Many years ago, before I actually moved to Italy, I wrote a goodbye post to my shoes because I had to leave them behind due to baggage restrictions.
When I look at the post now and see 25-year-old me and the shoes I thought I needed in Italy all I can think is: HAHAHAHAHA…. haha..ha. No.
While my taste in shoes has changed, my love of shoes has not. I still love them. I still need them.
So when I was invited to MAKE shoes? Italian leather shoes? By hand? I signed up so quickly that poor Francesa and Giovanna had to tell me that the class was not even opening for another week.
So I waited that week and showed up at the leMastro studio with bells on to be the first sandal-making student.
We started the class with the tour of the workshop, that the two ladies share with the mastro calzolaio (shoemaker) Mario.
Downstairs we learned about how shoes are made using different forms for flats and heels. Mario’s shop has been making shoes for clientele since the 1950s, and so many of the forms are made of wood, though today most are made of plastic.
“Are those names on the shoe forms?” I asked.
Yes. All the shoes are custom made for individual clients.
Custom made Italian leather shoes. What a life.
After our introduction to the process of making shoes by hand, we headed upstairs to check out the patterns for the sandals I would make.
I had a choice of leather, and strap patterns.
Once I selected the materials, I had to transfer the strap pattern onto the leather soles.
I may have needed a leeeetle help, but Francesca and Giovanna were patient and explained all the steps as we went along.
I very quickly learned that shoe making requires a lot of nails. You nail and re-nail over and over to get everything perfect.
While we worked, we chatted about what it is like for them to be two women in a very male dominated field. The ladies are passionate and refuse to be deterred by machismo. Luckily, their mentor Mario is supportive of their line of shoes and of their new shoe making class.
He even tried (and failed) to teach me some Roman slang. A patient, good humored man indeed.
After many many nails, three hours later, I bid Francesca and Giovanna goodbye as the proud owner of my very own handmade (by me) leather sandals.
Working with the leMastro ladies was one of the most unique experiences I have ever had in Rome. I loved every minute of it. Where else can you make your own shoes?
Speaking of.. here is how they turned out.
As you can see, 5 years in Rome has done wonders for my fashion sense. I am pretty sure I went for the flashiest golds, balanced out with a thin nude strap.
I absolutely recommend spending an afternoon with Giovanna and Francesca to make your own custom pair of shoes.
A big thanks to With Locals for the kind invitation to join the class! In addition to shoe making, you can find everything from Fiat 500 tours to cooking classes on the site.