 8; 4 and 6; and 5 and 7.

The ride was very smooth and fast with no stops. It did not feel like the train was moving very fast but I realized we were zoom-zooming when we were smoking the fancy cars in the fast lane in the nearby autostrada. In case you plan to race the Frecciarossa, keep in mind that the speed limit is 130 km/h and there is a system for tracking your speed. If the train’s average speed must be around 170 km/h to cover the distance in 3 hours, we must have been doing close to 200 km/h in this flat, straight stretch. It felt really good, especially knowing that this method of traveling emits far less CO2 than driving or flying.

We got there 10 minutes late. Accepted Trenitalia’s apologies (it takes a 30 minute late arrival to ask for a free ticket) and embraced my dear family and friends. I thanked progress for shortening the trip.