Ali Matteini

a life creative

Lives Creative – Elena Gandolfo, Artisan Soaps

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Elena of LiberaMente, Santa Fiora, makes artisan soaps from locally sourced natural ingredients.


Her philosophy is one of keeping as close to nature, tradition, the seasons and locality as possible, a philosophy that can be read into her business name, a play on words in Italian, meaning both liberally – as in “apply liberally” – and “free mind”.

As in any craft, perfecting techniques takes an ongoing combination of trial, timing, error, and experience. Self-taught and passionate about the environment and living sustainably, Elena is constantly sourcing seasonal ingredients, with 0Km in mind, and methods that work best in keeping with the season and the traditional art of soap making. With her laboratory in Santa Fiora and Monte Amiata and its diverse array of natural flora on her doorstep, she is able to source locally the majority of her ingredients.



Quite literally sweating over a hot stove Elena mixes the ingredients, the base of which is usually beeswax or olive oil, in a huge saucepan together with selected ingredients, such as hand-picked lavender and tea tree oil.


Ingredients in the olive oil base, cooking for several hours

This first process, which takes several hours, is completed by poring the emulsified mixture into individual moulds where they are left to ‘cure’ for several weeks. If not allowed to set the soap would melt away with use far too quickly.


The dough is then poured into a series of moulds and allowed to set.


In keeping with her philosophy, the ingredients Elena includes in her artisan soaps are vegetarian. They hover on being completely vegan except for the use of beeswax, and donkey milk, though the milk is surplus, obtained by hand and not depriving foals of their breakfast!


A labour of love, once finished each naturally textured and coloured, heavenly perfumed  is a piece of sensory art in its own right.


With delicious recipes that include cacao and honey, and with combinations such as sweet orange blossom and cinnamon, the soaps appear quite edible.


Elena’s business in Santa Fiora has been growing rapidly in the past year. Her soaps have proved popular at markets around southern Tuscany, and she is setting her sights toward local agriturismo properties that are embracing eco-sustainable tourism.

However, to make the business transition from the classification of hobby artist to fully fledged artisan here in Italy is not a straightforward one and Elena is still undergoing that process, including online setup. If you are interested in ordering her fabulous soaps please use the form below and I will pass your messages on to her.


Find out about other Lives Creative of Monte Amiata – I’m adding to the list all the time. If you’d like to be featured here, please use the form below and I’d be glad to make contact with you and add you to our growing bank of creative people.



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A Presto,

Cheers and Ciao,

Ali 🙂

Image Alison Matteini ©

Image Alison Matteini ©

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This entry was posted on July 13, 2016 by in creativity and tagged , , , , , , , , .

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