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Florence, Italy: Custom-Made Men's Shoes by Roberto Ugolini
Gorgeous Handmade Italian Shoes
Have you ever experienced a strange déjà vu?
Roberto & His Apprentices
Custom Shoe Lasts
Inside the Bottega
This article is dedicated to the MEN.
Gentlemen, have I got a pair of shoes for you! In the Piazza Santa Croce, nestled between a quaint eatery and little food market is Roberto Ugolini's shoe bottega. For over a decade, this artisan shoemaker has been creating custom shoes.
When I walked into Roberto's bottega, I became instantly nostalgic. The aromas of shoe glue and leather, combined with seeing all the tools on display almost brought a tear to my eye. You see, my father was an artisan shoemaker in the Azores and when he immigrated to the U.S. he had his own little shoe workshop in the basement of our home.
Roberto designed all the shoes on display in his shop (and there are many to choose from). In addition to cow and calf leather, there is crocodile, sharkskin, elephant, iguana, snake, ostrich, cordovan (horse) and more.
If you have never worn a pair of custom made shoes, I can tell you from personal experience that you are in for a REAL TREAT. If you are a new customer a forma (shoe last) must be specially created for you.
Since this is the only thing that Roberto outsources, it can take a little time. Once it's made, however, it is stored with your name on it and readily available whenever you want to order another pair. A returning customer can get a new pair of shoes in as little as 2 weeks - 2 months depending on material and style.
The base price for a pair of Roberto Ugolini shoes starts at 1.100,00 euro and goes up from there. Keep in mind that a pair of high quality, well made shoes will last you a lifetime if you care for them and get them resoled when needed.
Although Roberto offers no official classes in artisan shoe making, he does occasionally take on apprentices if he deems them to have a true talent and desire to learn. Of course, this does not mean that these apprentices later become artisan shoemakers. In fact, most do not since they don't have enough experience to work without supervision.
Roberto's father specialized in shoe repair, but his grandfather and great grandfather were artisan shoemakers. Must be in the blood. Thank you for reading!
Via Michelozzi, 17r
Tel. (011 39) 055 216 246
C. De Melo
Author & Artist