Everyone knows that you should wear good shoes to Italy if you want to avoid looking like a tourist, but if you want to look like you live there, then these folks should make them…

Marco Cecchi is a cobbler boasting 30 years experience in artisanal shoemaking at Calzoleria Petrocchi on Vicolo Sugarelli in Rome. When we visited him at work in the studio, he was sitting on an usually short chair, hunched over an even lower table, putting the finishing touches on a pair of custom made shoes. If I had to switch places with him for even an hour, I’ve have to visit my massage therapist the very next day. But he seemed completely comfortable with this setup, and even more at ease surrounded by ten of us observing his every hand stitch.

While our translator was telling us about a particular technique for achieving a design we were enthralled with, an elderly woman came in to pick up a pair of shoes she’d been having repaired for years—yes years—and they still looked brand new! At that moment, I did my best to hide behind one of my colleagues in an effort to disguise all the scuffs and scratches I’d accumulated on my footwear from the cobble-stoned streets of Rome.

This well respected studio offers a variety of ready-made models, but designs bespoke footwear as well, using only the best Freudenberg leathers and even exotic python upon request. Unlike many mass manufactured shoes in North America, genuine leather is used for the outsole, midsole and heel. They also employ “Goodyear” and “Norwegian” stitching techniques.

Most of the shoes on the market today are disposable in quality. When the sole is worn down the shoes often must be thrown out because replacing the sole would mean destroying the shoe. In a Goodyear welted shoe, soles can be replaced without any damage to the rest of the structure. As for Norwegian construction, despite the name, it is a specialty of a small number of Italian shoemakers. Originally conceived as a way to make the shoes more waterproof, it is now used for aesthetics mostly.

One of my biggest regrets on this trip was not ordering a pair of bespoke shoes for myself, after learning how many wooden shoe lasts were on file for some of my favorite film folks: Marcello Mastroianni, Anthony Quinn, Ennio Morricone, and Robert De Niro, to name just a few. The studio also received certification for ‘Historical Archive of 20th Century Fashion’ from the Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Activities. Visit Calzoleria Petrocchi for more information.

‘Farmboy in Roma’ is a blog series by FBFA Acquisitions Manager, Fatima Travassos, which offers readers a rare glimpse into the studios of some of Rome’s top artisans. A special thank you to the Italian Chamber of Commerce of Western Canada for offering FBFA the opportunity to participate in this wonderful experience.

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