Florence is legendary for its leather products and craftspeople, but more and more its awash with poor quality, cheaply made leather products which feel more like cardboard than soft leather.
Every corner shop, as well as the various semi-permanent market stalls dotted around the city are selling a range of leather goods, all of which are indistinguishable from each other, almost all of which are best avoided as the products are poorly assembled (expect any stitching to quickly come apart) and use inferior leather or techniques (expect the leather to quickly crack, rather than bend/fold in almost anything you buy). At the very least avoid any business with a name which plays too heavily on Florence’s history i.e. “Borgia”, “Medici”, “Da Vinci” “Pitti” etc. They’re tourist traps and, at best, make for a cheap gift for family back home (not the family members you actually like, but the ones you feel you have to get something for, but really don’t want to).
So, who are the exceptions? Scuola del Cuoio for starters. The Florence leather school, around the back of Santa Croce, makes some of the best leather leather products you’ll find in Italy. They’re rarely complex products, but they’re well made, use quality leather and they’re an authentic Florentine business with a history which stretches back beyond the founding of a handful of the worlds’ nations.
There are also a number of glove shops in Florence. Madova and Martelli are well known and produce a nice product, but Luciano Gloves, just in front of the Ponte Vecchio is, for me, Florence’s best option.
Luciano has been in continuous operation since 1966 and was started by Giuliano Cenni. Interestingly, “Luciano” doesn’t and has never existed. Giuliano liked the sound of the name for the business, so that’s what he called it and it’s been the same ever since.
Ownership passed down to Massimo Cenni (Giuliano’s nephew) and Massimo now runs the store, along with his daughter. He’s there almost every day and if you visit, it’s likely Massimo you’ll meet. A word of caution; It took me until my third visit to get a smile out of Massimo, he takes a while to warm up and has a direct demeanor which can come off as cold, but once he comes around, he’s lovely and very helpful.
The gloves are made on the outskirts of Florence and the family owns the production facility. Their leathers are sourced from a range of locations, chosen primarily based on whichever location has the best product for that specific leather type. Their deerskin is from the USA, Pigskin from Tuscany and Lambskin sourced from various locations in Italy.
I’ve not found any other Florentine glove makers which make a glove that fits me well. I have fairly unexciting hands, not big, not small, fairly normal, but all other makers are either too long in the fingers and fit well elsewhere, or they fit in the fingers and are too tight everywhere else. Gloves from Luciano fit me very well and they’re consistent i.e. every size “7.5” fits exactly the same. Just as with any item of clothing, fit should be the priority, from which everything else follows.
The variety is extensive and the range constantly changing, so expect to need a while to try different options, unless you have something pretty specific in mind.
There’s always a large range of cashmere or silk lined gloves and fewer unlined or uniquely lined options, which varies depending on the season. Expect more choice in unlined gloves during the warmer months and more lined options (like rabbit) during autumn and winter.
You can also expect a choice of different suede’s, which are buttery soft.
Pricing is better than it should be, with gloves starting from around 39 Euro and going a fair way above this for hand-stitched options (which I’m not a huge fan of, due to the seams being on the outside, which ruins the clean lines found in machine stitched pairs, even if it does make for a softer feel to wear). Compared to other options in quality menswear, it’s an exceptional price for something which will easily last more than a lifetime, with some basic care and attention.
I have 7 pairs of gloves from Luciano now, in suede, lambskin and deerskin, with linings in rabbit fur for extreme cold, to cashmere for general wear in winter, to unlined (my preference) for cold to mild days. As is typical with me, the colours and styles are pretty subtle and understated, but there are brighter colour options for others who want something more conspicuous.
They also carry a range of ties and scarves (also made locally) but aside from the knitted ties, they don’t appeal to me as they’re too bright, shiny and occasionally patterned. Give me muted tones and hand-rolled tips any day. Their scarves are nice though, but again, not to my taste.
As is increasingly the case in Europe’s cities, once famed for their craft, it’s a challenge to now find the few authentic diamonds in the rough, hidden among the detritus of tourist traps, H&M’s and Zara’s. Florence still has a few left and Luciano is a good option for a well priced, well made product which has remained in family hands since its inception.
Luciano Gloves: Via Por Santa Maria, 10.