A few weeks ago I received an invitation from City Wonders to join one of their tours in Florence. I had heard about their famous Angels and Demons tours in Rome but once I checked out their website I realized they were so much more. A variety of different guided tours in several cities which in Florence include wine tastings, an Inferno tour (inspired by the novel of Dan Brown), several more classic "skip the line" tours to the Uffizi etc. and finally the tour which immediately caught my eyes: The Florence fashion and perfumery tour with Gucci Museum.
Once I had made my choice I received the ticket via e-mail together with all practical information regarding meeting point, maps and indications to get there. All very clear and easy so on the day of the tour all I had to do was turn up in Piazza Santa Croce from where we would start.
The Florence fashion and perfumery tour takes 3,5 hours and includes four different visits: The School of Leather (Scuola del cuoio), the new Gucci Museum, the shop and atelier of Loretta Caponi and finally Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella.
The tours allow a maximum of 15 people but I was so lucky to get on a tour with just two other people, an American couple, which made it even better. Usually they offer headsets for visitors in order to better hear the guide but since it was just the three of us we managed to do without.
Our guide, who spoke fluently English and who would follow us throughout the whole tour, welcomed us and started the tour by telling us a bit about the history of the commercial Florence and the importance of the artisans. It was clear right from the start that she was very well prepared not only within the theme for our tour, but also in terms of the general history of Florence.
Our tour began at the School of Leather (Scuola del Cuoio), a place which I had heard about but never actually visited. I was very excited about all the great photos I was about to take of artisans working and I wasn't disappointed!
The School is located inside a 13th century Franciscan Monastery right behind Santa Croce. Inside a beautiful and quiet courtyard filled with flowers is this family driven business which was started right after the Second World War as a collaboration between the Franciscan friars and two Florentine families, the Gori family and the Casini family who were both leather artisans. The idea was to give orphans from the war a possibility to learn a craftmanship and thus earn themselves a living.
Today the school is being run by the three Gori daughters Laura, Francesca and Barbara and the grandson Tommaso.
Our guide started the tour telling us a bit about the history of the school and the family behind it and then we got to assist while one of the artisans worked on a piece.
We also got to meet Francesca Gori, one of the three sisters and the designer behind the famous Francesca Gori bags. She explained some of the techniques behind her unique designer bags and we got to see some of her works.
I just love to see artisans at work and to me the best part of the tour was when we got to walk around for ourselves and peek into the different work areas. Of course I went crazy with my camera!
From the dedication which the artisans put into their work and the way our guide (who was from the Scuola del cuoio) spoke about her job it was clear that these were passionate people doing things out of pure love for their profession. It was very inspiring.
Bags, purses, leather jackets and other products of the school are being sold directly from the little shop located inside the school. We got plenty of time to look around, but even if there were several things I could have taken home with me I managed to control myself and concentrate on the photos :-)
After the visit to Scuola del Cuoio we walked to Piazza della Signoria where our next stop would be: The Gucci Museum! I had already been to the Gucci Cafe inside the museum but I hadn't yet seen the museum and to be honest I had no idea what to expect. Unfortunately photos were not allowed inside the museum so you'll have to use your imagination as I tell you about our tour.
We were met by a Gucci guide who handed us a little booklet in which we could collect a postcard for every room we were to visit inside the museum. Each postcard contained information about the exhibition in the room and they were available in three different languages.
While we went through the seven rooms our guide told us the story about this Florentine brand started by mr. Guccio Gucci (hence the double G in the label).
We started in the travel room where among other things we were met by nothing less than a Gucci Cadillac!
Next up was the Flora room which included bags and dresses with the famous flora print (oh, there was one very very very pretty dress), we went through the handbags room, the logomania room, the lifestyle room (which included a Gucci backgammon and some not so pretty countryside Gucci lamps!) and we saw the bamboo room with a collection of the famous bamboo handbags.
But the one room that completely took my breath away was the Evening room. In here were five or six original haute couture red carpet dresses which had been worn by Selma Hayek and other movie stars. I cannot describe the magic of this room. While these amazing gowns were exhibited on mannequins projections of the actual movie stars wearing them on the night of the read carpet were being transmitted onto the wall. I never wanted to leave that room!
Also our Gucci guide was really good and very passionate (who wouldn't be - it's Gucci!) about the things she told us. Hearing the whole story about how the brand started many years ago and evolved into the brand it is today made the visit really interesting and so much more than just "beautiful handbags and nice gowns".
After the visit we took a break of around 20 minutes at the Gucci Cafe and the Museum shop. This was really great since a coffee and some cake was much needed. After all the tour was 3,5 hours and we were only halfway through!
Book this and other tours at www.darkrome.com.
Click HERE for part II where I tell you about our visits to Loretta Caponi and the Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella.
Sponsored by City Wonders. All opinions are entirely mine.