Tucked behind the Basilica di Santa Croce in Florence is Scuola del Cuoio—the school of leather. To get into the school, one must go through the church's side door, walk under the church's tunnels, and climb up a nondescript set of stairs. There, you can get a glimpse into the world of leather-making, a history so deeply entrenched in the city of Florence. Watch as old masters and young apprentices trim, cut, and transform leather pieces into all sorts of clothes and accessories. Talk to the leather makers, listen to their life stories... and understand the old Florentine life.
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Celebrating the Art of Florentine Leathermaking
This Leather School is somewhat hidden, right around the corner from Santa Croce. Entering, you're immersed in the artisan tradition of Florentine leather making that has been going on here since the Renaissance. The Scuola and shop is in a 15th century monastery that was built by the Medicis--gorgeous arched fresco ceilings remain. You can watch artisans at their workbenches in the hallways, have a leather jacket custom made, or buy high quality crafted items--from wallets to desk sets. I loved being here so much I signed up for a one day class in leather making and made a journal cover. It was humbling--I now understand what "tough as leather" really means--quite the challenge to simply cut it. But I gave in to the slow process, as the church bells rang and more advanced students around me worked on pretty purses. I ended up with a great souvenir--a leather journal filled with Florentine paper, and on the cover, my initials embossed in gold.
This school for leather workers is located inside the cloisters of Santa Croce church. Apart from selling a wide range of high-quality leather goods at very reasonable prices, you can watch the craftsmen and their apprentices at work. You can also have goods custom-made in calfskin, ostrich or crocodile in a huge range of colors. Personalize your purchase with gold-embossed initials; they’ll do it on the spot.