Much like visiting the city’s famous museums and churches, shopping in Florence is simultaneously overwhelming and fantastic. From outdoor markets to the city’s famous fashion houses, the choices are extensive. To help you know how and when to best dive in, we bring you this list of 5 items to put at the top of your shopping list.
If Florence has a smell, it is of leather, and you don’t have to wander far to find it. We put this first because leather is the potential purchase you are most likely to encounter every time you leave your hotel. Whether you want a purse, backpack, or wallet, you will find leather goods of dreams here.
Early in your visit, wander the stalls at the San Lorenzo market, not lingering too long, to get an overview of what’s available. If you spot an item you can’t forget and want to purchase, return later in your visit after you have a better sense of what’s available around town.
When the time comes to buy, be advised that in the market setting quality can vary, so check items carefully to be sure that the standard matches the price you are willing to pay. Bargaining at the markets is expected and don’t hesitate to walk away from a piece you’re not sure about.
For something just a bit more upscale or for those who want to bypass the market scene altogether, head to Bojola located a few blocks from the train station at Via dei Rondinelli 25r or Gioia Chiara at Via della Scala, 11 near Santa Maria Novella.
Florence’s outdoor markets drip with brightly colored and otherwise stylish scarves that are different than anything you can find at home and only look expensive. As opposed to buying leather goods, as long as they aren’t name brand knock offs, it’s okay not to care if they are “Made in Italy.”
Actually, purchasing a scarf early in your trip is a great way to get started with your haggling skills: One technique that works very well is to offer a discounted amount for two scarves. Scarves are very easy to pack and you can take one home for yourself and one as a gift.
Quality notecards utilizing Florentine designs that have been in use since the Renaissance can be found in fine stationary shops around the world. Here in Florence, these notecards can be found on almost every street corner.
For paper products beyond notecards, including more extensive selections of stationary and wrapping paper, be sure to visit Il Papiro. An office product lover’s slice of heaven, Il Papiro was founded in 1976 to preserve marbleizing and other paper producing techniques from Tuscany. The company has locations in major towns throughout the region, including several shops in Florence. Il Papiro’s most central location is right on Piazza Duomo.
Even if you aren’t sure about buying a pair, don’t hesitate to have a look inside Florence’s renowned glove shop, Madova. Behind the counter, gloves are arranged in neat little bins in every color imaginable.
Recalling a bygone era, customers present their hands for sizing by planting their elbows on the counter in the small shop, where the staff will find your perfect fit. Madova is located near the Pitti Palace at Via Guicciardini 1/R.
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True aficionados of shoes and fashion will want to ogle the shoes that grace the shop windows in Florence’s “fashion triangle,” between Via Tornabuoni, Via Strozzi, and Via Portarossa, even if just for a bit of inspiration. However, high fashion brands, such as Ferragamo, Prada, and Gucci, are only slightly less expensive than what can be found elsewhere in the world.
But there is good news: while throwing coins in Rome’s Trevi Fountain will ensure you will return to Rome someday, seekers of the shoe in Florence will find a bit of magic that is even better. Just by keeping your eyes open as you walk around Florence over the course of several days, you are all but guaranteed to find your just-right pair of shoes. Every 30 feet or so you will find a shoe shop where in style-speak, the designs are likely ahead of what you will find in the States.
Only slightly more difficult to come by quite so magically are quality men’s shoes. Men’s shoemaker, Mannina, located near the Pitti Palace, is worth a stop for any man looking for classic, high quality, and fashionable shoes.
Photos Credits: Author, Philip MacKenzie, Eugenia Vanni, Gentleman’s Gazette, and Author