Italian Pianelle

Alessandra Torrigiani d'Arezzo


This item is a pair of pianella, platform style shoes worn in Italy from the late 1400's. While similar to the Spanish chopine, or the more widely used pattens, the pianella are distinctive in their waisted style, following the contours of the foot to arch inward above the heel, and also being indented at the side.

The widespread use of this style of shoe is demonstrated in the surprise with which Giovanni Ridolfi, a Florentine merchant, recorded the fact that in 1480 that the Genoese women were wearing very low, or no, pianelle.

The pianelle could reach varying heights, with a recorded height of half a metre reached in Venice in 1480.

Pianelle could have been mage from stacked leather sewn together, carved from wood, or layers of cork held together with pegs. Archaeological evidence from England demonstrates the use of leather and wood in the making of pattens, while extant chopines from Spain show the use of cork. The covering of the pianelle was made from fabric or leather, with a strap across the foot to hold the shoe on.

In making my pianella, I opted for a fairly low height because I wanted them to be wearable. I chose cork as a material because of its availability and relative ease of work, using sheets of DIY cork tiling. I cut the layers of cork based on a pattern of my foot, increasing or reducing the size to produce the waisted effect. I then glued the layers together, and smoothed the edges first by trimming with a craft knife, then using sand paper.

For the covering, I used fabric to match a planned outfit. The covering is made of six pieces, the top cover, strap, and four pieces for the side. Using four pieces for the side worked better than a single piece for following the contours. The covering is still not totally fitted, so I may experiment at a later date with wetting the shoes and then thus shrinking the fabric. The straps continue to the base, to provide a greater distribution of the strain placed on them. The bottom of the pianella is covered with leather, as it will last longer than a fabric base and hopefully grip floors better.


Drew, Francis and Neergaard, Margrethe de Shoes and Pattens 1988; London: Boydell Press, 2000

Herald, Jacqueline Renaissance Dress in Italy 1400-1500 London: Bell & Hyman, 1981

Snderson, Ruth Matilda Hispanic Costume 1480-1530 New York: Hispanic Society of America, 1979