Pelletteria Artigiana Viviani
Florence is undoubtedly one the Italian fashion capitals! Here, in 1921, Guccio Gucci established his brand, which would become world-famous in the blink of an eye. In 1927, instead, Salvatore Ferragamo opened his first laboratory in via Mannelli. Today, Florence hosts many fashion schools that attract students from all over the world and the Pitti Uomo fashion show is visited by more than 30 000 people every year.
A family of Florentine artisans
In part, the success of Florentine brands was based on high quality artisan production of cloths. In particular, their fame was built on artisan leather products, such as shoes and bags. In fact, leather production is one of the most traditional artisan industries in Florence. Still today, when you walk around the town, you will find many shops with leather products, sometimes at a very convenient price. As you can imagine, most of these shops and market stalls do not sell local, artisan products. Forget about buying a quality leather bag for 30 €. It is simply impossible!
Fortunately, still today many artisan leather workshops are active in the city and with a bit of patience and some research, you will find in Florence really high-quality bags and shoes. One of my favourite shops with beautiful handmade leather bags is Pelletteria Artigiana Viviani in via Guelfa. It is a family run laboratory, that produces handmade handbags since three generations.
Its founder, Renato Viviani, started his professional activity in 1930s at Gucci’s workshops. During World War II, in order to avoid political persecution, he escaped with his parents to Argentina where he opened his own leather laboratory. He started to produce high-quality furniture covered with leather and other elements of interior design. Renato returned to Italy in 1950s and initially opened a leather laboratory at home, in his big apartment close to Ponte Vecchio. In 1965 he rented a shop in via Guelfa, the same place where Pelletteria Artigiana still runs today.
Leather shop in Giuseppe Poggi’s former studio
The laboratory is located Giuseppe Poggi’s former studio. Poggi was an important Florentine architect, responsible for some urbanistic projects dating back to the period when Florence was capital of Italy, between 1865 and 1871. At that time, Florence wanted to become a modern metropolis, similar in its urbanistic shape to Paris and other European cities. In order to modernize the town, Poggi decided to demolish the medieval walls of Florence and to build the boulevards around the historical centre. His most famous project is probably the construction of Piazzale Michelangelo, a panoramic terrace overlooking the city. In Viviani’s shop you can admire the beautiful ceiling dating back to 1860 and behind the laboratory there is a little garden designed by Poggi himself.
Pelletteria Viviani today
In 1980s Renato’s daughter, Viviana Josefina entered the laboratory and she soon became the main product designer and artistic director. Today, she runs the enterprise together with her husband and son, Leonardo.
I discovered this shop many years ago (and I obviously immediately showed it to my husband, because bags are women’s best friends, aren’t they?), but only recently I had a chance to meet this generous and welcoming family personally. I was invited to their laboratory together with the community of Tuscany Bloggers and Leonardo introduced us to the history of his family and explained their working methods.
In fact, Viviani’s bags are unique! They are handmade from beginning to end. Viviana Josefina designs the bags without the help of AutoCAD or any other computer program. The leather is cut by hand, without the use of a shearing machine. It means that the artisans are able to control the quality of leather chosen for every single element of the bag. They use the leather coming from Italy and New Zealand, checking carefully the materials used for the production. Each bag has a female name that defines its design. Being produced manually, they can be fully personalized. You can choose the colour and decide some other details, such the buckles or the length of the belt.
Florentine slow life
Pelletteria Artigiana Viviani is a perfect example of a historical artisan activity in Florence. I like to visit this kind of laboratories spread around the town buying things directly from them, as they allow us to appreciate the quality and attention given to handmade production. This is maybe one of my favourite aspects of my Florentine life, the fact that I can easily escape the logic of a globalized market and meet personally people who produce things I use. Last time I introduced you to Livia and Viviana, owners of Hello Wonderful boutique where I buy some of my cloths. This time you met Leonardo from Pelletteria Artigiana Viviani. In Florence we also have La Fierucola, where we meet the farmers who provide us with fresh veggies, fruits and cheeses. Then, there are the stalls in San Lorenzo market, where we buy our grocery daily, and many other little activities, run locally with passion and skill.
If you want to visit Florence and “do what locals do”, you should definitely discover the Florentine markets and artisan workshops. They truly are the seminal part of the local everyday life.
If you need a guide to the Florentine artisan workshops, check this book: Firenze su misura. Craft shopping guide (Gruppo Editoriale 2018).
Pelletteria Artigiana Viviani
via Guelfa, 3a , Firenze
Monday: 3 pm-7:30 pm
Tuesday-Saturday: 9:30 am-1 pm and 3 pm-7:30
Closed on Sunday