Florence Artisans: Santa Croce Leather School

My first two years of life were spent on a horse farm. You can see how strongly our brains associate scent with memory, and I almost drool when leather smells. I visit Florence’s outdoor leather markets every year, regardless of whether I am actually looking for something.

(But let’s face it, I am always looking for something.

Florence is a well-known city for its exquisitely-made leather goods. You can find them at both outdoor markets and boutique shops all over the city. What you might not know is that Florence’s leather history is linked to the Basilica of Santa Croce, one of the most popular churches in the city.

Santa Croce is the place where you can visit the graves of some famous Italians, including Galileo and Michelangelo. You will also find artwork by Giotto and Donatello in this church. Continue through the church to find a long corridor with work stations that look like desks along one end. Without realizing, you have entered the Scuola del Cuoio- Santa Croce’s Leather School.

The Scuola di Cuoio was established after World War II. It is a partnership between two of Florence’s most prestigious leather-working families and the Franciscan monks from Santa Croce. The idea was to provide war orphans with a means of supporting themselves – a trade that had a long history in Florence. The school was established in the former monastery dormitory. There were leather work benches in the hallway. These are work stations where leather artisans can learn and continue their work.

The Santa Croce Basilica’s leather school continues to be a partnership between Franciscan monks, one of the original families that founded the school. It trains newcomers in leather trade and also offers one day workshops for those who want to learn a new skill while on vacation. The Scuola Del Cuoio’s artisans create exquisite handmade leather goods such as briefcases and purses. Many of them also work for other leather designers after they graduate.

The Santa Croce Leather School is located in Florence

The workshop is open Monday through Friday, 10:00am-5:30pm. Artisans can be seen working from Monday to Friday. There are mirrors above each station that allow you to see the work of the artisans without having to bother them. The school also produces leather products, which directly supports the long tradition in Florence’s leather craftsmanship.

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