FLORENTINE PRIDE: Despite his reserved nature, Leonardo Ferragamo, one of the sons of the late Salvatore Ferragamo, has rushed to the defense of his hometown, Florence, following disparaging comments about the city by Fiat Chrysler chief executive officer Sergio Marchionne.

As reported by Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera on Thursday, Marchionne, who has recently been involved in a war of words with Tod’s chief Diego Della Valle, called Florence “a small, poor town” during a private conversation in Brussels, where the manager was attending a meeting on the automotive business.

This story first appeared in the October 12, 2012 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

“By nature I’m not someone who enjoys controversy, and I don’t want to comment…but, for sure, as a Florentine, following years of embarrassing sleepiness, now I can say that Florence is emanating a great positive energy fueled both by private entrepreneurs and the public administration,” Ferragamo said in the Corriere della Sera. “A new wind is blowing, there is still a lot to do, but I feel a good vibe.”

Marchionne, who claimed that his comment was taken out of context from a private conversation recorded by a nonauthorized freelance journalist, explained that he referred to Florence in those terms comparing it to the U.S. The Fiat ceo has publicly criticized Florence mayor Matteo Renzi, who is angling to become prime minister, saying he is not on par with President Barack Obama, who has to govern one of the world’s largest countries. Renzi is often compared to Obama in Italy because of his young and dynamic approach to politics.

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