Handcrafted in Florence


Your journey to discover the ancient heart of Florentine artisanship begins over a perfectly pressed cup of espresso at Four Seasons Hotel Firenze. It’s a fitting place to start, as the Hotel speaks to a history of unsurpassed craftsmanship. It began its storied life in the 15th century as the Palazzo della Gherardesca before becoming, in turn, a papal residence, a convent and, in 2008, a luxury hotel. That most recent transformation, recounts General Manager Patrizio Cipollini, took seven years—and 42 craftsmen.“They worked furiously day and night to restore the interior to its former glory,” says Cipollini. He stands in the tranquil inner courtyard, where the morning Tuscan sun illuminates 15th-century stone-carved allegorical reliefs and 16th-century Mannerist frescos—works by artisans, such as Giovanni Stradano, who were in the exclusive service of royalty and the elite. More than five centuries later, some 6,000 modern-day Florentine artisans are the spiritual heirs of those craftsmen. From Via Maggio to Ponte Vecchio, they are the cultural heart of the city. And now, a select few are opening their workshops for tours and lessons available to guests of Four Seasons Hotel Firenze.

Bianco Bianchi

On the south side of the River Arno, Via Maggio—the street where Florence’s nobles built their residences for its proximity to the Medici palace—is home to a showroom of one of the city’s most talented artisan families. Behind the showroom window, sister and brother Elisabetta and Alessandro Bianchi are bent over one of their latest works. They are masters of a technique called scagliola—the art of using powdered selenite to inlay a design into marble tables and panels. Invented in Florence during the Renaissance, scagliola had mysteriously disappeared until Elisabetta and Alessandro’s father, Bianco, became fascinated with it in the ’50s.

“Driven by passion and curiosity, he started to search for antique recipes for scagliola in old libraries, and then he attempted the craft at home,” says Alessandro. “Luckily he was very good at it.”

Bianco’s meticulous and striking pieces quickly garnered a following, and his scagliola can now be found in some of the world’s most prestigious places—including the Kensington Royal Palace and Four Seasons Hotel Firenze.

Scuola del Cuoio

The city’s Santa Croce area is the historical home of Italy’s first tanneries and leather workers. Nearby, in the antique dormitory of the Santa Croce Church, today’s students can learn ancient leatherwork skills under master craftsmen at the Scuola del Cuoio, or Leather School.

“Our in-house artisans create the one-of-a-kind bags and leather accessories we sell in our atelier,” says Laura Gori, the school’s co-owner. “We teach leatherwork to students from all over the world.”

As artisans sew and shape leather in the school’s open workshop, Gori pulls a 100-year-old bronze tool from a flame, preparing to personalize an exquisite leather bag with gilded initials. “Gilding is a master craftsman skill, and only the top leather-making artisans are able to work with gold,” she says, taking a sliver of papery 22-carat gold foil and smoothing it over the leather with a sponge. She presses the hot tool into the foil and leather, and then pulls it away to reveal a client’s initials.

“Watching our craftsmen put together their hands, hearts, passions and brains to make beautiful things,” says Gori, “it’s like walking in past centuries.”

Lorenzo Villoresi

Though he may be grouped with the Florentine leather workers at Scuola del Cuoio and other traditional craftsmen of the city—chandelier makers, cobblers and silversmiths—perfumer Lorenzo Villoresi is not a typical artisan. His award-winning olfaction and meticulous techniques are behind his niche fragrance collection and allow him to create personalized scents for private clients.

“It is a different kind of craftsmanship, though it’s still very much artisanal,” says Villoresi in his atelier, a small workshop with a grand view of the River Arno. “The perfumer works with very few instruments—a piece of paper and a pen, a very precise scale, a glass beaker, and a stick—slowly adding extracts drop by drop.”

Villoresi draws from a palette of nearly 1,500 extracts to create his scents and often writes poetry about his creations. Clients ask Villoresi to infuse notes of cherished places into their tailor-made fragrances: A nostalgic Irishman living in America requested a hint of alfalfa, a wild grass from his homeland; another client, the smell of a stable from his family’s country home.

Blending citrus and woody notes, Villoresi creates a heady combination that evokes the blue sea and fragrant lemon trees of Italy’s Amalfi coast—the gentle essence of a memory.

Ponte Vecchio

At Dante Cardini jewellery shop on Florence’s famed Ponte Vecchio, glittering jewels in glass cabinets outshine the sun that shimmers over the Arno. Fourth-generation owners and first cousins Elisabetta Gardella and Massimo Del Taglia, whose great-grandfather opened the shop in 1888, know that jewellery is part of the Ponte Vecchio’s history.

“The Ponte Vecchio once had butcher shops, but the Medicis hated the smell,” says Gardella. “They adored beautiful things and wanted to elevate the prestige of the bridge, so they moved out the butchers and summoned the jewellers.”

Although jewellery makers no longer work on the Ponte Vecchio, Dante Cardini sells handmade, one-of-a-kind pieces in collaboration with Florentine jeweller Roberto Poggiali.

Besides the sparkling collection, Dante Cardini houses another rare gem. A narrow staircase at the back of the shop winds to a private fourth-storey rooftop terrace, the only one accessible from the Ponte Vecchio. Here, guests of Four Seasons Hotel Firenze are exclusively invited to reserve an unforgettable private dining experience for two.

As the sun sets over the Arno, take a seat, pour the wine and enjoy a personalized menu created especially for the evening, with elegant golden touches that allude to the bridge’s jewellery tradition. From your place on the terrace, the city glistens in the last light of day, evoking the Florence of the Renaissance, of the Medicis—the Florence that inspired the artisans who captured its creative spirit.

Take Me There

Step into Florence’s handcrafted world. Create your bespoke tour, and share the experience with your friends.
Four Seasons Hotel Firenze Suite

Discover More

Learn more about Florence.

More about Florence

Book Now

Start planning your escape to Four Seasons Hotel Firenze.

Check Rates & Availability


Share this Four Seasons experience.


See the world with Four Seasons, uncover the latest collection of extraordinary experiences. Explore Now

More Extraordinary Experiences from Four Seasons