This guided tour will take you to the shops in the historic center that have linked their names to Florentine artistic craftsmanship and represent excellence in the field of jewelry, mosaics and production of leather goods and paper.
We will tell you the story of these ancient crafts, which are part of the tradition and culture of the city: a story that has its roots in a distant and glorious past, handed down through generations of father to son and that today is more than ever alive thanks to the talent and wisdom of the master craftsmen of Florence.
A specialized tourist guide will accompany you through their laboratories and workshops to see up close the techniques and tools used in the production of these manufactured products of the highest quality.
One of the most appreciated activities of the Florentine tradition of craftsmanship is the goldsmith, which consists of working with precious metals such as gold and silver. It includes jewelry, in which precious stones and gems are used to create objects of ornament and devotion or worship, the word seems to come from the Latin gaudia, which means joy and jocale, which generally indicates an object of great value. So an art born to give happiness and pleasure to the wearer.
Florence and Tuscany have a centuries-old tradition in this field that dates back to the time of the Etruscans, great masters in the technique of granulation (made by aligning small spheres of gold) which together with the tunnel, the embossing and enamelling is one of the most classic methods of decorating jewelry.
Jewellery has always been taken as a distinctive trait of the high social classes, from the earliest times (just think of the grave goods found in tombs) but in the Middle Ages and Renaissance, with the affirmation of the rich and demanding bourgeois and merchant class, the art of goldsmithing had a strong development in Florence and the craftsmen in this sector became highly specialized.
Our tour will take you to the workshop of master Paolo Penko to admire his unique creations, inspired by the Renaissance; his jewels are entirely handmade according to the ancient techniques of the goldsmith tradition. At the end of the 1500s, a new form of art came to light, called the Florentine salesman.
It took up an ancient decorative technique used by the Romans (opus sectile) which consisted of carving and inlaying marble to create designs on walls and floors.
Thanks to the interest of the Medici family, the technique was perfected and so was born the mosaic in semi-precious stones, which in a short time became very popular and spread to the most important Italian and foreign courts. In Florence, Grand Duke Ferdinand I established the Opificio delle Pietre Dure as an artisan factory in which to form the
workers necessary for the realization of the family mausoleum, the Chapels of the Princes in San Lorenzo (link to the tour A spasso con i Medici), almost entirely covered with inlaid marble.
The Florentine semi-precious stone mosaic, unlike the normal mosaic, does not use geometric tiles, but larger pieces chosen according to the shades of colour, shades and veins of the stones used. The pieces are still cut today with a wire stretched into a bow and then placed next to each other gluing them on the support, then leveling and polishing the composition. The final effect is that of a “stone painting”, works of great prestige and artistic value.
During our tour we will see at work the masters Renzo and Leonardo Scarpelli, in their family workshop and we can admire their extraordinary masterpieces made through the combination of craftsmanship, tradition and innovation.
Among the most typical activities of Florentine craftsmanship there is also the bookbinding.
The bookbinding was the ancient workshop where the books were bound, i.e. the process by which the individual sheets are joined to the cover. In the West, it is thought that this trade dates back to the first century AD, born at the same time as the spread of Christianity. At that time, in fact, it was discovered that by folding the sheets of papyrus or parchment in half and sewing them along their folds, one could write on both sides.
Today even tying has become an industrial product and many books and notebooks are bound with staples or adhesive, but there are still shops where you can make the bindings by hand, with needle, thread, awl and glue.
We will visit one of the Signum workshops, where we produce leather and paper bookbinding articles according to the techniques and materials of the Florentine tradition and other writing objects, historical maps, planispheres and amusement objects for children.