"Excuse me, how much is this?"

Artisans at work inside the leather school in Florence

Artisans at work inside the leather school in Florence

Before coming abroad, girls who had previously been on this trip had given me some special advice for the program. One of the tips that I always kept in the back of my head was, “Save money for Florence! They have a LEATHER MARKET!!” So of course all the girls, including me, did just that.

We first visited the leather school in Florence and watched the very talented artisans at work. We were able to observe them actually sew stitching on the leather for a future handbag, put buckles on the handbags, and even brand it with gold to make it more personal. The woman who gave us the tour, who also happens to work there, went into deep detail on the different types of leather and what different animals are used to make a product. After we finished up at the school, and bought a few souvenirs from there, we headed out to the actual leather market on the streets. The leather market can be spotted from miles away with the hundreds of white tents lining the streets. Behind them also are MORE shops with even MORE leather! Most of us stuck to the tents and were bombarded with the workers throwing purses or wallets or jackets in our faces. If we even stopped for a second to glance at something, they would come up to us and hand it to us as if we already agreed to purchase it. It was overwhelming to say the least, but enjoyable as well because it is all part of the experience. One of the best parts of the market was that I could BARGAIN! If they threw a price at me that was not in my budget, I could bargain with them and get them to lower it. Typically, they let us get away with a couple bucks cheaper than the original price. If we were really lucky though, you may even get the price down 10 or 15 euro!

Overall, our leather experience in Florence was great. It was so interesting to learn about the making of leather and the process of putting together a handbag – especially for those girls who are majoring in fashion.

By: Mary Briggs