The Shoemakers of the Brenta Riviera

Museo della Calzatura - Villa Foscarini Rossi Stra


An important element of attraction for shopping, deserving further development, is the production of high quality shoes by the Master shoemakers of the Brenta Riviera who have opened some outlets along the Riviera. This handicraft business saw its origins in the Thirteenth and Fourteenth centuries, when the noble families of the Serene Republic of Venice moved in the summer to their villas by the river, taking with them their servants including the “calegheri”, i.e. the shoemakers and cobblers who had founded their Guild in Venice in 1268. This business has turned today into small entrepreneurial industries, which continue and update the knowledge of the medieval guilds as witnessed by their production of excellence that is often made on behalf of the most important international brands.

On the Brenta Riviera, the shoemaking business reached its full development in 1898 with the birth of the first mechanised shoe industry. By the end of the Nineteenth century Giovanni Luigi Voltan, who had worked in the most important shoemaking factories in the United States, established the first industrialized shoemaking factory in Italy, in Stra precisely. The Calzaturificio Voltan served as a true school that collected and passed over – through the work experience in the factory – new and modern knowledge that has proved able to boost local development.

Today, the shoemaking companies of the area surrounding the Brenta Riviera amount to nearly 520 with about 10,000 employees; production stands at twenty million pairs of shoes, 90% of which is exported.
The entire footwear system of the Brenta Riviera (shoe manufacturers, equipment suppliers, model makers and trading companies) amounts to 60% of the whole turnover of the footwear system in the Veneto Region, or 20% of the domestic turnover for this industry.

In Stra, Villa Foscarini hosts The Shoe Museum ( that describes the entrepreneurial path of the Rossi family, the relationships developed by the Company with the major fashion houses, and testifies to the knowledge of the territory, the knowledge of the shoemaking tradition of the Brenta Riviera, and the evolution of customs and fashion in the second half of the Twentieth century.
The exhibition has been designed in order to highlight the contribution of each individual fashion house, with special focus on the style evolution of the hosting “griffe” over time.
Over 1,500 models are displayed in the rooms of the Villa; they bear witness to the evolution of taste and of our way of life in the second half of the Twentieth century, and tell about the creativity of designers while showing their peculiar language: Christian Dior, Yves Saint Laurent, Ungaro, Givenchy, Anne Klein, Genny, Fendi, Richard Tyler, Vera Wang, Calvin Klein, Porsche Design, Christian Lacroix, Emilio Pucci, Marc by Marc Jacobs, Loewe, Kenzo, Donna Kara, and Celine. This extraordinary collection is crowned by a small yet valuable collection of old models of Venetian origin.

Educational proposals include workshops addressed to all teachers, in order to stimulate students’ curiosity through play and practical experience, and to suggest a new way of looking at history and the surrounding territory.

Along the Brenta Riviera many outlets offer the opportunity to purchase valuable footwear at affordable prices.