28 February 2016


AGORDO, Italia - The gigantic glasses in front of the Luxottica Company in northern Italy mean more than you might think. They are not just a symbol of what Luxottica makes – but the symbol of one of the greatest rags to riches stories of our time.
Luxottica, Agordo, Italy 
Luxottica is the largest eyewear company in the world. It designs and produces more than 65 million pairs of glasses every year for just about every company and brand you can think of. It’s estimated that at least half a billion people a day wear glasses made by Luxottica, and that all adds up to sales worth billions of dollars each year.

In addition to making sunglasses and prescription frames for many designers including Chanel, Prada, Giorgio Armani, Dolce and Gabbana, Donna Karen and Stella McCartney they also own Lenscrafters, Sunglass Hut, Pearle Vision, Sears Optical, Target Optical and more. The company’s best-known house brands are Ray-Ban, Persol and Oakley.
 Leonardo Del Vecchio
The man who started it all is Leonardo Del Vecchio. What they say about him is that he was born in Milan, and he was born poor. When he was seven years old, Italy was in the throes of World War II and Milan was being brought to its knees by Allied bombings. He had no family except his mother, and with the city under siege was unable to care for him. She made the difficult decision to put him in an orphanage to be raised by the nuns, where he would be safe. 

When he was fourteen, Del Vecchio began working as an apprentice to a tool and die maker in Milan. His job was to assist in the production of auto parts and parts for eyeglass frames.
The Men who Make Glasses

While the auto parts didn’t interest him, what he did think about were the eyeglass frames. But unlike most people, he didn’t think of them as a necessity for improving vision, but rather as a reflection, or as an extension of a person’s personality.

His idea proved to be powerful and popular, but in order to realize his dream he needed to be not in Milan, but closer to eyewear manufacturers. He did some research and found that most of the Italian eyewear businesses were located in a town called Agordo, in the northern province of Belluno. In 1961 he moved there.    
Inside Luxottica
Along with a couple of partners, he formed a company and named it Luxottica. At first the company just produced parts for other eyeglass manufacturers, but in 1967 they began producing eyeglass frames and selling them under the Luxottica name. That proved to be such a success that four years later Luxottica stopped producing parts for other companies and began concentrating on their own line of eyewear.

The Luxottica brand did very well in the marketplace and Del Vecchio and his partners realized they were on to something big. At that point they were selling through a distribution company, but in 1974, when an opportunity to buy Scarrone, an eyeglass distribution company of their own presented itself, they signed on the dotted line.  Scarrone proved to be a good investment and by 1981 they were ready to set up their first international subsidiary in Germany. And then, in 1988, they got lucky. Luxottica struck a deal to produce sunglasses and eyeglass frames for Giorgio Armani. 
 Armani Glasses
The Armani deal propelled them onto the New York stock exchange. With the money they raised they began to buy other brands starting with the Italian eyewear company, Vogue. Then they bought Persol and LensCrafters. In 1999 they acquired Ray-Ban and two years after that they took control of Sunglass Hut.

They were on a roll. They expanded their retail business by acquiring OPSM, a company based in Sydney, Australia, and then they bought Pearle Vision and Cole National, one right after the other. They bought Oakley for $2.1 billion and several months they later they acquired the king of sunglasses, Erroca.
Prada Goes Glam 
In March 2014, Google started searching for an eyeglass manufacturer to partner with on a new project. They finally settled on Luxottica, admitting that in their world-wide search Luxottica was the only company they had found that had the knowhow and equipment to produce their high tech Google Glasses. Unfortunately Google Glass was not the success that Google had hoped for. But who’s to say, now that they know who to go to for the technological aspects of the project, they won’t try it again in a few years.

In many ways it is fitting that an Italian company controls 80% of the major eyewear brands in a global eyewear business worth $28 billion. After all, eyeglasses and sunglasses are as Italian as pizza and pasta. It began in 1296 with an eye weary monk in Pisa. It was his job to sit and painstakingly copying Latin texts by hand, day after day, year after year. That labor intense work no doubt prompted him to seek a solution for his sore eyes, which he did by creating the first eyeglasses. Desperation, not to mention eye fatigue, can be a great motivator.
Fit for an Emperor

And what could have been more fashionable for a fashion conscious Roman emperor like Nero than the two polished gemstones that he used to protect his eyes from the sun while watching gladiators fight to the death at Rome’s coliseum? Makes one wonder if they were royal purple amethysts or pale and elegant aquamarines to match his eyes.

Listed below are brands owned by Luxottica, including sunglasses with elegant aquamarine and royal purple lens, and an entire range of other colors as well.

Alain Mikli
Eye Safety Systems (ESS)
K&L (formerly Killer Loop)
Oliver Peoples
Vogue Eyewear
Sunglass Hut
Sunglass Hut International
Pearle Vision
Sears Optical
Target Optical
EyeMed Vision Care
Optical Shop of Aspen
Laubman & Pank

Luxottica also makes eyewear under license for the following designer labels:
Emporio Armani
A/X – Armani Exchange
Brooks Brothers
Dolce & Gabbana
Michael Kors
Miu Miu
Polo Ralph Lauren
Paul Smith Spectacles
Ralph Lauren Eyewear
Tiffany & Co.
Tory Burch

Copyright© 2016 Phyllis Macchioni

21 February 2016

LIFE: The Quintili Brothers

CHIAVARI, Italy - The Quintili brothers, Sextus Quintilius Maximus and Sextus Quintilius Condianus, held Rome’s highest political office, that of Consul.  In 151 BC. they decided to build on the foundation of an old Hadrian era villa and create what would become the largest and grandest residence Rome had ever seen.
 The Ruins of the Villa Quintile
The villa of the Quintili, and the adjoining farming complex of Santa Maria Nova, covered such a large area along the old Appian Way, that when it was first discovered centuries later, everyone thought they had found another Rome, an older Rome. It had to be a town, they reasoned, for no villa could be so expansive. They even named the archeological site Vecchia Roma.

But it wasn’t another Rome. Needless to say a villa of such extraordinary size and beauty did not go unnoticed by the Gladiator Emperor Commodus Antonius. At his first opportunity he declared the villa Imperial property and had the brothers arrested for treason and put to death. And then he moved in. 
The Cryptoporticus 
He made some changes to the villa including a private bath complex fed by its own aqueduct, and a separate steam room for the Emperor's Pretorian guards. The a hippodrome, a racetrack for horse and chariot racing may have been the work of the Qunitili brothers, but most certainly it was the Emperor who had added an additional training area for gladiators.

Today the villa and S. Maria Nova are part of the Appia Antica archaeological park, and what was found in the most recent excavation has set Rome and the Romans buzzing. It is a work of extraordinary engineering, a semi-subterranean gallery or passageway whose vaulting supports portico structures above ground, lit from openings at the top of its arches. It’s called a cryptoporticus. 
 Montanus, The Retianius
The cryptoporticus may be a simple brick structure but it bears the marks of an extraordinary history. The walls, which were 6 to 7 ft. high were covered with white marble with blue-green veins pulled from the Algerian quarries of Hippo, and accented with strips of red marble taken from ancient quarries in Greece

Two perfectly preserved black and white mosaic floors were found, one depicting a gladiator named Montanus, a retiarius with net and trident. The other floor design shows horses tied together in pairs around a tree. The horses were for the fationes, the teams that vied for victory during the chariot races that were held at the racetrack of the villa.
Signatures of Slaves and Consuls 
But perhaps the most amazing part of this new discovery is the secret stash of bricks that was found, carved with the names of the consuls who ordered the work – Petino and Aproniano (123 BC). Even more amazing is that above the names of the consuls there is a series of dots clustered together like Morse code, which is how workers and slaves signed the bricks on projects they worked on. Even though we can’t decipher what the dots actually say, they do tell us that these men were there and created this structure.

The archeological site houses a museum with marble friezes and sculptures that once adorned the villa. You can also visit the nympheum, a natural grotto where local nymphs were thought to reside. There is also the hall of the tepidarium, a warm room which was the first stop after working up a sweat in the palaestra or gym and the frigidarium, the cold pool.
The Frigidarium 
Opening Hours 
Open every day from 9.00 to 16.30. Closed Mondays (except Easter Monday), 25 December, 1 January.
Saturdays, Sundays and national holidays: entrance is also from Via Appia Antica, n° 290.
Single ticket valid 7 days at 3 sites: Baths of Caracalla, Villa of the Quintilii, Mausoleum of Caecilia Metella.
Full Price: € 6.00.
Reduced: € 3.00 for citizens of the European Union 18 to 25 European Union teachers.

Free: Visitors 17 and under.

Copyright © 2016 Phyllis Macchioni