Tuscany is home to some of the best leather artisans in the country—no small feat considering the entire country of Italy is unparalleled for its leather crafts. While you can find beautiful leather products in Rome or Milan, Florence and its sister Tuscan cities offer unique goods that you won’t find in other areas (thanks to regional vegetable tanning techniques and production methods). As well as high-fashion Italian leather purses, jackets, and other garments, you’ll also find unique gift items here, such as leather-bound journals and photo albums. Independent shops tend to be more affordable than the large designer outlets, if you’re looking for the best deals.
My wife bought a kid-leather jacket twelve years ago in Florence, the leather felt as soft as…you name it. The design was unique: 19th-century romantic with braids blended together in the latest chic style. The workmanship was impeccable. It still gets her compliments everywhere she goes. And she wears it with joy. A well-made leather item can last a lifetime and the older it gets the better it looks. And the older it gets the more you will love it. Trust me: I’m the guy who loves his forty-four-year-old, handmade travel bag. And no one makes them better than the Tuscans.
Officina Della Pelle, Lucca
Officina Della Pelle (a recent name change from Legatoria D’Arte) began 40 years ago by Antonio Capuozzo, a binder of precious antique volumes for the library of Naples. Today, he and his sons Mario and Salvatore offer a range of affordable handmade leather products in Lucca’s historic center, near Piazza Santa Maria. Products include perfectly tanned leather in handbags and briefcases, and beautifully made notebooks and albums. All of their crafts are made with meticulous care.
Legatoria Koine (Montepulciano)
Tucked away on a steep street in the medieval hill town of Montepulciano, Legatoria Koine specializes in unique handmade leather-bound journals, diaries, and photo albums (both hard and soft cover) that make perfect gifts or mementos from your Tuscan adventure. The shop also sells writing instruments, including antique pens (an ideal pairing with a new journal or diary), and decorative paper. The workshop—worth a visit if you’d like to see firsthand how these ancient crafts are done—is in the nearby spa center of Chianciano Terme.
Davide Cerasi Leather Boutique, Florence
Okay, get out your wallets! You’ll be thankful that you did. On a bank of the Arno River adjacent to the Ponte Vecchio is Davide Cerasi, specializing in leather jackets, coats, and handbags. Be prepared to be met by the owner/designer and given unflinching personal advice on what will suit you best. Davide loves his clients and counts on them returning for years to come—and they do. He offers custom designs in a variety of colors and sizes; the handbag colors and patterns will blow your mind, and his coats and jackets are sensuously soft. Whatever you get from him you will love for life.
Max il Cuoiaio, Pisa
On the banks of the Arno River, leather tanners have been plying their trade since the 13th century. To tan their leather, they used to soak the skins in the river, then whip them with mordella plant branches, rich in tannins. Max the leather artisan has been here for three decades, making durable and beautiful leather briefcases, travel bags, computer bags, backpacks, and small leather products using traditional Tuscan leather craft techniques.
Goccia Shoes, Florence
Warning! If you have a shoe fetish, do not go within a mile of Goccia Shoes. If you do, its vortex will suck you in, the quality and design of their shoes will dazzle you, and your children and your children’s children will end up paying off your shoe debts and die in abject poverty. With offerings for both men and women, this small but impressive store (near the Piazza della Repubblica, site of the old Roman forum and current café hub) has refined and imaginative top-quality loafers, boots, heels and even a leather handbag or two. They even take custom orders.