Scuola del Cuoio was founded after World War II through the collaborative efforts of the Franciscan friars of the Monastery of Santa Croce and the Gori and Casini families, Florentine leather artisans since the 1930’s. Their mission was to give orphans of the war a means to learn a practical trade with which to earn a living.
Santa Croce, with its strategic position along the banks of the Arno river, since the 13th century has been the district where the tanneries that required great quantities of water were concentrated. The tanners of Via delle Conce and Via dei Conciatori, just a few steps from the garden entrance of the Monastery and Scuola del Cuoio, were an important part of the Santa Croce neighborhood with the dyers of Corso dei Tintori and even the soap makers of via dei Saponai. The streets of the neighborhood keep alive the memory of their origins: Corso dei Tintori (Dyer’s street), Via delle Conce (Tanneries’ street), Canto delle Mosche (Flies’ place, from the many insects that the remains of the process would attract). At the beginning of the ninth century, along the river, between Florence and Pisa, a district of tanneries was settled and named, perhaps not by chance, Santa Croce Sull’Arno, which is today renowned as one of the best tanning districts in the world.
The tanned hides were used for centuries for city’s the leather manufacturing and at the Monastery itself to cover the great manuscripts. Post-war Scuola del Cuoio brought those traditions back to the Monastery. The friars converted the old dormitory space for the school and the first workbenches were placed in the corridor. During the Renaissance, the Medici family donated this dormitory to the Franciscans and commissioned architect Michelozzo for its construction. The main corridor, with its vaulted ceiling and coats of arms of the Medici family over the doorways and mantle, is also decorated with frescoes executed by the school of Domenico Ghirlandaio.
Among the first students of Scuola Del Cuoio there were orphans of the boy’s town of Pisa, “La Citta Dei Ragazzi”. The students were taught the differences between the various kind of leather, the methods to cut leather by hand and began to create a variety of leather items ranging from handbags and briefcases to other small leather goods.The more gifted students learned how to make artistic objects such as desk sets and jewelry cases and the art of gilding leather using 22 carat gold.
In May of 1950, Scuola del Cuoio, due to the growing demand of fine quality hand-crafted products, opened its doors to clients inside the laboratories of the school in Santa Croce. The fondest costumers of Scuola Del Cuoio were from United States.Among these costumers: the 6th fleet (stationed in the Mediterranean), the U.S. Air Force, the 5th Army and the American Embassies in Europe and even a personal order from General Dwight D. Eisenhauer, when he became president, of a leather desk set hand crafted and hand gilded in the Scuola. With support of the Italian Foreign Ministry, the then-Mayor of Florence, Giorgio La Pira created two annual scholarships for boys from Third World countries. At the end of the 1950’s, in agreement with the Ministry of Justice, Scuola del Cuoio started to offer classes inside the prison. Marcello Gori was given by the Government a medal for the re-education of the prisoners.
On November 4th, 1966, after several days of torrential rains, the Arno River flooded Florence. The debris and mud from the countryside hit the district of Santa Croce, historically prone to flooding, the hardest. Scuola del Cuoio, like the entire Basilica of Santa Croce, was completely engulfed with the flood waters and sludge. The damage paralyzed the business for almost a year. Nevertheless, thanks to the enthusiasm and commitment of the family and staff, Scuola del Cuoio was brought back to its efficiency. In 1968, President Saragat named Marcello Gori ”Cavaliere del Lavoro”, thus sugelling his lifetime dedication to a socially fair and sustainable business aiming for excellence.
Over the decades, Scuola del Cuoio has been honored to welcome many internationally renowned visitors. Among them: the Royal Families of England, Japan and Sweden, the Queen of Greece, the President of the Italian Republic Carlo Azeglio Ciampi, Sen. and Mrs. Ted Kennedy, Madeleine Albright, former U.S. President Ronald Reagan and former First Ladies Nancy Reagan and Barbara Bush.
Many visitors from the entertainment world own Scuola del Cuoio products and have visited the artisan workshops. Among them, James Stewart, Cary Grant, Paul Newman, Grace Kelly, Katharine Hepburn, Audrey Hepburn, Olivia de Havilland, Rob Schneider, John Houston, Steven Spielberg, Zubin and Nancy Mehta, Jack Nicklaus, Linda Carter, Robert Downey Junior, Will Smith, Patrick Neil Harris and Noah Wyle to name just a few.
The unique location, the quality of its products and the commitment to tradition has made Scuola del Cuoio famous. Scuola del Cuoio today remains the largest genuine laboratory in the city where clients can witness the artisans create the leather goods in the midst of centuries-old history.
The successive mayors of Florence have continued to honor Scuola del Cuoio with commissions to create guest books, albums and writing pads with the coat of arms of the city displayed during official ceremonies. The Bishop’s Court, the Internal Ministry, the Italian Air Force, the Official Academy of the State Police, and famous hotels such as the Ritz in Paris and the Hassler in Rome ordered their leather goods from Scuola del Cuoio. Our reputation, the quality of our products and the customization that we make available to our customers also allowed prestigious partnerships with companies from all over the world. Among the others, IWV Schaffhasuen, Mazda, American Express, RAI Radio Televisione Italiana, General Electric, TetraPack, FIAT, Philip Morris.
With the passing of Silvano Casini and Marcello Gori in 2003, the founding fathers of the Scuola del Cuoio, today, the vision of the school lives on through Marcello Gori’s family. His three daughters, Laura, Francesca, and Barbara, and grandchildren Tommaso, Filippo and Beatrice manage Scuola del Cuoio. The Gori family continues to be committed to the great tradition of quality products and personal customer service which has allowed Scuola del Cuoio to establish a refined clientele worldwide. Laura Gori has been member of Santa Croce Advisory Council for four years allowing Scuola del Cuoio to assist with the plans to restore and promote cultural programs at the monumental complex. Francesca Gori has started a new line of hand-stitched one-of-a-kind handbags. Her collection is made from soft deerskin or exotic pelts such as crocodile, ostrich and python. Francesca Gori’s bags often feature bright color combinations and have decorative closures with bobbles of silver, gold, semi-precious stones and other rare materials such as fossils, quartz, amber all from antique jewelry and the like found during Francesca’s travels throughout fairs, markets and shows throughout Europe.
The friars of the Monastery of Santa Croce and the Gori family share a common vision for Scuola del Cuoio. Their wish is to revive the minor arts, drawing from the experience of the master craftsmen, and to uphold the great traditions of Florentine quality craftsmanship. Scuola del Cuoio is proud to provide a unique learning experience for visitors and students from all over the world.