Arts & Crafts: Oltrarno

“He who works with his hands is a LABOURER. He who works with his hands and his head is a CRAFTSMAN. He who works with his hands, head and his heart is an ARTIST”

                                                     Saint Francis of Assisi

Shopping in Florence is a step into history and traditions of artisanal laboratories. My favorite stores are not downtown designers but mostly family-run workshops in the Oltrarno, in the heart of Florence. Florence’s authentic artisanal crafts range from leather to ceramics, from linen to silk, paper and perfumes. The best district for finding Florentine artisans is, hands-down, the Oltrarno, still preserving a medieval atmosphere just off-the-beaten-path enough to be full of hidden treasures.

Here are four of my favourite Florentine artisans – if you want, we can go meet them together.

Francesca: not only a purse-shopping experience. You’re invited to look around, get a feel for the craft of leather-making, or even help design an item that Francesca and her assistants make for you in the workshop. She has a special register of her guests and the one of a kind purses which have been designed within her lab. True leather-lovers even can study here, learning the techniques that have been passed down over the years.

Leonardo: forget the trinkets in the souvenir shops. Meet jeweler and artisan Leonardo at his family studio attached to the Vasari Corridor. Leonardo belongs to a family of goldsmiths and sculptors who have used traditional methods for many generations. If you like pearls and semiprecious stones this is your paradise.

Daniela: entering her goldsmith lab is like breathing 500 hundred years of Florentine history and trends since the Medici family housed the best goldsmiths close to Ponte Vecchio. Dusty and rich ambiance, Renaissance style (Buccellati style jewellery), pictures of the Arno flood of 1966, chisels, old tools will bring you back to an antic authentic Florentine dimension. Daniela and her staff design and create locally unique collections for many important maisons abroad and for some jewellery shops along Ponte Vecchio.  If you were looking for the real production behind the scenes of glittering shop windows… well, here is the real Florence with flair!

Riccardo: he doesn’t like to be considered an artist, but he truly is. He uses brushes, but is not a painter. At his lab you will smell varnishes and colors, glue and paper. He whistles, smiles and in five minutes creates in front of you a colorful masterpiece of “marbleized paper.” Riccardo carries on the antique tradition of producing patterns of a veined or mottled appearance in imitation of marble by using acrylic colors. They are prepared by floating on a special liquid rich of natural glues. The colors are floated and driven magically by Riccardo into patterns and skilfully are taken off by laying a sheet of paper. Voilà… your unique Florentine piece of paper!

Your Art & Craft tour will be an enchanting experience to meet art, culture, Florentine characters and local private spaces. In half a day we can visit lots of interesting venues according to your own interests:  a perfume maker, a goldsmith, an antique dealer, a leather designer, a mosaic maker… let yourself be inspired by the pictures, and for any specific requests please contact: info@florencewithflair.com

Suggested Itinerary

  • Length: up to three hours.
  • Meeting point: at the lobby of your hotel if located in the downtown Florence (or any other spot available upon request)
  • Main visited sites and content: Piazza Pitti, Piazza Santo Spirito, Ponte Vecchio,  Santa Felicita church and Pontormo’s deposition, entrance to a mosaic maker laboratory, one florentine paper lab, visit to one of the oldest antique dealers “bottega” and local shoemaker or leather goods florentine designer. (Make a wish…I’ll accomplish any request on your shopping list!)
Cost of the tour: from Euro 60,00 per hour based on two pax (global cost including Tax & VAT, not per person) For  further information or tailor-made requests please contact: info@florencewithflair.com