THE FLORENCE LEATHER SCHOOL HAS UNIQUE PIECES OF ARTISAN LEATHER GOODS:
Florence overflows with leather shops and showrooms that first time visitors to the City of David would find irresistible. Peruzzi, near the Piazza Santa Croce, is where most group visitors get taken to, but if you want to see fine leather work, hand-made by artisans, head for the Scuola del Cuoio, the Florence School of Leather whose leather goods are fit for royalty.
The Scuola del Cuoio is located behind the Basilica of Santa Croce. We visited on a Saturday afternoon and unfortunately for us, the leather craftsmen were off for the weekend, except for Francesca, one of the School founder’s three daughters, whom Tony recognized from the brochure in the Scuola del Cuoio shop. A picture of Italian elegance, she was busy working on her handbag, but stopped to have a chat with us.
A Socially-Minded Business
The Scuola del Cuoio was established after WWII for the purpose of giving orphans of the war the opportunity to learn the leather trade so that they will have a skill with which to earn a living.
The school was the collaboration of the Franciscan monks of the Monastery of Santa Croce and the Gori and Casini families who have been Florentine leather artisans since the 1930s. An old dormitory space was converted for the school. The dormitory wing was a donation by the Medicis during the Renaissance and when you enter the Scuola del Cuoio workshop, you’ll see the familiar Medici coat of arms above the workshop archway.
Some of the other social initiatives by the Scuola include annual scholarships for boys from third world countries to train at the school and re-educational training for young inmates from Florence’s Murate prison and juvenile detention centres.
As Francesca told us about the history of the Scuola, she beamed with pride when talking about her family’s involvement in the business and the medals and recognition that her father Marcello Gori received for his contributions to society. The two founding fathers of the Scuola del Cuoio passed away in 2003 and the management of the Scuola today is in the hands of Marcello Gori’s three daughters, Laura, Francesca and Barbara and Laura’s son Tommaso.
Royalty, Celebrity Clients and Others
Scuola del Cuoio’s reputation for quality leather has reached far and wide and visitors to the Scuola have included European royalty, American presidents and their wives and many from the
entertainment world. Their leather goods have graced the presidential desk at the White House and are used by the Ritz in Paris and the Hassler in Rome, amongst others.
But what interested me most were the handbags designed by Francesca. She creates a line of hand-stitched designer bags that are unique, using exotic pelts such as python, ostrich and crocodile.
Francesca researches interesting and antique jewelries from history and adapts these pieces in her bag design. All her prize creations are individual pieces of work and at a price tag of Euro 6,000 or so, her clientele tends to be the well-heeled, middle eastern princesses, etc. I love her designs for their bright colour combinations, the interesting bag handles and the use of semi-precious stones, rare materials and antique jewelry that she finds during her travels.
Francesca was such a charming and gracious lady who took time to talk to us even though she knew that we weren’t about to buy her Euro 6,000 handbags. If I were so lucky as to somehow receive a windfall, I most certainly will be buying one (or more) of her unique creations.
If you’re looking for that one exquisite handbag, pay a visit to the Scuola del Cuoio. They of course have smaller items like wallets, belts and jewelries that won’t break the bank. The school also runs workshops and courses for anyone interested in the Florentine art of leather.
Scuola del Cuoio
Via S. Giuseppe 5R