We The Italians | Italian handcrafts: Footwear of Riviera del Brenta

Italian handcrafts: Footwear of Riviera del Brenta

Italian handcrafts: Footwear of Riviera del Brenta

  • WTI Magazine #162 Apr 15, 2023
  • 667

One of the oldest congregations of shoemakers was founded in Venice in the 13th century. The Statute of the Congregation was reformed in 1268, the year used to calculate the duration of the Art of the Calegheri. The seal of the “Confraternita dei Calegheri” (Cobblers’ Confraternity) has remained a badge for the sector for centuries, which from Venice moved to the mainland – Riviera del Brenta – where the art lives on and thrives still today.

Riviera del Brenta is the birthplace of footwear that is recognised all over the world for its craftsmanship, elegance and style. In a word: its soul. Here, as of 1898, an ancient craft became a modern industry, where know-how still holds the value of craftsmanship, of being able to combine passion and expertise, taste and creativity with technology, efficiency and results.

This is Riviera del Brenta. Riviera del Brenta footwear is made up of thousands of names and actions. Created by far-seeing eyes, able to capture inspirations and trends. Sensed through the grain of the leather. Shaped in endless shades of color. Cut along the outline of character and personality. Made to resemble a woman, a man, and their desire for pleasure.

Every day, the designers’ creativity and intuition draw upon skilled workers to turn their ideas, visions and projects into reality, in over 500 small and medium-sized enterprises covering the full production chain (from shoemakers, manufacturers of footwear components, materials and accessories, through to professional shoe design studios).

Every day, styles, materials and colors find an unexpected affinity, coming together to give life to new fashions. Every day, it relives a story of passion and challenge: to fuel creativity and beauty, a task that, first and foremost, is an art.

A style signed by the most famous brands. A quality made of passion and tradition recognizable in the finest details. A brand that thrives on passion and tradition. Riviera del Brenta is a benchmark for many international fashion houses, with the highest quality standards providing the utmost reliability for their business partners. Almost all branded footwear on the world market is produced – largely co-conceived and designed, and partly also sold – by shoe manufacturers in Riviera del Brenta.

A made-to-measure working relationship, which from the 1960s through to today, has enabled Italian style to walk down catwalks around the world.


A unique working tradition that is renewed year in year out, growing in experience and technological capacity. A priceless cultural heritage tied to the evolution of fashion and art.

Every year, students from around the world attend courses at Politecnico Calzaturiero (Footwear Polytechnic), which has succeeded the School for Shoe Designers founded in Stra in 1923.

The Polytechnic is now a training and technological research Centre, which is constantly expanding, designing, developing and patenting exclusive production techniques.

It therefore unites tradition and innovation to train professionals and protect the future of an industry that already has 800 years of history. As of 1961, Riviera del Brenta footwear manufacturers put together their own representation and services association to further develop the sector in industrial, as well as organizational and managerial terms, building a constructive dialogue with unions.

Their collective services include: promotion in foreign markets, organizing fairs and workshops abroad, quarterly updates on styles, materials, fashion trends and colors.


A quality product – contrary to popular belief – is difficult to grasp, as it hides a background of study, research, professionalism and tradition that cannot be seen, it can only be discovered. Within a quality shoe, there are many components which are not visible, but which serve to make it “richer”.

Riviera del Brenta footwear has a higher than average cost, yet also a high added value: it offers expertise, art and design, tradition and innovation, research and quality control, expressed as exclusive models and limited series.

The models are designed and manufactured by designers with meticulous training, paying close attention to fashion and design and possessing excellent technical skills.

Over 10, 000 highly-skilled staff, both working by hand and using modern machinery, work in companies applying all regulations regarding the workers’ health and safety.

The leather, components and accessories are of the utmost quality, and are selected and checked in line with EU criteria for the protection of consumers’ health and safety. You know a quality shoe when you feel it: the foot distinguishes it from a low-cost shoe.


In Riviera del Brenta, footwear is produced in industrial facilities, but with artisan results. Every single shoe can be “manipulated” 180-210 times on average during its production process. To turn an idea into a consumer product, it must go through several phases before it reaches the store window.

Many details go unnoticed, such as internal structural elements; yet as a whole, they make up the superior quality for which Riviera del Brenta footwear stands out. A complex art such as this is not easy to explain. Through a visual journey, we will try to make it easier to understand.

The following pages will show a simplified journey through the main steps in the organization of a shoe company: from the designer’s table, to shaping and molding, cutting and sewing, assembly and finishing, right through to packaging.

The first phase of manufacturing consists of developing the design of the model, creating the prototype and producing the series using the computer.

The next stage is to cut every single part of the shoe upper and lining (toe, side, heel) for the serial production, and then proceed with the stitching, which is a crucial step. This is performed by experienced hands that use the sewing machine with skill and precision.

The upper is then assembled to the outer sole. This is one of the most testing tasks, giving the shoe its final appearance. The assembly of quality footwear is carried out first by machine and is then completed by hand for the fine adjustments and visual checks. This ensures an appropriate balance and centering of the individual parts in relation to the shape and axis.

The final stage is the finishing and polishing of the shoe: the leather is bought back to a real and natural look by cleaning and treating it with natural waxes and polishing creams. Several polishing stages expose the quality of the leather, giving the shoe its own personality.

Master Shoemakers of Brenta

Shoe manufacturers from Riviera del Brenta use the old seal of the Venetian Confraternita dei Calegheri (Cobblers’ Confraternity), dating back to the 13th century as their mark of origin. Venice had dictated the sizes and shapes of the soles, that all “cerdones” from Venice and Padua had to conform to.

The coat of arms bear the words “S. FRATELITA CASOLARI REGNATI” “S.” means Sacred, “Fratelita” means Confraternity, “Calsolari” means Shoemakers and Solemakers, “Regnati” means the regulations by means of statute. 

The inscription surrounds the symbols of the shoe knife on the left and the “calamerie” (measurement units to mark and cut soles) and sole on the right. The first center of the confraternity was the current Academy of Fine Arts

In 1446 it moved once and for all to Campo S. Tomà to the building since called “Scuola dei Calegheri” (Shoemakers’ School). The original seal is preserved at the Correr Museum in the St. Mark’s Square in Venice.

It may only be used as a logo by the “Master Shoemakers of Brenta”, as sole heirs of the art of Calegheri Valdez (13th century). The logo is registered and filed in all countries worldwide. Its protection and dissemination is managed by the “Consorzio Maestri Calzaturieri del Brenta” (Brenta Master Shoemaker Consortium).

It is a symbol that identifies the geographical area of excellence, called “Riviera del Brenta”, known for its production of high-quality footwear, spanning along the waterway connecting Venice and Padua.

The area

The Brenta Riviera is an urban area between Padua and Venice, stretching along the banks of the Brenta Canal. It is the ancient natural channel of the Brenta river, branching away up to Stra and flowing from west to east into the Venetian Lagoon in Fusina: a charming route marked by history, culture, architectural beauty, and traditional food and wine. The area and its landscape are of great historical value for its numerous Venetian Villas.

The Brenta Riviera includes the towns of Stra, Fiesso d’Artico, Dolo, Mira, Oriago and Malcontenta. Broadly speaking, it covers the whole area including the towns of Campagna Lupia, Camponogara, Campolongo Maggiore, Mira, Pianiga, as well as the footwear business towns of Stra, Fiesso d’Artico, Dolo, Fosso’, Vigonovo in the Venice area and, near the Brenta river in the Padua area, the towns of Vigonza, Noventa Padovana and Saonara.

Thanks to its unique strategic position, and to the Republic of Venice, between the 16th and 18th century, this placid river and surrounding area saw a period of great splendor, as shown by the many fine resort homes of wealthy Venetian aristocrats.

To design the buildings, great architects and painters were called upon, including Palladio, Scamozzi, Longhena, Frigimelica, Zelotti and Tiepolo. These wonderful residences were used by Venetian nobles as a reference point to manage their inland affairs, but also for times of leisure and rest.

By Camera di commercio di Venezia with Unioncamere