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Slow Masters - Roberto Ugolini

Custom made men's shoes in Florence

Alexandra Korey (arttrav)

Roberto UgoliniRoberto Ugolini makes shoes the old-fashioned way. It costs a pretty penny but if you have your feet measured while in Florence and order a pair of his sturdy-yet-fashionable men's shoes, you’ll wear this memory every day for a long time. And if you wear them out, he’ll fix them and make them seem new again.

Roberto's little store and workshop is so close to the church of Santo Spirito in Florence that you have to crick your neck to look upwards at the façade from his front door. I went recently to interview him about the process of making handmade leather shoes, and we ended up hanging out for hours just talking! He doesn't seem to mind curious people just coming in to chat about artisanship in general, though he will continue to work with great precision while chatting.

Roberto explained the steps that go into making these shoes. It starts by measuring the client's foot, simply tracing it onto paper, and measuring things like height, width, and any funny shapes ones toes might have. Then he customizes a wooden cast that is the very shape of your foot. Behind the counter you can see these beautiful objects that are an art unto themselves. The leather top of the shoe is created and attached to the mold in order to take shape, along with the eventual layers of soles (which are all leather and real cork). It's a manual art that takes precision, knowledge of tradition, respect for materials, good business sense, and a dash of innovation too.


Roberto Ugolini

Roberto Ugolini

Via Michelozzi 17r - 50125 Florence, Italy
Tel. (+39) 055 216246

Alexandra Korey in an art historian who writes the Official Blog for the Arts in the Region of Tuscany. You can find more information along with video about Roberto Ugolini at Florence Leather Artisan: How to make custom men's shoes. For additional photos see Artisans in Tuscany.

©Alexandra Korey - Tuscany Arts, 2010

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