Tucked under the arcades behind the souvenir stalls at the Rialto, on the market side of the bridge, Pied à Terre sells handsome, handmade, brocade, silk and velvet slippers in bright colours. Inspired by 18th century Venetian styles – my favourites are the Venetian and Sabot designs – along with the famous Furlane slippers, these unique take-homes originated in the early 20th century in the Friuli Venezia Giulia countryside. There, the peasant-farmers couldn’t afford leather footwear, so they recycled rags, jute bags and old bicycle tyres to make their shoes. Following World War Two, the women, desperate to earn some income to feed their families, travelled to Venice to sell their shoes. The story goes that the gondoliers were the first to adopt the shoes after realizing their soft sole wouldn’t scratch their boats, and soon after everyone had a pair. Pied à Terre makes their soles from old tyres and uses rich (often recycled) fabrics for the uppers. You can also take your own material to the shop and order a bespoke pair.
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