The leather history of Florence
The leather history in Florence goes way back in time, thousands of years ago, even though the books set it’s birth around the year 1282, when the “Arte dei Cuoiai” was created.
Italy, in fact, works the leather since the year 1000 due to the Saracens who brought this use up to Palermo, in Sicily. Since then this production has evolved gaining respect for durable and quality products and so making Italy one of the leading countries in the production of leatherwear at nowadays. Shoes, bags and many other leather accessories are produced in Italy and sold all over Europe. The actual main regions for the leather productions are Tuscany and Marche, with Santa Croce Sull’Arno, a small city near Florence, where the 35% of Italian leather production and 98% Italian leather soles are produced.
Origins of the leather in Florence
Florence, and more generically Tuscany, has been famous for its leather production for centuries; it is enough to say that during the medieval era Tuscany also formed guilds, in order to protect all the secrets and techniques needed to produce quality leather products. These techniques have been passed on generations after generations and still are protected and kept secret.
The florentine historical district is Santa Croce, even though now you can find leather markets all over the city, especially in the neighborhood of San Lorenzo, where the city’s biggest leather market is set. The Santa Croce district is where, back in the 13th century, all the tanneries and leather laboratories were concentrated. This is due to the closeness to the Arno river which was a constant supply for clean water, a necessary element to the quality leather production. Via delle Conce, Via dei Conciatori, Corso Tintori are the nowadays street names recalling this ancient past of the leather shops’ concentration in the area.
In the 19th century, along with the civil progress, and due to the bad smell the leather production was producing which was invading the streets of the district, the municipality of Florence decided to move the leather district out of town; along the Arno river between Florence and Pisa a new leather district was settled and named as “Santa Croce sull’Arno”, nowadays one of the best tanning districts in the world.
The leather production at nowadays
As already said, at nowadays you can’t find any more tanneries in Florence but you can still find many leather shops and markets where to look for and buy the very best quality leather products you can dream about.
Leather shops can be found everywhere in the city but the most important and famous places where to buy leather crafts are the Mercato del Porcellino, which is very close to the Old Bridge, and the San Lorenzo Market which stand big and wide just behind the San Lorenzo Church, few steps away from the Dome and right in the city centre. Here you can find any leather item you ever thought of and you can dive in its particular smell and people.
Even though the leather production has a long and strong history in Florence, nowadays it seems to be very hard to find a leather course in Florence. Of course there’s the Scuola del Cuoio (Leather School), but unless you want to join a several years program then very few are the chance for you to learn something about this ancient craft. This is why here at Florence Dream Lab we decided to create a 2 hours class for anybody who’d like to learn a bit more about this kind of work. With the help of a leather craftsman friend we came up with a small course where the participants will be able to discover this ancient technique and to produce a little purse or belt on their own.