The history of leather processing in Tuscany dates back at least to the Etruscans who already used it for the production of sandals and ankle boots, but also of shields, helmets and armor.
The use of leather was very wide since the processing techniques known at the time made it possible to produce both hard leather (which was used for weapons and armor) and the finer and more expensive one.
The desire to improve the quality, elasticity and softness of leather, as well as being able to obtain different colors, pushed the artisans to develop new processes and chemicals, trying to satisfy the ever-increasing demand from citizens.
There were many trades linked to the production of leather: the leather workers, the pelacani (tanners), the pezzai (the leather sellers) and the orpellai (the gilders of leather and leather). To protect the interests of all workers and sellers, the Art of Cuoiai and Galigai was born in Florence in 1282.
This new guild was certainly less powerful than the Arte del Cambio or the Arte della Lana but it brought together a large number of workers.
Like all arts, this one too had its own shield (divided into two, half silver and half black), its own saint (St. Augustine) and above all it gave work to many Florentine families.
Initially almost all the shops were located near the Ponte Vecchio but over time they were moved to the area of Santa Croce, where we can still find some traces of them in the toponymy, such as Via delle Conce and Via dei Conciatori.
Right here were the factories where the hides were tanned, that is, the process that made them waterproof, rot-proof and resistant thanks to the use of substances such as alum, salt, fish oil.
The proximity of the Arno river was essential both for the production of leather and for the transport of materials and any trade, despite the fact that the neighborhood often suffered from floods of the river (just think of the flood of 1966 when Santa Croce had countless damage).
It will not be very difficult to imagine what the Santa Croce district was like at the time: small and narrow alleys with noisy shops that emitted nauseating smells and a tangle of poor workers who, after a hard day spent among the smelly tanning vats, with hands, brown like leather itself, went to listen to the sermon of the Franciscan friars.