Our Artisans and Their Products

We got the look!

Laser-Cut Hobo Laser-Cut Tote

On my recent trip to Italy, I had the chance to take a look and compare the hottest spring 2011 trends with our women’s handbags collection.

I was pleasantly surprised to find out that laser-cut designs were simply everywhere!! They were on leather but also on fabric bags, and they made me immediately think about the new Caterina Lucchi bags we carry.

A lot of laser work, but also flower attachments and decorations adorned bags often very simple and linear in shape. I didn’t notice any predominant color, but the summery shades of whites, greys, and light pastel colors were all there.

After a few days, walking down the streets of a very fashionable medieval town, I recognized our Laser-Cut Tote on display in one of the high end boutiques there…

It was exactly in the Seafoam Grey color that we carry at and for a second it felt like it was a joke from my co-workers:)!

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True Artisanship

Fusilli alla Siciliana

Fusilli alla Siciliana

I do go to Sicily and have never seen this recipe there, but whether it is authentic or not (I would like to find out what you think), I truly love it and everyone that has had it has complimented me for it. It is the lengthiest recipe in my arsenal so far. I have to allow two hours for it, but it is definitely worth it. If it shouldn’t be called Fusilli alla Siciliana, what should its name be?


1 pack of Fusilli
1 About 25 pitted black olives – more ok
5 anchovies (fillets)
4 cloves of garlic
1 Red Pepper
1 Eggplant
1 Tablespoon Capers
1 kg Roma Tomatoes
1 Tablespoon Parsley
4 Tablespoons Olive Oil – more ok
5 Minced Peperoncini (small red hot peppers) – less ok
Salt to taste
Pepper to taste


  1. Peel the eggplant and cut it in small cubes (1/2 inch max). Sprinkle some coarse salt and apply a weight over it. This will rid any bitter taste. I don’t overdo this step.
  2. Char the red pepper’s peel by placing in over a flame. Otherwise bake in the oven for 30-45 minutes until the peel separates. Eliminate the peel. I do this at 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  3. Clean the anchovies (remove any bones).
  4. Wash the tomatoes and cut up. I always boil the tomatoes, peel them and cut up. My method requires that I purchase more than the suggested 1kg. It is also time consuming but worth it!
  5. In a large pan sauté the garlic in the olive oil. The recipe says to eliminate the garlic, but I leave it in.
  6. Add the eggplant cubes and let them cook a little while.
  7. Add the cut up tomatoes and cook for 15 minutes (medium heat).
  8. When the 15 minutes are up, add to the sauce the chopped red pepper, the capers, the anchovies, and the chopped olives. Cook for another 15 minutes.
  9. This is a good moment to boil the water for the fusilli.
  10. Before removing the sauce pan from the fire, add the minced parsley and minced pepperoncino.
  11. Mix the drained fusilli with the sauce and serve in deep pasta dishes. Eat while hot!
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Marcopoloni, the Tiny Business Our Artisans and Their Products

How Your Feedback Helps: Two Examples

Too often, a company will post an insincere comment about how they value their customers’ feedback, etc., but in reality, when you offer your opinion or suggestion, you get an apathetic “Uh-huh, OK.” in return.

At Marcopoloni, we want to let our customers know that we really DO listen, and DO take your feedback seriously! Here are just two examples from this week of how your feedback helps:

Case  #1 – the Aching Shoulder

A few days ago, a gentleman who had purchased our Storia Leather Messenger Bag called to tell us how he absolutely loves his new bag.

“Do you sell a matching leather shoulder pad to go on the strap?” he asked. He carries a lot of things in his bag, and with a 1.5-hr commute, his shoulder can understandably get pretty sore. I had to tell the gentleman that unfortunately, Dionigi (the folks in Italy who make the bag) currently does not make any leather shoulder pads, but I thought it would be a great idea, and that we will see what we can do about it.

So I told Daniele about this exchange, and he has initiated a dialogue with Dionigi to discuss a potential new product design. Now, it’s not like we would have a new shoulder pad to offer anytime soon – these things take quite a while to plan, design, model, test, and produce – but it is an exciting project nonetheless. I hope to some day be able to call our Storia owner with some good news.

Case #2 – an Elderly-Friendly Coin Purse

This morning I took a call from a nice woman needing to return Gianni’s Tacco leather coin purse that she had purchased for her father. “The coin purse is beautiful, but it’s just not going to work for my dad,” she said, sadly. Her fear was that without a solid wall to stop the coins from spilling, her father, at 91 years old, may tilt the coin purse too far and the coins would all fall out.

This made sense to me … the coin purse she had purchased does have a soft lip that helps prevent the coins from falling out, but I can see how she would be worried for her elderly father. In fact, we had evaluated a few of the high-walled coin purses in the past, but decided against them because our Tacco coin purse was so popular, and we saw no need to offer an alternative. I immediately discussed this case with the team, and we all agreed that thanks to this kind woman who took the time to explain all of this to us, we now see a clear reason to carry the high-walled coin purse. I hope she will check back with us soon!

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Our Artisans and Their Products

New Professional Messenger Bag by Giudi

Friday I completed writing the product description for our new CENTRO professional messenger bag. When I write product descriptions, I want to make sure to spend a few weeks with it by my side every day at work so that I can develop a feeling and appreciation for the item I am going to write about. The CENTRO soon struck me for its professional appearance. Then I noticed that the leather was still very much alive: despite looking so smooth and professional it hadn’t been pressed down and reduced to a uniform surface. I could still spot and feel wrinkles that, along with its smell, proved to me that this leather once really did belong to a cow.

Then I got to dig a little deeper. I noticed all the pockets; the laptop/netbook/eReader/iPad bottomless partition; the handle; and the larger cell phone pocket that will accommodate my iPhone with its protective plastic case (something that most bags I viewed before did not allow). I soon realized that this bag was very up-to-date with the times. Timeless design coupled with modern functionality make a nice combination in a messenger bag. Finally two more details: the leather strap will be welcome by a lot of customers who demand it, and the bag’s ability to stand on its own is one of my pet peeves. How nice would it be to set the bag down while in line at the ticket counter and the bag just sits nicely, ready to be picked up when it is time to move on? (By the way, this attribute is not guaranteed to always work, but I tried it both when the bag was nearly empty and when it was fairly full with my netbook, water container, and wallet, and the CENTRO stood).

professional messenger bag by Giudi

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Marcopoloni, the Tiny Business

How Can We Use Less Plastic?

The movie Bag It inspired us to take a look at all the plastic that surround our lives and ask, “How can we reduce the amount of plastic we use?”

In our personal lives, we can start by remembering to bring the reusable bags to the stores – we are often guilty of forgetting to put the bags back in the car after doing the groceries. We can also start bringing our own bags for trips to Target and other non-grocery type stores. Daniele and I usually bring our left-overs for lunch, but we are known to occasionally eat those single-serving frozen meals … and they always come packaged in plastic, sometimes even double-packaged in plastic inside a paper carton. We’ll definitely try to cut down on those.

But what about our business? Do we use plastic irresponsibly?

Asking ourselves this question led to an interesting discovery. We were packaging our products in plastic sleeves, not because it was necessary, but because we thought it made the product look nicer. So for that initial wow factor of opening a product that is covered in shiny new plastic, we were creating unnecessary waste. Besides, our products are artisanal and intrinsically beautiful … they don’t need any help looking good. Out with the plastic sleeves.

We also realized that we use bubble wrap and bubble mailers (those envelopes lined with bubble-wrap material) quite extensively – out of convenience, not out of true necessity. Out with the bubbles. In with 100% recycled kraft paper and 20% recycled newsprints. These changes won’t come without a little bit of cost (more time to prepare the shipments, higher packaging costs) but we are convinced that in the end it will be a sound business decision. And, thinking about our 2.5-yr-old daughter’s future, a moral one too.

These are just the beginning of what we hope will be a path towards more responsible living, and a less plastic business. If anyone out there has any other ideas on how we might be able to use less plastic (and less stuff in general), we’d love to hear your thoughts.

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Marcopoloni to Donate Proceeds to Japan Relief Efforts

“starting 5pm PDT on April 19, and through midnight PDT on May 8, Marcopoloni will donate 5% of net proceeds from our online sales to the Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Relief Fund through”

Any natural disaster that destroys lives and livelihoods is horrific, but the recent earthquake and tsunami off the coast of Japan hit me really close to home. I was born in Tokyo, and my relatives are all there, living in and around Tokyo. I also have close friends there as well. When the disaster struck, it took us a couple of long worrisome days before we were able to ascertain the whereabouts of our loved ones.

Like many people, I felt like hopping on the next plane to Japan – to hand out supplies, to be a shoulder to cry on, to do anything I can to help. But reality is that the best way to help is by donating to support the folks who are already on the ground doing these things, professionally. So we donated what we could.

But still, I was left with that feeling of wanting to do more.  I felt guilty eating three hot meals a day and sleeping under my down comforter when the people in the shelters were so thankful for the small ration of rice balls and using curtains as make-shift blankets.

Baby Girl Rescued from Tsunami Rubble
This photo made me cry. A baby girl miraculously rescued from the rubble three days after the tsunami.

That is why starting 5pm PDT on April 19, and through midnight PDT on May 8, Marcopoloni will donate 5% of net proceeds from our online sales to the Japan Earthquake and Tsunami Relief Fund through We are limited in what we can do, but as the Japanese people say, “even dust can amass to become a mountain.” Thank you for helping us help a people in need, and for keeping them in your thoughts and prayers.

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Marcopoloni, the Tiny Business Our Artisans and Their Products True Artisanship

Searched for Bags in my Hometown and Found Maxima

Last time I went to Italy to spend some time with my mom she suggested that we do some artisan hunting in our hometown of Milan. I thought that was a great idea because one of the reasons why I devoted my life to promoting the products of highly skilled artisans is that I am always pained when I see an artisan close up shop. In the small street where I grew up there used to be a Bonera outlet where we would buy our leather goods and luggage and I got to know the artisan that worked in the back–until it closed just a few years ago. Bonera is still around, of course, but that little island of authenticity is gone.

Ready to do our part to buck this trend, we made a plan. To come up with a list of places to visit, we made sure to ask all of our friends for suggestions and did ample research. Armed with a beefy enough list of artisans to visit, one early morning we set out on our walking tour of Milan, unsure of what it would yield.

Most places we visited were very interesting, but the right combination of handmade quality, design, prices, and ability to carry out International transactions, quickly made it look like finding someone with whom to do business was going to be a challenge. I was starting to think that finding the right fit would be very hard and that I might not have anything to show for my working marathon. Then, luckily, I came upon Maxima. Once I entered the wholesale outlet, I met Tina who was very nice and showed me all the latest models and described the craftsmanship and inspiration behind their products.

I normally take my time before placing orders and would never buy handbags without my wife’s input. But I really liked what I saw and like the story behind Maxima bags so much that I decided to take a plunge. I bought six handbags, stuffed my suitcase and got on my plane back to San Francisco the next day. We have just finished posting them to our web site and am very curious to hear what you think. Let me know!

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Marcopoloni, the Tiny Business

No Sales Tax

If you live in California you will welcome the news that starting last Friday the shopping cart no longer displays the message: “All orders shipping to California
will be charged the appropriate sales tax.” That’s because we no longer charge sales tax to California customers!

If you go through our shopping cart when placing an order, even if the ship-to address is in California, you will no longer see the row for California Sales Tax and the related charge. Of course, we continue to pay sales tax as sales tax is included in the price where applicable.

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Our Artisans and Their Products

The perfect wallet for your back pocket!


My husband loses everything. He’s also very difficult in taste, very traditional and conservative, and after he lost his wallet again I took the opportunity to get him to try something different.

We started out by thinking about what he needs to carry in his wallet: a bunch of credit/business cards, some cash and his ID. He also needs a wallet to be thin since it has the strange habit of collecting useless receipts – tons of them –  and if he had a wallet that is bulky to begin with I could only imagine how it would end up!

At first, he was looking at the LIRA – Men’s Italian Leather Wallet with Privacy ID Flap, which he really liked because of its clear view window for the ID.

Then I showed him another wallet from Dionigi, the QUATTRINI – Men’s Nylon and Leather Wallet. I pointed out how it is slightly smaller than the LIRA, is slim to begin with, and has a good number of card slots. This wallet really has everything my husband needs, plus it’s a little more modern and younger looking which I like!

He was up for trying it … I couldn’t believe it! I actually let the excitement carry me away a little since I then tried to convince him to get it in blue. I should have known that such a suggestion would not going anywhere! Too bad because I really think the blue one is cute, especially for the sporty, always-in-jeans type of guy.

Well, my husband usually never likes clothes or accessories that are designed in a way that is different from how you would commonly expect them to be. He had always owned a traditional-style black leather wallet before. This new design was already a huge step forward for him!

He has been using it for a few months now and he is happy with it. We recently found out the best feature of all: no more tracking down lost wallets at the movie theatre or restaurants, not to mention digging through our couch and in our cars —  because the textured nylon makes this wallet less likely to slip out from my husband’s back pocket. It’s like the wallet is slip-proof!!!

Of course I’m not saying that the QUATTRINI (or its brother SPICCIOLI – Nylon and Leather Wallet with Coin Pocket) is a loss-proof wallet or that it won’t ever slip out – especially if you are dealing with a man like my husband! – but I would definitely recommend it to all you men who carry your wallet in the back pocket of your pants!

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April Fool’s Day is Pesce d’Aprile in Italy!

Pesce d'Aprile!

It looks like almost all countries in the Western World somehow celebrate on the first day of April of every year. Everyone seems to do it in a different way though, and if some countries celebrate the day with practical jokes and general foolishness only until noon, in Italy – like in the US – it goes on all day long!

The traditional April Fool’s trick (pesce d’Aprile) takes place in the schools. There is no clearly defined victim and literally everybody from students to teachers and staff employees can end up this day with one or more paper drawings of a fish taped somewhere on them, usually on his/her back!

Everybody makes up the weirdest excuses to hug or pat you on the back that day. It becomes a real game to make a fool of the poor…fish!

But this whole thing goes beyond school scenes. Adults have their own dose of silliness on April Fool’s Day and even authorities, such as politicians and media, are often involved!

They usually make a shocking statement or publish odd news that are often so well thought-out that it is really hard to judge if they’re real or not. And you usually have to wait until April 2nd to find out, when the media rank the best jokes!

I still remember the joke pulled off by a local government agency that had recently been hit by a huge scandal in which female police officers posed for a sexy calendar in their uniforms (which sold out before the initiative could be aborted, by the way). It was a well-known fact that this agency was no going well financially, so they published the news that, due to the success of the police calendar, they were going to raise money by making a similar calendar!

Now, I know that here this might not sound as shocking, but if you think about a small town in Italy in which everybody knows almost everybody else and 99% of the population is Catholic….well, you get the picture! The reaction was quite funny…

My favorite April Fool’s Day, though, was the one from 4 years ago, when all my friends managed to make a real fool of me!

I was moving to the US soon and among all the things I had to do before leaving, this birthday party came up. A new addition to our group, someone’s new girlfriend, was turning 28? I don’t really remember her age…

As you can imagine, I couldn’t have cared less considering the timing and the fact that I barely knew her! But since she was in the circle and I could not ignore the whole thing, my friends got me all busy and worried like usual about finding a birthday gift for her and other arrangements!
When I got to the party location, I obviously ran in, hugged her and wished her “Happy Birthday” right? What was I supposed to do?

Well, at that moment, the entire place started laughing and the birthday girl started yelling at me (because in Italy you can wish “Happy Birthday” to somebody only on the actual day or on the following few days or it is said to bring bad luck to the person) … then I noticed this huge poster on the back wall of the room that said “Bye, bye, Eliana. Come back soon!” It was my farewell party!

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