In love with unique places, distinct colors, flavors, and handicraft gems that make you feel at home: meet Allison Hoeltzel Savini.
Allison’s essential leather accessories are a synthesis of traditional Italian craftsmanship and contemporary, functional luxury.
After studying in Dallas, Texas, she landed in Bologna for an internship at the Opera House, to eventually learn how to be Italian. For someone passionate about fashion like Allison, it was unlikely to leave: in fact she started managing product lines for international brands such as Stuart Weitzman and Sonia Rykiel.
2014 was her year: Allison founded her own accessory line inspired by her love for saddlery and every kind of utilitarian bag, working with a loyal network of artisans. Officina del Poggio, also known as ODP, produces leather goods at the highest standard of Italian craftsmanship: every accessory is individually crafted and accompanied by a numbered certificate hand-signed by the maker. Allison started to make the magic happen with this unique level of care, where tradition meets iconic styles and sustainability.
From Texas to Italy with a one-way ticket: what made you fall in love with Italy and then Bologna?
It all started with my internship at the Bologna Opera House. I studied Arts Administration, and after an experience at the Dallas Opera and brief periods in Spain and Argentina, I thought I could learn Italian too. Strangely, I was not one of those Americans in love with Italy: the main cities looked too touristy to me, but Bologna was just different. The town is welcoming and easy for young people, as everyone is here to stay for a different reason, that can be work, studying or love: that’s why in Bologna you can feel integration in all its aspects. Bologna is also in an ideal position, not far from Milan, Florence and Rome, so one thing led to another, and I decided to stay, keeping it as my home base.
Bologna, home of tortellini: where can we find the best ones?
Tamburini and Atti are my favorite gastronomie to buy fresh tortellini to cook at home. Otherwise, if you want to experience a traditional restaurant or a trattoria, my favorites are Grassilli, Da Cesari, or Trattoria della Santa.
Any other tips for gourmet shopping in the city?
I love the Mercato di Mezzo located in the quadrilatero area. It is an open-air market with different specialties from various vendors, all worth a try. For a quick bite, during the day or even in the evening I often stop in the stand of the famous butcher Macelleria Zivieri, where you can also purchase their meat to prepare at home.
At Christmas time, my place to buy chocolate treats is Majani.
Where would you bring us for a day in Bologna?
Breakfast would be at Caffè Terzi for the best coffee, where you can choose not only their assortment of roasts but also the many types of toppings. For a scenic walk, it is always nice to peek inside the Archiginnasio, to admire the affresco ceilings and the courtyard. My favorite square is Piazza Santo Stefano, also known as the Sette Chiese for the seven churches which surround the square, and definitely stop at Camera con Vista Bistro for an aperitivo, but try to reserve as it is very popular!
In summertime, an unforgettable aperitivo is at the top of la Torre dei Prendiparte with a breathtaking view of the city: you can also have your stay inside its Bed & Breakfast.
For dinner I always love Grassilli, one of my favorite restaurants because it mixes tradition with experimentation that goes beyond the classic cuisine: I always choose homemade pastas which they make fresh everyday, or the must-try cotoletta alla bolognese with cheese and prosciutto.
For art lovers, the perfect place to stay is the new bed and breakfast Casa del Maestro, opened up by the Pozzati family, which was once the home of the late local artist Concetto Pozzati and filled with some of his artwork, books and curiosities.
“For dinner I choose Grassilli, one of my favorite restaurants because it mixes tradition with experimentation that goes beyond the classic cuisine.”
What’s the idea behind ODP and what’s the secret of your artisanal work?
The idea was to take utilitarian shapes and make them more modern and feminine, creating a timeless bag that you actually can wear forever. ODP is all about Made in Italy, crafted by artisans near Bologna and Florence, and the structured bags are made one by one. The name Officina del Poggio comes from the street where I live in Bologna. It really means "workshop on the hill", as I wanted to give the label an Italian name that evokes the same authentic feel as the shapes and craftsmanship.
About artisans and start-ups, who are the coolest new brands in Bologna and in Italy?
I love visiting Fiorentini + Baker in Piazza Aldrovandi in Bologna: they sell amazing Made in Italy boots, in limited production runs so it is always interesting to see what new colors or styles they have in their store. The boots look best when worn, and I have pairs that I have worn for more than 15 years and they just get better with age.
Also Vernisse, a new brand of Made in Italy shirts and dresses, is a unique story revolving around vintage, sustainable and hand-picked fabrics made into one-of-a-kind custom-made pieces.
I discovered the jeweler Cristian Defranchi just walking by his shop in Bologna. He’s really a true artist, with completely different and innovative designs that are still timeless with an little of an art deco feel. He sells his own collection but makes commissioned works as well.
Talking about start ups, I love The Dressing Screen, an e-commerce where you can find classic and timeless pieces like Gioia Bini dresses and also clothing from Caftanii Firenze, a line designed twin sisters that produce their collection not far from where I produce my bags.
Shopping in Bologna, from clothes to books: what are your it-spots?
Libreria Nanni: I love browsing the outdoor stands where they have both old and new volumes, and they also have great fashion books that are hard to find.
Silvia Fini is a vintage boutique with an amazing archive that includes pieces from the 1920s -‘50s.
Every second Sunday of each month there is the antique and vintage market in Piazza Santo Stefano. There you can find everything, from furniture and objects for your office or home, to vintage clothes and accessories from every era.
ODP recalls hills: what are your favorite hidden gems or weekend escapes in the surroundings?
The Chioschetto (which everyone calls the “Baracchina”), is a laid-back outdoor bar right at the foot of the hills, and they serve the best piadine. Then there is a rustic outdoor trattoria called Dal Nonno, where you can have cold cuts and crescentine, which are fried dough that you stuff with the meats and cheese. “Dal Nonno” literally means “at your grandfather's", and that is exactly how it feels.
For a special dinner in the hills I suggest Trattoria Monte Donato, while if you want to venture out a little further, indulge yourself to a spa retreat at Palazzo Varignana, with newly renovated rooms and beautiful indoor and outdoor pools with spectacular views.
What’s your home away from home, that took a place in your American heart?
My special place is always back home in Texas. I always enjoy visiting Austin in the summer, especially hanging in South Congress, a street full of hotels, nice restaurants and vintage stores too. For my stay, I love The South Congress Hotel with the rooftop pool and modern rooms, and of course don't miss the Sunroom boutique within the hotel, which sells hard-to-find American and International designers, including ODP! Talking about hotels, I suggest the Austin Motel that is all American style with a very vintage feeling, or for a more secluded and relaxing stay, the bungalows and lush green courtyards of the Hotel San Josè.
You must get your pair of cowboy boots at Allens Boots which has the biggest selection of new boots, or for a vintage pair try Feathers Boutique. Grab your bite at Joann's, a great little diner, and try the breakfast tacos at Jo’s, perfect for every time of the day.
Visit a local Rodeo, it gives such a deep community feeling: the Bandera Rodeo takes place mostly in summer and you can experience all kinds of activities.
Last but not least, head to Luckenbach for traditional Texan experience. It is one hour outside of Austin, they have a live music outdoors during the day and also dances in the large dance hall on the weekends.
You’re leaving for the best holiday ever: where would you fly us?
One place that is truly magical to me is Tanzania. Coming from Texas I loved being in big open spaces, with animals living free and in a complete balance and respect for the nature. One particular place I loved was 'Ndutu National Park, camping beside the lake and waking up to incredible sunrises framed by the umbrella trees.