An interview with Francesco Strozzi
We caught up with the Italian aristocrat and businessman to discuss nobility, life and Italian society.
Read the short profile below.
“I come from a noble family, and the surname Strozzi stands for noble roots all over Italy. I was born in Rome, and I have a title: Count. As a child, I didn’t appreciate that I had a privileged upbringing. It was only when I became an adult that I started to figure it out, but the aristocracy has been losing relevance for years. The real game changer was the Republic in 1948. Before then, the Strozzi family – and aristocracy more generally – had a central role in Italian society. We were able to influence the state at all levels: political, economic and so on. Since 1948, we haven’t had any formal role, though we do still have some limited economic influence. My family has a sizable property portfolio – the total estate is probably worth around EUR 500 million (USD 593 million) – and we still have some unofficial, ceremonial roles, though participation is very much up to the individual. I never enjoyed any of it much. I do feel proud of my family’s heritage, but I prefer to live a ‘normal’ life.”
Francesco spent his childhood in a house on one of the seven hills of Rome and went to school in the city. His grandfather was the last generation to have lived in the family’s principal residence. The house Francesco grew up in was built by his parents. Francesco always knew the family’s inheritance was earmarked for his older brother Andrea who Francesco is close to, but he nevertheless felt a desire to be independent from a young age. Francesco could have chosen not to work, but his father encouraged him to stand on his own two feet. His first car, a Fiat 500, was bought with money Francesco earned himself working as a waiter. It also set him in good stead for a career in business. He now runs a successful textile company in China, where he lives with his Chinese fiancée. Francesco has been married before. His ex-wife lives in one of the family’s houses. He’s proud of the life and independence he’s built, though he misses his immediate family. He also has no delusions of grandeur or inflated sense of self-worth. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.
“I don’t feel the aristocracy has a role in contemporary society. This isn’t a view shared by many of my ‘aristocratic’ friends: most still believe the aristocracy has a key role. In my opinion, they are living in a fairy tale. In the past, families such as mine provided help and guidance with the arts, education and so on, but this has all changed. Today, all that’s left is a nice title. I don’t consider myself different from anyone else. Many people I know like to use their name in order to obtain privileges, but I’m just not that kind of person. I think the reason is largely due to my parents and the education they gave me. I still consider my father my biggest influence. He definitely set me on the right path. But I’ve also always been inspired by those that break with tradition, such as the former Italian journalist and writer Tiziano Terzani. Tiziano was an influential war journalist who spent most of his life in Asia. He didn’t come from a noble family, but his dad was a military official and, at the time, that was a big deal. I admire that he moved to Asia and achieved both professional and personal success without depending on his family. I feel that’s what I have done.
“That said, I’m still proud of my family’s heritage. The Strozzi family has roots back to the 14th century, initially in Florence, where they held great influence during the Renaissance. They were once as influential as the Medici family and, for a long time, were richer and more powerful. Unlike my family, the Medici family were passionate about art. We were more interested in finance, though we did have a number of patronages. The most famous was probably the artist Benedetto da Maiano, who was known all over Tuscany in the 15th century. My family also enabled a number of magnificent architectural creations such as the Strozzi Palace in Florence, which I believe is one of the most beautiful buildings in the city. Today, the family numbers around 100 in total, though the close family is myself, my brother Andrea and his two sons. I don’t have any children. As Andrea lives in Rome and I live in China, I don’t get to see him very often, usually only once a year. But I always wanted to make it on my own, and I feel I’ve done that. Sometimes the culture shock of living in China is a challenge, but I value it as an experience, and I enjoy having to navigate the gaps between our cultures.”