I’d always wondered how leather came to be so deeply rooted in Florence’s culture. Now that I’ve visited the Scuola del Cuoio leather school in the Santa Croce neighborhood, I know the answer. The school has deep roots and has been well-maintained by the Gori Casini family.
The school can be entered either from the Church of Santa Croce or the cloisters on Via San Giuseppe 5r from the garden around the apse.
I was welcomed by Laura, the showroom’s manager. With her eyes shining with the love and devotion that her family has shown for generations, keeping up a leather school that, after more than 60 years, still recreates the atmosphere of a Renaissance workshop, merging history and tradition in authentic craftsmanship.
I was genuinely dazzled by the beautiful unique pieces made only by hand, exuding the scent of soft calfskin, buckskin and ostrich leather, as well as exotic alligator and python skins.
The leather school was founded after World War II, spawned from a collaboration between Santa Croce’s Franciscan friars and the Gori and Casini families, with the purpose of giving war orphans the chance to learn the leather trade. The school has played a civic role from its start.
Now visitors can watch artisans while they make leather products in the historic Renaissance hall, admiring their handiwork along with magnificent Ghirlandaio frescoes.
Students come from every corner of the world and work in the workshops in rooms with vaulted brick ceilings in the old novices’ courtyard of Santa Croce’s monastery. The tools are all handmade and date back fifty years. Master craftsmen oversee and coordinate the work of each apprentice.
In addition to 3–6 month training programs, there are short half-day or full-day courses in which artisans teach students to make beautiful leather pictures frames and even customized belts.
If you’re interested, you can also have a guided technical tour of about an hour. The tour includes a cultural and historical description of Florentine leather crafting, a technical overview of processing techniques and the different leathers used as well as a demonstration of leather tanning and a tour of the ground floor workshops.
Harmony, elegance and sophistication are some of the many words that could describe this world, which this family has helped keep rooted in our culture despite the changing times.
Scuola del Cuoio
Piazza Santa Croce (through the basilica) and Via San Giuseppe 5r (entrance from garden around the apse)
English translation by Miriam Hurley