Long before Florence became the birthplace of Renaissance grandeur, the city was thriving thanks to centuries of rich artisanal production. Florence and its products have since transformed – but these age-old crafts are here to stay. Wandering through Florence’s narrow streets you’ll find both traditional artisans and modern innovators coloring the city’s developing urban fabric. And as cities worldwide replace one-of-a-kind shops for international-brand storefronts, Florence’s artisanal side is a feature to be cherished and explored. Add a dash of authentic Italy to your visit to Florence with some of the city’s best artisan workshops, both old and new:
Sbigoli Terrecotte / Maiolica
Welcome to the world of classic Florentine majolica. Dating to 1857, Sbigoli Terrecotte produces ceramic pieces according to the traditional Tuscan Majolica craft, an Italian tin-glazed pottery dating to the Renaissance. Destroyed in the 1966 flood, the shop was transformed into a workshop and storefront by the Adami family, offering visitors a chance to shop around or take part in one of its many workshops. Sbigoli’s rich history and one-of-a-kind ceramics are certified in the Esercizi Storici fiorentini Association and the Osservatorio Mestieri d’Arte.
Where: Via Sant’Egidio, 4/R, Florence
Maria Pace / Creative Clothing
Head to Florence’s Oltrarno district to get a feel for modern Florence. Here, you’ll find an artisan reshaping Florentine fashion with alternative and forward-thinking items. Punk meets boho in this little shop located the bustling via Romana: Maria Pace Creative Clothing sells unique handmade designs that focus on transformability and wearability without seasons. Her work sets the tone for what’s new and modern in artisanal Florence.
Where: Via Romana, 22-24, Florence
Il Torchio / Bookbinder
This Oltrarno artisan workshop is a real treasure for book and paper lovers alike. Canadian expat Erin Ciulla took over this traditional workshop that was founded in 1980, having learned through an internship with its first owner. She makes hand bound books and related products with paper and leather. On any given day, you can come in and see Erin creating pieces at the workbench that takes up a section of the store. Of course, custom orders are welcome, as is discussion of this craft and her interpretation of it!
Where: Via de’ Bardi 17, Florence
Roberto Ugolini / handmade shoes
Roberto Ugolini’s story is nothing short of a Ferragamo fairytale. Though this shoemaker didn’t make the leap overseas, Ugolino’s small cobbler shop in piazza Santo Spirito ships its beautiful creations worldwide, from Singapore to San Francisco, Seoul and New York. This shoemaker uses traditional shoe-making techniques to create striking Italian shoes splashed with a taste of modern Italian flair. Here, you might find shoes with colorful daisy flowers printed on the soles or leather creations adorned with vivid colors and designs.
Where: via dei Michelozzi,17/R Florence
Jane H. Restoration / Restoration
A passion for antiquity led England-born Jane Harman to the restoration business. You’ll find Jane’s shop in the heart of the San Frediano district, a workshop whose activities range from woodworking laboratories to on-site restoration and conservation, not to mention her range of drawings, carpentry work and wood decorations. Jane often collaborates with other designers and aims to preserve the unique identity of handcrafted wood products in the ever-conforming furniture business.
Where: Via L. Bartolini 1, Florence
Scarpelli Mosaici / Pietre Dure
A short walk from the Duomo you’ll find Scarpelli Mosaici, an artisan workshop founded in 1972 specialized in a technique from centuries ago: commesso or pietre dure. These astonishing artworks merge together hand-cut stones to create painting-like products – and you’ll be amazed by how brilliantly the precious stones form vivid color gradients and shapes. The same technique you’ll find in the Medici Chapels lives on today in Renzo Scarpelli’s workshop, a sure treat for any Florence visitor.
Where: Via Ricasoli, 59/r, Florence
(Main image credit virtualwayfarer on flickr)