We met the two most graceful and beautiful ladies, actually by serendipity.
The hotel’s concierge, Michele, is most accommodating during our stay. He has answers to all of our inquiries. I had a lot of them, mostly work related. One morning I ask about shops where we might find letter papers and possibly even invitations for the forthcoming wedding of our daughter. There is a place right behind the hotel, in the Church of Santa Croce, a shop we must visit. If they don’t have what you are looking for they will make it. Great! He writes a note for us to see Mrs. Laura Gori. It’s the very best leather shop in town. A leather shop? Leather? No, I meant: L-E-T-T-E-R. We laugh. But is it OK if we visit it anyway, it sounds very interesting. Of course, walk toward the Altar and then turn to right into a hallway. End of the hall turn left, and the shop is there. We take the note and start our daily exploring.
The Church is very interesting: It is one of the largest churches in Florence, founded 1294. It houses the funeral monuments of Michelangelo, Galileo, and Machiavelli. Among others. My husband is careful going around the sepulchers on the floor. He does not want to step on anyone’s grave. He is freezing even though he is wearing a thick sweater, a scarf and his leather jacket. His bones are frozen. You always feel the cold when there are spirits around you, I tell. And there are lots of them here! His bones are frozen!
We find the store: Scuola Del Cuoio. A charming gentleman asks if he can help. We are looking for Mrs. Gori. She unfortunately is busy. Very well, we understand, may we look around? There are tables of leather gods, wallets, books. Maybe we could look for a guest book for the wedding! The books they have are too big and not white. But we do find something else, which I cannot mention as the bride-to-be may be reading this. A narrow hallway opens further into the shop. Beautiful old frescos over the doorways and shelves filled with the most beautiful handbags I ever seen in one place. Gorgeous! Behind a desk sits a lady, the gentleman introduces her as Francesca Gori, one of the three sisters who own the business.
She puts down the bag she is decorating and greets us warmly. Graceful and elegant, with that confidence of an Italian woman. She tells about the work she is doing and about her family. While the men continue their conversation, I cannot but admire her work which is displayed on the glass shelves. I don’t even dare to ask the cost of them. If I could afford a bag I’m sure I could not come up with money for a new wardrobe to go with them! The hand bags are colorful, contemporary and not stuffy, with beads, embroidery and silver. Little bags like jewelry boxes. Lavender, orange, any color. Just gorgeous! She is in no rush. Her sister, Laura joins us. Short silver hair, a classic beauty. Aaah, she says, Michele likes to send his guest to her so she can give 10% discount, she smiles coyly. We laugh. We three continue talking, they guessed my accent, they have a friend in Rome with the same tone of voice. I’m so taken by their elegance and warmness; I could linger here forever! If I only could capture a pinch of it for myself! A memorable hour.
We learn about the monks’ quarters, where the showcases are now. We watch a lady clue bag straps, a young man initial a purchase. So interesting! Time to pick up our leather goods and pay. I pick up a magazine “News , Scuola Del Cuoio” to read more. Please, says Laura, I was planning to GIVE it to you. Thank you! I will pick up stories from there to share with you. Oh, and let me have one of those bangles for my daughter-in-law and my eyes just cannot stop rolling around the room!
Back at hotel we rave to Michele about our visit to The Leather School. Did they tell you about their charity work? No. Well, after the war, they have been mentoring orphans to learn a trade. They also select occasionally a prisoner to give him a second change in life. How amazing. Back in our room, I think I want more of those bangles. Its five to six, they close on the hour!
By serendipity we met two beautiful and graceful ladies, indeed!