The result is "Seven Years in Tuscany," Ferragamo’s account of the time she spent rebuilding Il Borro, the 1,750-acre Tuscan estate that she and her husband, Ferruccio Ferragamo, from whom she is now separated, bought in 1993.
"I wrote this in three months, by hand, from memory," says Ferragamo, who has returned to her native England after living in Florence since the late Sixties. "And yes, I’d say it was a purge."
The book, which will be launched in New York with a book party at Saks Fifth Avenue on April 3, is one part how-to manual — "Skirting boards are important and they need to be quite deep," she writes — and one part nesting philosophy: "A house can almost talk to you: Standing in ruins, it will tell you through empty windows and stairs going nowhere how it was, who lived in it."
But Ferragamo also devotes pages to the infamous Tuscan laborers who were clearly not used to having an English signora not only telling them what to do, but asking them to do it over again.
"I don’t think they ever expected me, as a woman, to be there, talking about the density of the cement," she says. The workers were required not to re-lay tiles that weren’t quite right, tear down a new staircase because it looked "too ‘Gone With the Wind,’" and work through rain and snow.
"There was a slight drizzle one day, so everyone decided to take a break," Ferragamo says. "I said ‘What is this break for?’ In England, if we stopped for the weather, we’d all be living in tents!" The workers, in turn, poked fun at her Italian, often wandered off the job, and secretly named the stray cat they found after her.