In the heart of Florence, Italy, tucked away down a narrow cobbled side street you'll find Dimitri Villoresi's bottega, the creative studio of a craftsman skilled in working soft leather hides into beautiful works of art.
You can smell the aroma of leather when you step off the street into his shop. It feels a bit like time has stopped completely.
Dimitri is what you'd call old school, and in the best possible way. He's been tooling leather for years and continuing a time honored Florentine - Italian - tradition that's in danger of becoming extinct.
A master leather craftsman, he holds on defiantly to the traditional Florentine ways of cutting, shaping, sewing, crafting. A skill that takes time, not just to complete, but to inspire and sustain the creative soul within.
Though his hands never stopped the entire time we chatted, he takes his sweet time with each project, unbound by time constraints, deadlines, or customer delivery demands. There are no rush orders here.
Dimitri adamantly adheres to traditional methods of craftsmanship, not caring for things massed produced on any scale. And his work is a living testament to that philosophy.
If you didn’t have someone show you where the shop is you'd no doubt have some trouble finding it. It’s a small shop which fronts the home of Dimitri and his wife, an string of narrow rooms filled with stylish and traditional furnishings, artwork, maps, music, and creative items you'd find in an artist's space.
Just walking through gives you a sense of what he's all about. And what kind of work you'd expect from the artisan who resides here.
A sheet of leather, a large needle and thread, and his fingers instinctively worked their magic.
I had already formed a strong impression of Dimitri after a short time with him. I'd gotten the sense of his fierce determination to hold onto something he believes in and lives every day, his dedication to a craft that he embodies which in turn sustains him. This book describes it perfectly.
There are still brilliant artisans and craftsmen (and women) in the world who are refusing to be silenced by an ever-present trend toward mass production and consumerism. The value of items handcrafted is thankfully alive and well in his bottega and spilling out into Florence's streets and creative scenes.
Find him and others like him. Listen to and support the stories of these creative artisans. The ones his customers carry with them wherever they go.
Want To Meet Him?
If you love authentic handcrafted items like Dimitri produces, you'd love watching him work and visiting his studio. Let Arianna and Alessio introduce you to this slow travel experience.
They live and work in Chianti, and organize slow-travel tours to local craftsmen throughout Tuscany that are curated to what interests you. Check them out at Km Zero Tours or email Arianna@KmZeroTours.com for more info.