Vigevano, a Renaissance-era town, has been fashioning footwear for the likes of Beatrice d'Este (wife of 15th-century Milanese ruler Ludovico Il Moro) for 600 years. Now, latter-day foot fetishists are flocking to the hamlet, 40 minutes by train from Milan.

Off the Piazza Ducale—one of Italy's most treasured squares—is Vigevano's medieval castle, which houses the new shoe museum, Il Museo della Calzatura (25 Piazza Ducale; 39-0381/81811). The 150 styles on view include World War II sandals made from plastic spools; button-up evening shoes worn by Mussolini in the 1930's; and purple moccasins once donned by Pope John Paul II (whose feet are much larger than you'd think).

Just outside town, Henry Béguelin and his craftsmen still use traditional cobbling techniques at his factory store Melodie (42 Via della Gioia; 39-0381/326-994). Book a tour of the workshop, where artisans hand-sew leather shoes for the Henry Cuir line. Then pop into the newly minted outlet for classic designs that go for a mere $60. For kickier bargains, stop by the well-organized factory outlet Moreschi (69/71 Via Cararola; 39-0381/69881). There, you can pick up discounted oxfords and derbies, and last season's thongs in patent leather, crocodile, or printed calf.
—Valerie Waterhouse