At first glance, Solomeo appears to be another picture-perfect sleepy hilltop hamlet in Umbria, Italy. But a closer look reveals that not only is the medieval village home to Brunello Cucinelli and his eponymous global brand that started with cashmere knitwear, it’s also what he calls the “essence” and “heart” of his personal entrepreneurial and spiritual journey.
Understanding Cucinelli’s passion for Solomeo requires knowing his long history in the area. “There are countless moments that make this place so important in my life,” he tells GRAZIA USA. “I grew up in this region, as the son of a farmer. I fell in love with this land in those tender years as a child, watching my family come together after a long day working the land and never arguing or feeling humiliated.” Rather than weariness or shame, he notes that “there was so much beauty to those moments and it helped me develop an appreciation for simple pleasures and tradition.”
One of life’s more magical pleasures is falling in love, and the destinies of Brunello Cucinelli and Solomeo became inextricably linked when he first crossed paths with his future spouse, Federica. “My wife was born here and we met on the streets of this town when we were just 17,” he recalls. The couple married and raised two daughters, Camilla and Carolina. As children, the girls played in the square under the watchful eye of their grandfather, who passed away last year at 100 years old. “We built our lives and the company here in hopes of preserving the values that we cherished so much growing up, of tradition and family,” Cucinelli says.
His focus on preservation naturally extends to his beloved Solomeo and this idyllic corner of the country. Through The Brunello and Federica Cucinelli Foundation, established in 2010, the entrepreneur has worked hard to preserve the land and historic monuments, including a castle in the center of the hamlet that now houses part of his company. A theater Cucinelli built allows locals to enjoy arts and culture, and next year he plans to open a “Universal Library” in an 18th-century villa that will be stocked with a vast collection of books focusing on philosophy, history, architecture and more of his favorite subjects. “Books have been my companions since I was a young man,” he explains. “Giving an opportunity to others to experience their wisdom is an important dream for me.”
Cucinelli is a firm believer in the concept of genius loci, or feeling the soul of a place and the impression it makes, and the concept has informed many of his decisions — past and present. “The idea of home is so important to me,” Cucinelli says, noting enjoying such deep roots in one place keeps him grounded and symbolizes “stability, warmth, family, light and serenity.” He adds, “We built our home in Solomeo with this concept in mind, respecting homes near us and the landscape built before we became a part of this village’s story.”
And like the generations that preceded him, Cucinelli acknowledges he too is a temporary guardian who must one day hand over the keys to this special kingdom to those who follow. “It is now a vibrant and lively place that has a bright future,” he says of enhancing Solomeo’s soul. “This brings me peace and joy. We have done our best to leave this place more beautiful than we found it and we helped create a culture of respect for preserving the spirit and beauty of this land.”
This article originally appeared on Grazia International.