Within the walls of the Flora are concealed histories and tales of those who have passed through here. Of those who stayed for just one night. Of those who spent an evening at the tables of the restaurant, drinking a glass or two of fine wine.
The walls of the Flora also conceal passions and memories. Cultivated slowly but surely. Cared for over time and marked with the traces of ancient roots. From when we were still children.
Like the Flora toy collection, which is no ordinary collection: it came about by chance, one Sunday morning, when Beppe – the landlord and leading light of our hotel and our restaurant – was taking one of his customary strolls to the little San Remy market in Cagliari. A toy (in truth, probably the least attractive of all those on sale at the stalls!) suddenly caught his eye, and he impulsively purchased it. This was the trigger for what would become over time our collection, enriched by pieces from across Europe.
Collecting vintage toys is all about putting together pieces marked by time, and it is this patina that brings them to live and makes the fascinating.
The exhibition on show at the hotel displays just a small part of our private collection, which amounts to more than 3,000 pieces. Pieces that are linked together by a common thread but which encompass various concepts and types of toys: from the cheapest examples, often imbued with a simple, immediate and highly effective emotional resonance, to the most sophisticated, which are marvelled at by adults, too. The toys were manufactured over the course of more than a century, spanning the period from the late Victorian period to the 1980s.
Out of all of them, one is really the crucible of Beppe's childhood memories:
“It is a toy train that means a lot to me because it reminds me of the Christmas celebrations of 1950. I was coming out of school – the Riva in Piazza Garibaldi – and I was due to head back to my house on Via Arquer. As I walked along Via Manno, I found myself mesmerised by famous shop window of Signor Bolla's toy shop, the most well-known and well-stocked in Cagliari in those days. I stopped to gaze in wonder at a Rivarossi electric train that was running along the tracks, making its way along a tortuous route with level crossing barriers that lowered upon its arrival. I lost all sense of time. I went back home after the closure of the shop, late in the evening, by which time by desperate parents had already been out to search for me throughout the Marina quarter. I was soundly thrashed for my lateness, but I never forgot that Rivarossi train which, 50 years on, I managed to get my hands on. I can't descrive the happiness I felt staring at that toy, which is the symbol of my childhood and my strongest memory of what was a different world.“