‘Made in Italy’. If seeing those words proudly stamped onto an insole doesn’t fill you with confidence in a shoe, we’re not sure what will. Synonymous with luxury and high-end craftsmanship, Italy is a country known around the world for its fine leather footwear. But what else would you expect from a country shaped like a giant boot?
Just like England’s Northamptonshire, Italy has its own shoemaking region, Le Marche, which has served as a springboard for numerous heritage shoe and boot brands. The region also attracts a steady stream of upscale international designer labels looking for the finest footwear factories in the world. Why? Because Italy’s shoemaking traditions date back hundreds and hundreds of years, passed down through the generations, and have been refined to near perfection in the process.
A proper pair of Italian-made shoes is an enticing buy-it-for-life prospect. With leather and stitching this good, you can keep re-soling them and wearing them until the day you die. So while shoes made in Italy are inarguably more expensive than those made in most other places, the price tags make more sense over time.
Thinking of diving feet first into the world of Italian shoes? Here are some of the key brands you’ll need to know as you begin your journey.
Founded in the 1990s, Diemme makes stylish casual footwear that draws inspiration from mountaineering, alpine sports and workwear. High-end, urban-friendly hiking boots are the label’s main export, with the Roccia Vet serving as the flagship model. Alongside fashionable hikers, Diemme also makes sneakers, such as the iconic Marostica, and winterised Chelsea boots like the Ramon and the Balbi.
Granted, there are better boots out there when it comes to actually heading into the mountains for real, but if you’re searching for good-looking, well-built stompers that offer a solid mix of aesthetics and functionality, these are some of the best.
Direct-to-consumer brand Velasca is all about making the best possible footwear with the lowest possible price tag. All of the company’s shoes are handcrafted by highly skilled artisans in Italy’s shoemaking capital, Marche, and feature all the quality and attention to detail you’d expect from footwear from this region.
Velasca’s Derby shoes, in particular, are pretty special. The Cumenda, for example, is a classic black Derby that’ll go with almost anything and never date. It’s crafted from beautifully smooth calfskin leather and put together in Italy using a blake-rapid construction for easy resoling.
Common Projects is a brand that should need no introduction. The NYC-based minimalist footwear label defined the best part of the 2000s and 2010s, triggering a tsunami of copycat brands selling simple, stripped-back sneakers made using the finest materials and with the attention to detail of a dress shoe.
Things have moved on a lot since then, but we’d argue that the brand’s signature sneaker, the Achilles Low, is a modern classic, and something that will keep coming back into fashion again and again. But the best bit? All the label’s footwear is handcrafted in Italy.
Founded in 2010 with the sole mission to make high-end Italian-made footwear slightly more accessible, Scarosso offers beautifully crafted shoes and boots for relatively reasonable mid-market prices.
Speaking to Forbes magazine, the brand’s founder had this to say on his lower-than-average prices: “We use the same raw materials as most luxury brands do, and would never compromise on quality. The reason for the lower price is that we cut out the middle man – that is, license partners and agencies etc. – and pass the margin onto the customers.”
Italy is known for two things: fast cars and exquisite footwear. Perhaps that’s why it’s the birthplace of the best driving shoe ever made.
Featuring a pebbled sole, moc-toe upper and slip-on design, the Gommino from Tod’s is the godfather of all driving loafers. That said, it has plenty of scope for use outside of the driver’s seat too.
Paired with soft tailoring, this stylish suede shoe is the perfect match for warm summer evenings around town, and can happily be paired with shorts and a T-shirt too.
Morjas has a knack for mixing classic designs, traditional shoemaking practices and contemporary touches to create a range of footwear that’s both exciting and timeless.
The complete collection includes loafers, boots, formal shoes, minimalist sneakers and driving shoes, the latter of which are all made by hand in Italy.
Regardless of style, all of Morjas’ shoes are tied together by the quality and attention to detail that goes into each and every one – these are beautifully made pieces of footwear crafted with real care and skill by some of the most experienced makers in the world.
Obviously, Gucci is more than just a footwear brand. The historic Italian high-fashion house is responsible for some of the most iconic designs of all time, and it’s striking green and red branding is recognised around the world.
One of those iconic designs is the horsebit loafer – a footwear style that has been copied again and again but never bettered, and one that Gucci still proudly makes in Italy to this day. It’s a true menswear classic, and one of the best shoes out there when it comes to navigating semi-formal dress codes in style.
Founded in 1975, Santoni makes luxurious formal and casual footwear, all expertly handcrafted in Italy’s historic shoemaking region of Marche. Styles range from simple sneakers to dress shoes, and everything is produced with fine materials and rigorous attention to detail.
We’re particularly fond of some of the chunkier styles Santoni offers, including boots and loafers with exaggerated commando soles that are perfect for tackling the winter weather in style.
Italian brand Golden Goose has made a name for itself crafting high-end (and very expensive) sneakers that look like they’ve been dragged through a hedge backwards. Not everyone is a fan of the label’s distinctive dishevelled look, but if you’re into distressed shoes then you’ll no doubt be a fan.
One key benefit is that Golden Goose’s sneakers don’t have much of a breaking-in period. Given that they’ve been carefully battered to within an inch of their lives in the factory, they’re already soft, flexible and ready to wear.
If you really want to empty your bank account on a pair of ultra-high-end Italian-made shoes, then stealth-wealth brand Brunello Cucinelli should be right at the top of your list.
The label is famous for its exquisite fine fabrics, premium craftsmanship and exorbitant price tags, which extend to everything from its louche double-breasted linen jackets to its beautiful Italian-made footwear.
Expect classic casual styles like everyday sneakers and traditional hikers, reworked in the finest materials money can buy.