Walk Description

The Florentine tradition of producing artisanal goods has been in existence for centuries and remains one of the cornerstones of Florence's visual and social history, as much as it did in the times of the guilds. Florentine leatherworkers, silversmiths, shoe manufacturers and hat makers have produced handmade goods for countless generations of kings and queens, princes and noblewomen and continue to this day, mostly in the area known as the Oltrarno ("on the other side of the Arno"). This three hour walk will explore the private workshops of this characteristic neighborhood, providing a behind the scenes look at the current state of artisan production.

We will begin in the lovely Piazza Santo Spirito and enjoy a stroll through the Oltrarno neighborhood, which has been home to artisans for the last five-hundred years. The neighborhood is virtually carpeted with a maze of these small workshops on tiny side streets, representing some of the most historic enterprises in the city. The group will have the opportunity seeing some of these craftsmen at work; observing their meticulous practices and the tools of their trades.

In the company of our docent, we'll talk about Tuscan artisan traditions and the value and role of work and manufacturing in Italian culture. This walk is very much for the traveler looking to scratch a little more beneath the surface of the city. It should not be thought of as a shopping tour, instead, it is an in depth look into the workings of this precious industry and should provide a better understanding of the importance of preserving and promoting this dying art.

A portion of your booking fee for this walk is donated to the Context Foundation for Sustainable Travel which, among other things, supports an apprenticeship program for the artisans of the Oltrarno who often have a difficult time attracting and retaining apprentices to carry on their work traditions.

Duration: 3 hours
Category: City Ambience
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    Luca Santiccioli

    Originally from Siena, Luca has lived in Florence since college. He studied the history and restoration of monuments at the University of Florence and the restoration of historical gardens and parks in Siena. Luca was also co-author of the "Guide to Villa Demidoff and the Pratolino Park." He has continued to study Florentine traditions and arts and crafts, collaborating with the Agency of Tourism on the initiative "Re-Discovering the craftsmen of the Oltrarno." Over the past five years, Luca has contributed to several projects focused on the relationship between artisan skill and local traditional tastes in Tuscan food specialties.

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    Molly McIlwrath

    Molly holds an MA in Italian literature from the University of Wisconsin-Madison where she completed her PhD coursework and exams with a specialization in Renaissance and Early Modern periods. She spent a year in Venice as an undergraduate while at the University of California-Santa Cruz and afterwards worked in Siena for two years for the University of California Education Abroad Program. She later went to graduate school and, after finishing her studies in Madison, found herself back in Venice once again for another year, this time conducting archival research for her doctoral dissertation. She has remained in Italy ever since, has taught courses in Renaissance history in Florence, and is a licensed tour guide of Florence and its province.

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    Helen Bayley

    Born in the UK Helen moved to the USA to attend college. First the Rhode Island School of Design for her BFA in Painting and then Indiana University for graduate school. Helen remained in the USA for another twenty years teaching painting and drawing at the college level, initially at Kansas City Art Institute and the last seven years teaching drawing at Tyler School of Art, Temple University in Philadelphia. During this time Helen exhibited her paintings in galleries across America including New York, Philadelphia, Washington D.C and Chicago. Helen is continues to paint and exhibit and is currently represented by Gallerie Sparta, Beverly Hills.
    In Florence Helen is part of a cultural group "I Buontalenti" and her paintings can be seen as part of an annual cultural celebration of the patron Saint of Florence, Saint John the Baptist and at other venues.
    Helen has had a long term relationship with Florence and Italy; her first visit was as a study abroad student in Rome in 1987. Return visits ensued for teaching, fun and study, including a summer at The American Academy in Rome as a visiting artist/scholar and intensive summer workshops at The Florence Academy of Art. Helen is a licensed guide of Florence and the province of Florence and has made the city of Florence her home.