During a recent trip to Italy, we met some Italian friends in Orvieto for an evening stroll and dinner. With our two little boys in tow, they took us straight to Bottega Michelangeli. Stretched across a series of storefronts on a narrow cobblestone side street, the five-generation wood atelier specializes in beautifully designed, hand-crafted wooden toys and dolls. Steeped in old fables and mythology, this place is all about fantasy and fairytale: carved rocking horses with leather pulls; marionette dolls with beautiful, fanciful clothing and intricately hand-embroidered pixie hats; forests carved into the facade; a wooden angel, arms outspread, flying from invisible strings hanging from the ceiling. Once you recognize the shadow puppet-esque aesthetic, you’ll start to notice works around town, maybe peeking from inside a restaurant window. We spent more than an hour poking around and admiring the shop (and yes, even climbing atop the giant wooden horses out front). And if you have any business with a three-year-old, you know that’s no small feat. It reminded me of the importance of magic, that kids don’t always need to be entertained by their toys, sometimes they need to be carried away by them.

(I should note, guiltily, that I passed on the wooden toy soldiers with fabric ticking and upturned mustaches I was admiring for the boys and bought a beautiful bag made of belting leather for myself.)

Meghan McEwan is the co-founder of Designtripper.


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