Florence is famous for the elegance and taste of its classy craft products, the legacy of a centuries-old tradition. These range from pleasing and highly original clothing accessories and furnishings made from straw, a typical Florentine craft activity, to top-quality, meticulously made leather goods, ceramics and glassware, plus a host of items in wood and metal, including furniture, trinkets and any number of other attractive objects for all ages, tastes and pockets.
Florence also produces some very graceful and original clothes, and is also well-known for its linens and fine embroidery. And in the city where Benvenuto Cellini was born, there is no shortage of silver and gold-work, jewellery and filigree, and typical mosaics made from semi-precious stones. Florence also has a lively antiques trade in both small and large items. Way back in the 13th century travelers were already praising Florence’s pleasing and comfortable hostelries.
The Craft Traditions of Florence, Italy
The Craft Guilds
The seven major guilds (arti maggiori), five middle guilds (arti mediane) and nine minor guilds (arti minori) organized the lives of all craftspeople, from painters to sculptors, furriers to cobblers, and makers of everything from hats to belts, keys, bracelets, goblets, rugs, lamps, spoons, shoes, and stockings. Each maker had a role to play in Florentine society, and each contributed to the city’s culture of high technical skill, reputation for quality, and economic might.
By the late Middle Ages, every neighborhood of Florence pulsed with the lifeblood of these trades. The ruling Medici family only served to bolster this already thriving culture of artisanal expertise by patronizing makers of fine objects in silver, gold, stone, textiles, and other materials. This intense flourishing of artisanal production helped pave the way for Florence to take its rightful place as the artistic capital of the Renaissance.
Artisan Neighborhoods of Florence
A fifteenth-century map known as the Carta della Catena, now conserved in the Friedrich Museum in Berlin, Germany, depicts the massive city walls and segmented quarters of Florence at the dawn of the Renaissance. Historically, artisans were scattered across the city, with small concentrations of tradespeople involved in the same or related trades. For example, at the end of the fifteenth century, tanneries were located along the Arno, while goldsmiths clustered in the Santo Spirito neighborhood before moving to the Ponte Vecchio and surrounding streets a century later. Many other artisans occupied the poorer sections of the Oltrarno district on the southern bank of the Arno River.
The city now has almost 400 hotels of various categories, which can provide accommodation for about 30.000 visitors, besides various cheaper options such as campsites and youth hostels. There are also innumerable restaurants and trattorias in the city center and the surrounding hills, offering simple, healthy traditional fare. The local cuisine is accompanied by Tuscany’s justly famous wines from the Chianti and other nearby areas: tasty, full-bodied reds, softer whites, sweet dessert wines and vin santo. There are also many restaurants in the city and surrounding area that serve international cuisine.