On Orvieto’s Piazza Repubblica – and there’s one in every Italian town, commemorating the birth of Italy, “the new republic” in 1860 – the dodecagonal belltower of the church of Sant Andrea towers above the church and the adjacent palazzo comunale (city hall).
The church – called simply “Sant’Andrea” by the orvietani – is actually dedicated to two of the apostles, Andrew and Bartholomew. Like most churches in Italy, the church of Sant’Andrea e San Bartolomeo is built on the site of veneration of ancient peoples.
Recently excavations unearthed sacred vestiges of four epochs, the most ancient linked to the Bronze age, 9th-c B.C. Remains of ancient basalt pavement of the Etruscan period (6th-4th B.C.) were also uncovered as well as traces of the Roman domination of Orvieto (1st B.C. – 2nd A.D.). The most recent of the ancient traces in the Sant’Andrea underground is that of a sculpted cross dating to the earliest Christian community of Orvieto (perhaps 3rd A.D.?)
And after an exploration of Orvieto’s past in the Sant’Andrea sotterrannea (“St. Andrew Underground”), head through the arch near the church to the workshop of young Federico Badia, for your Orvieto meanderings aren’t complete without a visit to a talented young local artisan.
Through the arched doorway made of basalt (for Orvieto is perched on a volcanic plateau) with the artist’s name stenciled on the glass, you’ll see the tools Federico uses in his creations:
…and what enticing creations!
Originally from Rome, Federico’s passione for working with leather began when he was sixteen in a small pelletteria (a leather shop) making belts, bracelets, and eventually, various bags. A few years later, Federico knew his true interest was the art of traditional shoemaking, a disappearing craft (even in Italy).
After the determined search of a testardo (“hard head,” i.e., determined), young Federico learned bespoke shoemaking, which encompasses measurements, shoe lasts, sewing techniques, pattern design, shoe construction, and so much more.
In 2011, Federico moved his work from his home in Orvieto (where he was then living) to his bottega (“artisan workshop”) near Piazza della Repubblica in Orvieto centro.
Passionate about his work – truly an art – Federico designs, cuts, sews, and sculpts, each pair of shoes entirely by hand. His American wife, Hannah, shares his same passion – and their little Sebastian seems to be following in his papa’s footsteps ( – or in his “shoe steps”?):
I recently asked them what place their work has in their lives and Hannah wrote me their thoughts:
“The bottega is a major part of our life, because we are almost always there. It is a kind of second home…a way of connecting with the community around us. This is also one of the most satisfying parts of the job—the aspect of personal connection. That the relationship between client and creator can grow—both to realize shared projects and ideas, but also that we have gained many beautiful friendships, that have grown into a kind of extended family. The connection both with the materials we use and also with the people they end up with makes the work meaningful. Our hope is always that the item that comes from this relationship will become a long lasting and special part of people’s lives.”
Hannah also wrote me about their link to the primary materials used and that COVID has “dramatically altered life at the bottega because suddenly there are very few people around Orvieto.” During lockdown, they moved half of their work and equipment to their countryside home so that Hannah could keep working. Federico eventually procured permission from the city to go into the shop ( with working permitted behind closed doors).
Hannah wrote me: “Fortunately after nearly 10 years, we have many good and thoughtful clients who have reached out both with encouragement and with enough orders for us to continue. We’ve put in work to update the site and online store (though a lot of work still needs to be finished).”
I first met Federico and Hannah here in Assisi at the UNTO festival – and was soon a customer: shortly after, I’d headed to their bottega in Orvieto to order good walking shoes, essential to me as a guide, walking the hill towns hours daily (in those days…).
I wished brown ones but asked Federico if best to order black ones, too, so as to have the shoe better color blend with what I was wearing.
Federico resolved the dilemma, making me pairs of red, green, dark blue, brown, beige flaps. “Just change them, depending on what you’re wearing, ” he told me with a grin.
I’ve literally worn my beloved Federico shoes into the ground – but note here the fine work:
I’m eager to order a new pair. (No shoes ever again for me – but Federico’s).
I’ll be heading to Orvieto and that bottega as soon as COVID permits.
Click here to read about the Assisi UNTO festival where I first met Federico and Hannah
Read here more about Federico Badia – and see his work!
Click here to read about fresco splendor in Orvieto
Read about the Orvieto Duomo‘s treasured Holy Corporal linked to a 13th-c miracle
Read about – and see! – the splendid Signorelli fresco of “The Preaching of the Antichrist”
Click here to read about Orvieto’s Winter Jazz Festival
Read about a jazz lunch at the Ristorante San Francesco
Read about another memorable Umbria Jazz Winter concert
Read more about Umbria Jazz Winter
Read more on Umbria Jazz Winter, Orvieto
Click here for more on why Umbria Jazz Winter entices