It is a delight to suggest a second phenomenal leather travel destination that Beau Satchelle Bespoke has been fortunate in cultivating wonderful relationships with source manufacturers for a number of our raw materials. When it comes to superior leather, the Italian market ranks in the upper echelon. For the retail consumer market, buying leather goods from our peers in the Italian brands space; not necessarily the known mammoth design houses but the smaller artisans who ensure elegant pieces and highest quality due to impeccable craftsmanship and exceptional leather quality.
Armani, Furla, Prada, Dolce & Gabbana, Gucci, Braccialini, and Valentino S.P.A., just a few of the prestigious designer leather brands who have called Florence, Italy and the surrounding region home. However, keep in mind, there are a number of smaller, talented artisans ateliers who create outstanding handcrafted leather goods. Be aware that a number of high end luxury brands are sourcing from tanneries that use the process of chrome tanning (dying process using chemicals) and, unfortunately, charge a small fortune for lower quality goods to uneducated consumers.
For connoisseurs of high-end leather products, you are keenly aware that Italian leathers are more expensive than their global contemporaries rightfully due to their commitment to the 5000 year-old tradition and complex vegetable tanning process (i.e., using dyes from natural tannins like tree bark and plants) that contributes to the aging and patina process and the classic intoxicating smell associated with tanned leather. The perfect description, I have heard, refers to comparing premium leather to fine wine and cheese; the more it ages the better it improves.
The Italian economy depends on offering the most luxurious leather in the world, even as pressure comes from manufacturers deciding to turn to low cost producing countries of Brazil, China and India. So how do Italian leathers to continue to claim the title of superior leather?:
· Government standards. In 2020, the government approved a decree regarding the correct use of labeling and product descriptions of leather to protect consumers from misconceptions about purchased authentic leather goods. Basically the guidelines prohibit the use of any prefixes or suffixes with the terms ‘leather’, ‘full grain leather’, ’coated leather’, ‘fur’ or ‘bonded leather fiber’ when used to identify materials not having animal origin, but synthetic or alternative material origins. So, for example, using labels such as ‘synthetic leather’ or ‘vegan leather’ or ‘faux leather’ is prohibited.
· The vegetable process is natural and lacks toxic materials that could enter the city’s waterways.
· The pandemic, as with other luxury industries, affected Italian leather manufacturing dramatically, as handbag sales were hit the hardest in 2020. Yet the industry is slowly rebounding by fortifying existing partnerships and creating new supply chain relationships. Also dropping their resistance to digital methods (as opposed to the traditional face-to-face interaction at trade fairs) including video conferencing, online shows and e-commerce to re-invent methods of selling luxury leather.
· Authenticity is proven by the Italian industry trade-mark label given by the Genuine Italian Vegetable Tanned Leather Consortium guaranteeing leather is tanned by the book
· The tanneries go through a leather certification process that covers from origins of breeding to the tannery processes.
When planning a leather themed getaway to Florence, Italy which will certainly involve a few tours of design houses, smaller artisans and/or the area’s markets known for selling leather wares. So let’s take a refresher tutorial on leather grades by their quality which will come in handy as you make purchases.
· Full Grain (pieno fiore) – this is the caviar of leathers. The most resistant and strongest made from the top layer of the hide
· Top-Grain (parte granno or cuoio di grana) – second best but not as durable as full grain
· Genuine leather (vera pelle or vero cuoio) – lowest quality of the real leather products (belts and purses) that are found at the local malls.
· Bonded Leather (cuoio rigenerato) – leather equivalent to a sausage or processed cheese whereas all the scraps are pressed together with a cocktail of glues, dyes and chemicals
· Imitation (simipelle or ecopelle) – no animal hide is used in this product.
When shopping, especially in the open markets, clues to watch for:
· the aroma smells musky and natural not like chemicals
· the suppleness is smooth and soft
· the color will not need dyes and different colors might mask lesser quality leather
· And finally the stitching should be tight and regular with small stitches.
Whether you arrive to Florence from the Peretola Airport (FLR), Ampugnano Airport (SAY) or Pisa International Airport (PSA) that all accommodate jet chartered flights get ready to be inspired by the vast history of this quaint city and the culture of la bella figura in translation means “the beautiful figure” that covers everything from a person’s dress to his or her actions and manners, to enjoying all that Italian life has to offer.
Happy Leather Travels to the Florence Region
Italy’s rich history with regards to leather can be traced back to the Renaissance Period (1300 CE – 1650 CE) when intellectualism was significantly embraced in the areas of art, knowledge and culture. Leather use, craft and tooling expanded and the merger of function and form grew as leather was used as status symbols for ornamental seating and leather guilds reserved for the wealthy. On the other hand Florence and sister city Tuscany’s tanning industries grew quickly as manufacturers were creating more functional items for the military with regards to saddlery and troops’ body protection wear and the working class for such items as shoes, clothing, bags and booking bindings.
How to immerse yourself in all things leather? There are a number of leather craft shops that give you that opportunity. Traveling to Florence where money’s no object? Unless you have an amazing executive assistant to create your daily itinerary, one might turn to a number of elite global or Italian focused concierge services committed to fulfilling your every wish and desire as you vacation in Florence. This may including car rentals or personal driver services, airport transfers, accommodations (from Airbnbs to five-star hotels), private tour guides, private tasting sessions (for specialized products of wine, cheese, olive oil, gelato, etc.), pet sitters, tickets to special events, and a whole host of services to create a perfect holiday while visiting Florence’s deep history of art, architecture, furniture design and an immeasurable playground for lovers of Italian food and wine.
TURN OVER YOUR TRIP PLANNING TO THE PROFESSIONALS
If you want to plan your own excursions there are a number of local personalized tour companies that know the lay of the land and provide very specific excursions such as Michelangelo’s David and Accademia Gallery Tour or a Chianti Safari involving Tuscan Villas, Cheese, Wine and Lunch.
I was really intrigued with this guided tour because of her background in fashion,
Florence What Else by Martina Guadagno – a local tour guide who offers a number of artisan tours including a behind the scenes of Florentine craftsmanship of Italian leather.
Other bespoke workshops or leather adventures to consider during your visit:
Pierotucci – on the outskirts of Florence, offers the opportunity to tour the workrooms and meet the artisans who give a glimpse into the process of creating handbags, jackets, bags and other accessories.
Cellerini – Located in the old city center of Florence, Cellerini is one of the most famous and elegant leather factories in the region. Local artisans work in a laboratory where the magic of customization for clients happens for bags, wallets and accessories.
Misuri one of the oldest establishments in the Florence district that was once overrun with tanneries and leather factories. Their claim is the one remaining factory that maintains the manufacturing principles of an era gone by.
A little more adventurous excursion would be to visit one of the outdoor markets such as the Mercato del Porcellino, or San Lorenzo Outdoor Market that offer plenty of leather goods, but certainly be careful in being able to distinguish between leathers (see clues mentioned above).
Florence’s heart of shopping for iconic Italian designer brands and luxury stores is Via de’Tornabuoni, Via Roma, Via dei Calzaiuoli or as mentioned above visit local shops to find high-quality leather items.
Stefano Bemer – Masters in highest standard of Italian elegance and quality in shoemaking. The flagship store is located in Firenze. Stefano Bemer even offers an intriguing 10 or 20 week master training course in Florence in luxury bespoke shoemaking at their atelier.
The world renowned leather school Scuola del Cuoio located inside the Monastery of Santa Croce. Students learn their trade from the best Italian artisans and sell their beautiful wares to the public.
Updates on Traveling Healthy and Safely
We always feel a responsibility to give our readers current updates (as of the date of this blog) as to what the United States is advising travelers to be mindful of both with regards to health and safety. Researching the top travel blogs, the consensus is that Florence is generally safe with almost no violent crimes except for petty theft. In a nutshell, take the same precautions as you would in any metropolitan city: always be aware of your surroundings, be vigilant in watching your belongings and never leave luggage, a handbag or even phones or cameras unattended, as in any heavily tourist destinations pickpockets and scammers are notorious, so be alert in public areas and mindful of how you carry your personal items and be mindful and assertive of being stopped by the locals scammers looking for gullible visitors.
· As of June 12, 2022, the CDC rescinded orders requiring all persons aged two and above to show a negative COVID-19 test result before boarding a flight to the United States.
· Italy has confirmed cases of COVID-19 within its borders. The CDC has issued a Level 3 Travel Health Notice for Italy and advises Americans to avoid travel to Italy “if a traveler is not up to date with COVID-19 vaccines”.
· The Department of State has issued a Level 2 Advisory recommends that Americans exercise increased caution due to terrorism.
· Currently masks are mandatory on all trains, ships and local public transportation and inside all healthcare facilities.
· Finally, be aware of limited service operations and staffing levels in the U.S. Embassy and Consulates General for protection of both staff and customers. Travelers are advised to make appointments for routine services such as passports. -AJ
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Thank you to the following sites for source material:
U.S. Embassies and Consulates in Italy: Covid 19 information
BLC Leather Tech News Article – Italy approves decree protecting the term ‘leather’
Leather International – Italian leather: Pushing through the Pandemic
Pelleal Vegetale.it – The Genuine Italian Vegetable-Tanned Leather Consortium
Thank you to the following photo contributors:
Pierotucci.com – leather Craftsperson skiving leather
Pierotucci.com –Pierotucci’s Showroom
Jonathan Kömer – Arial View of Florence, Italy
Heidi Kaden – Street View
Mark Boss – Ponte Vecchio
Jackie Jabson – Wine and Leather!
Michelle_Maria – Leather Outdoor Market
Gianfe – Prada Pumps
Rishabh Mathew – Emporio Armani watch
Antonio Filigno – Renaissance Sculpture of Hercules and the Centaur Nessus