FLORENTINE ARTISAN TOUR WITH FLORENCE & CHIANTI
An artisan tour in Florence is the perfect introduction to discovering local handmade goods that have been created in the backstreets of the labyrinth of streets known as Oltrarno. If you’re looking for an authentic tour, which is personalised, not touristy but prevailing the curtain on daily workings of small businesses and their craft, which has developed and upheld over generations, in an area that has been home to artisans for the past five hundred years, then I highly recommend this experience.
Disclaimer: This is a sponsored article however all views, opinions and photography are my own and remain a copyright of be-lavie.
Florentine Artisan Tour with Florence & Chianti
FLORENCE & CHIANTI TOURS
Florence & Chianti Tours are a tour guide led company headed by Aniko, who has been living in the city for over twenty years. Her love for the city, its’ history, heritage and particular knowledge and passion in the arts is quite infectious. Florence & Chianti is a relatively small boutique tour provider that offers one of the best personalised, quality services and experiences that I’ve encountered. All the tours are bespoke depending on what you wish to get out of them and tailored to suit your interests, fitness levels and any other desires. After all, it’s your holiday time so why shouldn’t you have the opportunity to experience exactly what YOU want instead of a cookie-cutter approach tour?!
INTRODUCING THE ARTISAN TOUR
I have to secretly admit that even with my many visits to Florence, I was somewhat unfamiliar with the artisan Florentine leather workers, silversmiths and frame decorators to mention a few and so had high hopes of being educated as to what a tour of this type would entail. In short I was pretty excited to discover a whole side of the crafts that I hadn’t experienced before.
Welcome to the traditional artisan world of Florence…
Our first stop was to experience some jewellery making with Herika who runs Nokike Atelier.
Aniko explained that the goldsmith trade started with the Medici’s (an influential family in Florence, who were bankers) and in particular Lorenzo Medici who had an interest in collecting cameos, vases and other such artefacts. The family had their own personal goldsmiths based in the Uffizi Gallery.
Herika actually has an interest in nature and takes object such as leaves and embeds them in wax and later has them sent to a foundry. She combines a modern approach to style and colour to this age old technique.
It was really interesting to see Herika at work and I was really taken by her unique but affordable approach to making jewelry that I went back and purchased some earrings as a reminder of my experience.
Our second stop was to meet an artist called Antonio who had retired but owned a restoration shop.
Antonio had worked for the Florence restoration Lab and spent his days restoring a lot of the beautiful pieces of art that had been damaged in the city. Watching Antonio work was a complete honour and the skills he had in making pieces look almost ‘new’ was really inspiring. Even during his retirement, Antonio’s passion was evident and his canvas stitching was impeccable! He also had one of the cutest helpers I’ve ever set eyes on!
Our penultimate stop was to meet Ciro at his boutique and workshop, Quoio Firenze who personally makes small leather goods such as wallets, belts, key fobs and the like.
Ciro is the fifth generation in his family to adopt this trade and has spent years working internationally with brands such as Diesel and then chose to return to Italy to keep the small local artisan business of his forefathers alive.
Ciro let us into his wealth of knowledge of how leather is completely fundamental to the area of Tuscany. He spoke with us about the vegetable dying process of leather and also how both brass and leather are prehistoric materials worn by man from the beginning of time.
Ciro was extremely proud of his craft and was bursting with pride as it was evident he was in the long term making sustainable, long-wearing items, which are investment pieces yet very affordable.
Our final stop of the artisan tour ended with a visit to the workshop of the famous Pitti Mosaic store. The showroom is located just around the corner.
We watched in awe as Daniella from the showroom introduced us to the stone masters who worked and cut the stones (examples include Jasper from Sicily and the green Serpentine from all around the world including Afghanistan) so meticulously to produce mosaic pieces, which are commissioned by the public as well as reproductions.
This type of mosaic is very typically Florentine and was first created by the Medici chapel and the stones master who work at the workshop still use those very same tools, which were used back in the Renaissance period.
If you want a real taste of the workings of this area dating back to the Medicis and noblemen, this tour is one not to be missed. Aniko conducts all her tours in English and they’re all private. I was also impressed how Aniko had picked each and every Artisan who took part in the tour by hand and had built a great relationship with them. This means that it’ll just be your party/group taking part in the experience. Additionally, Aniko is a cultural guide and therefore her aim is not to push you to buy from the artisans, however, I have a feeling you’ll want to go back and look at some of the beautiful handmade items on offer to savour as a memento of your trip.
“After all, there really is simply something stunning about a handmade piece isn’t there?“Artisans of Oltrarno
On the plus side you are also supporting a local trade/business, which is pretty sustainable in it’s own right. Personally, it was a complete pleasure being let into the personal and unique craft facets of each of these artisans of Oltrarno.
Please note that artisans on tours will change as per rotation and may not be the ones featured in this post
I hope you enjoyed this artisanal introduction to the old techniques of Florence and in particular, Oltrarno. It is truly an art form to be cherished and in a world of over consumerism and over-indulgence, it is great to see that these once common techniques have not been left to disappear with the past.
Tell me, is this a tour that you’d consider for a visit to Florence?
For further information about the artisan tour and other bespoke experiences, please contact Aniko via her website or Email below…
Florence & Chianti Tours (Website)