I first met Simone in the summer of 2021, a hot summer with a surreal vibe. The pandemic had broken out a few months earlier and the lockdown rules in Italy were still in force. People had to wear masks and keep social safety distances, and the center of Florence appeared desolate without foreign tourists. I, with a six-month-old baby bump, would go around stores looking for stories and unique objects that could portray Italy.
A century-old tradition
Simone's workshop is very small, about 30 square meters, in which he has organized a small exhibition space and all his work area.
Tucked away from the busiest downtown streets but still very busy due to the notoriety gained through decades of work and experience. Sure, in the summer of 2021, no one came in while I was explaining to Simone what I intended to do with MBFI; but now that things have returned to a new normal, someone always comes in while I am talking to him. His workshop is not the shop of cookie-cutter handbags and leather jackets, perhaps with a sign written in English to attract tourists. You have to picture his workshop as a real craft workshop. A workshop from where valuable one-of-a-kind custom-made pieces depart for the world. Simone is the fourth generation of a Florentine workshop that preserves the craftsmanship that has made Florence and the Made in Italy brand famous throughout the world.
For the Dolce Far Niente Box, I decided to include one of his little gems, the Tacco Fiorentino.
Today is used by many also to keep earphones, small jewels or folded banknotes in their pockets. It is a small object to carry around on every occasion. If, like me, you too start walking to rest your mind, this little purse in your pocket will come in handy.
This authentic Florentine seamless leather purse is the historic pocket purse that Florentines have been using for over 200 years. The peculiarity is its seamless construction, which requires great craftsmanship. The traditional shape recalls the horseshoe from which its name 'Tacco' comes. Each piece is rigorously handmade and dyed entirely by hand, making each piece unique.
Its history begins thanks to the creativity of the Florentine monks who invented it and started using it as a wallet. Although there are new versions with modern lines, for the Dolce far niente Box I chose the classic model, the original design, which Simone Taddei still uses to create his Florentine purses. Its creation requires more than 20 steps, 23 steps Simone told me, but is a jewel created to last a lifetime.
But the Tacco, though indeed laborious to create and even expensive to buy, is perhaps the simplest thing that can be found in his bottega.
Simone creates fine jewelry boxes and cigar boxes entirely from leather. The process to obtain his creations is complex and requires several work steps with times ranging from 20 to 60 days.
The leather is cut, wetted, and each connection is fleshed out, pulled, made to adhere to the wooden form, and glued on. When the leather framework is finished, after many steps, it is covered on the outside with natural (undyed) calfskin, after being fleshed and glued again. Finally, we move on to the coloring of the object with dyes handmade by Simone from natural powders and various pigments. Freshly dyed leather has a uniform pastel color. Then, with ancient hot irons, Simone works on burnishing. The leather polishing technique.
Do you know what leather looks like before it is processed?
It is hard and pale pink in color, it might look like a sheet of wood from how stiff it is. The shoulder is the type of leather Simone prefers, more malleable than the rump, but he told me that it has become very hard to find now. Sourcing top-quality raw materials is the first important step, the first step that marks the difference between one workshop and another.
As Simone explained how he creates his artifacts, I felt like a curious child. Everything held a great fascination for me, and I couldn't help but fill him with questions, “What do you need water for?” “What is that tool for?”, “How long do you take to create a box with drawers?”
The water is used to control the temperature of the irons Simone uses for burnishing but also for the wax staining process. Spotting is a delicate procedure; for years, he kept practicing only on the bottom of the large leather boxes that came out of the workshop. Until he learned the technique perfectly, it was his father who was in charge of this laborious finishing, which still raises the price of their jewels.
Yes, jewel, because the cost for one of their creations is always in the hundreds of Euros, but for the boxes with drawers, or the wonderful shell-shaped jewelry boxes, which I really fell in love with, well, we talk about thousands of Euros.
I told you, this is not one of those "leather shops" that now flood the streets of downtown Florence. In Simone's workshop, the ancient art of Florentine craftsmanship still lives on. Every day, from 8 to 9 p.m. Simone repeats the same gestures, the same steps that his father and grandfather did before him. The same ancient techniques that were used more than two hundred years ago cross time thanks to his hands.
The last time I went to see him in his bottega, Simone told me that someone had asked him to teach some tourists how to make a wallet, to organize some kind of workshop... but he doesn't make classic leather wallet, he makes pieces of Italian history that we need to ask well in advance to get them.