Florence is famous for so many things to do and see: the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore (Il Duomo de Firenze), Michelangelo’s David, the masterpieces in the Uffizi, the Ponte Vecchio, red tile roofs, and for those of us searching for a special souvenir, leather.
I could spend all day in the Uffizi (and I have!), but I want to tell you a little about my favorite place to find local artisan leather goods: The Leather School, or Scuola del Cuoio. I love stopping by the Scuola del Cuoio for so many reasons. I love its history, its location, and the variety of artwork being produced inside.
The Scuola del Cuoio was established shortly after World War II. Franciscan friars of the Santa Croce monastery partnered with the Gori and Casini families, prominent leather artisans, in order to assist war orphans by providing training in the leather artisan field. The friars’ old dormitory, donated by the Medici family during the Renaissance, was turned into the classrooms.
The school’s workshops opened for business in 1950, and some of its first customers were the U.S. Air Force and multiple American Embassies in Europe. It’s fascinating thinking about the school’s history and philanthropic goals while visiting the workshops and courtyards!
By now you’ve learned that the school is located on the grounds of the Basilica of Santa Croce. It’s a beautiful church, the largest Franciscan church in the world, and it was finished in the mid-15th century. My favorite part of the Santa Croce, however, is not the same detail that I admire in other Italian churches from it’s time period. It’s not how it’s decorated that draws me in every time; it’s who is inside! The Santa Croce is home to elaborate marble tombs to world-famous Italians like Michelangelo Buonarroti and Galileo Galilei! I love a little history with my travels! Ok, I love a LOT of history with my travels, so the Santa Croce always captures my interest!
The handbags created at the Scuola del Cuoio are high quality works of art. If you’re looking for a lifelong handbag, these are a great choice. The leather quality is amazing, and the stitching is strong. They have a classic look and will age beautifully. A bag like the one below would be the perfect travel companion for many years worth of adventures.
A handmade bag of the highest quality of leather is a pretty expensive “investment piece” for most travelers, especially those that have dedicated their budgets to seeing instead of owning. My favorite affordable options are the passport cases that can be monogrammed and the python bracelets. Whenever I wear my stack of python bangles, I think about my honeymoon.
[Product Photos from Scuola del Cuoio]
Not in the market for a handbag?
Florence’s charm extends far, far beyond the shopping crowd and the art galleries. One of my favorite activities in Florence is to just get lost, mosey around side streets and along the river, and then finally settle in at a cafe where I can watch the city go by.
Take a leisurely stroll from the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, through the Piazza della Signoria, and then along the Arno river to the Ponte Vecchio for a beautiful sunset view of the city. Be sure to grab a gelato or a waffle with nutella along the way. You can never go wrong strolling down cobblestone streets in a beautiful city with a delicious snack! And sometimes that steaming hot waffle dripping with nutella makes for the best memories, too!