A world away from the steady stream of passersby outside in via Guicciardini, Giotto Leather is a quiet haven of expertise. The smell of leather lingers in the air, reassuring shoppers that herein lies the genuine article.
A framed photograph of former owner Gabriele Mangani instills a touch of homeliness in this old-fashioned (in a good way) retail space that is now managed by his sons Daniele and Michele. The 30-something year-olds have been skillfully helming the proudly Florentine family business since their father’s death in 2020, although leatherworking has been in the Mangani veins for three generations.
“Our dad opened the shop in 1980, whereas our grandfather was the one who started working leather in the family,” Daniele explains as we head down the marble steps leading to the basement lined with primarily men’s footwear, a growing women’s shoe range and handbags. “Based on our father’s advice, who had realized that some innovation was needed, my brother and I also think about new trends, while always maintaining our original classic lines.”
As he speaks, Daniele runs his expert hands over a thoroughly modern take on a traditional leather shoe. White-soled, white-laced, yet with evidently leather uppers, these are sneakers to all intents and purposes. Then, he picks up a handsome specimen of a hand-stitched men’s triple-tone shoe in mustard yellow, orange and brown, all dyed artisanally. It’s the epitome of utterly stylish and irresistible Florentine handicraft. The shoes retailed in this city centre store are all handmade and hand-stitched in the Florence area with a leather sole and leather lining. “Every year we try to add something new in terms of our collections, both for men’s and women’s footwear,” explains Daniele, “but whenever you come back to us, you’ll always find the same traditional shoes we’ve always sold.”
On arriving at the store, a vacationer walks in, interested in purchasing a leather jacket. Before he’s even chosen one he likes, he asks, Are there any discounts? It begs the question of the challenge that must come with being positioned bang in the tourist centre between the Ponte Vecchio and the Pitti Palace. “More than anything, it’s a stroke of luck. Even in the lower season, there are always people who pass by via Guicciardini, often tourists with good taste and spending power. The challenge lies in creating products that offer something different. Yes, you have to maintain traditional Florentine craftsmanship, but you also have to sell something that other stores don’t, given that there are so many similar shops in the same vicinity.”
In addition to the many occasional and returning American customers (“their tastes vary from shoes to jackets and bags, but they are always interested and want to learn more”), Giotto Leather has cornered the Japanese market thanks to a popular blog listing them as one of top two leather stores in all of Italy. It explains the little notes in Japanese calligraphy—Daniele and Michele’s names in shodō to aid communication—and origami birds displayed by the till. “A Japanese traveller will always pop by our store when they’re in Florence. They like to buy high-quality, tasteful items.”
Although the two brothers invariably spend most of their time in the via Guicciardini boutique, they make the occasional creative work trip to deepen ties with the artisans who produce their handcrafted items. On the day we visit, Daniele and Michele had devoted their morning to a craftsman in Poggio a Caiano between Florence and Prato to develop a new line of raffia leather-lined sandals together.
“For us, it’s a passion and that’s something that clients pick up on. When they come into the store, we like to chat with them, find out where they are from and what their tastes are. We explain what’s behind our shoes, their origin and workmanship as well as our family history. Clients love that. I believe that you’re good at your job if you enjoy doing it, and my brother and I both love what we do.”
Existing Giotto Leather customers can benefit from the online store, meaning that you can continue to “fill your boots” even if you can’t make it back to Florence anytime soon.
Via Guicciardini 58R
Store opening hours: Monday-Sunday 10am-7pm