Florence is a city that is absolutely renowned for its leather tradition. If you are searching for a Made in Italy handbag or leather jacket to take home, Firenze is the place to get it. However, this fame for leather means that you will find shops peddling counterfeit or imported goods in every corner of the city. Luckily, Scuola del Cuoio – the Florence leather school – is a place where you can still find artisans handmaking leather goods.
Located in the monastery of the Santa Croce church, the quiet school is also one of the most unique places to buy leather in Florence. The Santa Croce neighborhood has traditionally been the area of the city where leather making has taken place for hundreds of years and you will still find streets named for the traders who once located their shops there, such as Via dei Conciatori (Tanner’s Street).
You don’t have to buy a ticket to the church (where Michelangelo is buried) in order to visit the school and showroom. Instead, if you are facing Santa Croce, walk to the left, past the ticket line and keep going about 50 feet further up the street. There you will see a sign for the Scuola.
You need to keep walking around the back of the church to reach the monastery, following the signs in English and Italian through a small courtyard and then up one flight of stairs.
Inside you will find a small shop with small leather goods including wallets, keychains, and belts. Handmade leather bags are displayed behind glass so you will have to ask a member of the staff if you want to see any of these more closely. Most of the items can be monogrammed by the artisans who work in various rooms beyond the shop.
You are welcome to wander back into this area to see everyone at work, as well as to shop for larger items like weekender bags and leather jackets.
The prices here are a little high but fair considering that everything is exclusively made onsite and the quality is guaranteed. I had to pick up a little something myself because I think it is really important to support trades that are at risk of dying out or being replaced by machine-made junk.
The Florence leather school was founded by Silvano Casini and Marcello Gori in 1950. Working with the Fraciscan Friars of the Monastery of Santa Croce, the leather artisans sought to establish a school to help orphans after World War II.
The Scuola del Cuoio was started with the mission to provide children with a trade so that they could support themselves after the devastating war. The leather school in Florence quickly gained fans all over the world for the amazing quality of the items produced. Dwight D. Eisenhower even commissioned a leather desk set for the White House.
As public education improved, the need for trade schools declined, but classes are still offered here. Today, the leather school is run by the daughters and grandchildren of the founder, Marcello Gori.
Classes and Tours
The Scuola del Cuoio is a one-of-a-kind place to shop for leather goods in Florence, but it is also very much a working school. Serious students can sign up for 10- or 20-week courses where they spend seven hours a day learning the luxury trade.
Those who dont have months to devote to learning a new trade can still have an incredibly unique experience at the school with the shorter workshops. In 3 or 6 hour workshops, students can learn how to hand stitch leather to create items like book covers or belts. The classes are lead by master craftsmen and start at €250 – though the price per person goes down significantly if you have a group of 4 to 10 people. The items you make are yours to take home at the end of the day.
If you are interested in learning more, you can also arrange to take a tour of the leather school. The guided visits start at €14 per person and cover the history of the school, an explanation of different techniques and information on the different kinds of leather used, as well as the gilding process.
Scuola del Cuoio Firenze
Via San Giuseppe 5R
Open: Daily (but artisans are only present Monday through Friday) from 10 am to 6 pm.
For more information, email [email protected]