The town of Montepulciano is best known for its Vino Nobile red wines, whose heavy aromas perfectly reflect the earthy fertile Tuscan countryside and rustic rough stone constructions of the town. But tear yourself away from the free tasting for a minute because Montepulciano is also a secret haven for leather lovers on a budget.
The winding ascent of the main street is lined by tempting signs proclaiming free wine is just a few meters away, historic cafès worthy of Paris (with much better views), and several marvellously smelling leather shops. Of these shops, the only ones I’d say to avoid are those where the products are not made by hand in the region (ask the owner) but of all those I visited (which were most of them) I did not find any that weren’t handmade or genuine leather.
Better than Florence?
For leather shops Tuscany is Italy’s Saville Row. Firenze, nicknamed La Bella, is considered a dream for leather lovers with its historic market and prestigious shops. But the leather goods I found in Montepulciano were not only of excellent quality, they were in fact more original and creative than those I had seen in the markets in Florence*. There were colours ranging from sunshine yellow to light blue, textures from snake-skin to horse fur (no avocation of cruelty to animals here, just stating the options!), and styles from little backpacks to suitcases. Most of the shops only had one or two versions of each bag or pair of shoes because each is hand styled and made, experimenting each time with a different texture, colour or finishing.
*I am sure that if you are willing to pay thousands you can have a leather bag made specifically to your requirements at whatever level of eccentricity you desire, but at affordable prices Montepulciano definitely has the upper hand!
Made to Measure
Many of these leather shops will also produce bags on request and shoes made to measure. So if you are looking for something very particular and can’t see it, try asking if it can be made up for you!
A couple of my favourite bags, which yes I did buy:
Hitting the trend bang on, I discovered that this tiny dark green backpack holds my camera perfectly! I told this to the shop owner and he was so taken with the idea he said he might make one up for himself.
Italians are a little less precious about horses than us British, from eating them to using them on bags. While perhaps a little painful to think about, horse fur (cavallino) does make for an incredibly soft bag…
Important Details: The Cost
I truly loathe those fashion magazines that tell you how to get a designer outfit on a budget, and for the writer it would seem a ‘budget’ means having £1000 to spend on a single outfit. The leather goods of Montepulciano really are reasonable, however. The little backpack above cost 40 euros, while the cavallino bag was 90. In general smaller bags range from 30-100 euros, while larger ones went up to about 120, for handmade products!
I will admit I was like a little kid in a toy shop while in Montepulciano, and at one point I was gently pressed to sit down and have a glass of wine by my boyfriend because of the excitement and agitation that choosing bags was causing! There are many reasons to visit Montepulciano (more coming soon) but its leather gems are certainly worth the hill climbs. When it comes to leather shops Tuscany, and more particularly Montepulciano, is la regina.
Where to Go
Via Voltaia nel Corso, or the little streets leading off it, has some of the best leather shops of Montepulciano. And just remember: