In shoe-making the sole comes first
It was August 2019 and the item at the top of my bucket list for our Naples trip was visiting the Rione Luzzatti. This neighbourhood, adjacent to Gianturco Station, is rumoured and tacitly acknowledged to be the setting of Elena Ferrante’s best-selling quartet The Neapolitan Novels. So, on a blisteringly hot day I dragged my husband on a self-curated walking tour of landmarks mentioned in the books: the municipal library, small bakeries, the local park. One of the story’s protagonists, Lila, grew up in a shoemaking family and the craft of designing a well-made, comfortable shoe is described in detail in the books. As we browsed shop windows, our own feet burned and blistered in our factory-made plastic shoes. We started to wonder if the level of artistry described in the books is merely the nostalgia of a bygone era.
A twenty-minute drive north-west of the Rione Luzzatti, or a 30-minute straight shot North of downtown Naples, you find the “suolificio” De Group S.R.L and Silver S.R.L. A suolificio specializes in making the soles of shoes. This quality Neapolitan manufacturer has been in business since the eighties and has recently split into two subdivisions. De Group S.R.L creates soles for women’s shoes and Silver S.R.L handles the men’s models. The company prides themselves on a Made-In-Italy tradition of excellence and for this reason use no other material but high-quality leather.
The sole of a shoe is not merely functional and the epicentre of comfort: it also lays the groundwork for the overall aesthetic of the shoe. Silver/De Group showcase such stunning sole designs in their showroom you almost want to affix your feet to them and walk away on the spot. The company truly exemplifies classic taste, while satisfying modern desires.
My favorite design in the shop was a chunky wedge model (I need height!) in a brown and yellow colour scheme. My husband is more of a traditionalist and picked out the sole of a classic black dress shoe. Though are tastes diverged a little, we both agreed that when you walk around Naples, you must do it on hand-crafted leather soles if you want to fit in. Our last stop of the day was pizza at Sorbillo's. Yum!