See the Coliseum in Rome, take a gondola ride in Venice, hike in Cinque Terra, bike in Verona BUT wait until you arrive in Florence to do your hardcore shopping. That’s right, this city above all in Italy is where beauty is highly valued and quality is of the highest standard. Our justification for shopping in Florence is to actually buy something rather than just be over-awed and to make it something that will last and that one day someone will say ‘’ Gosh that’s amazing; where did you get it?!’’
So where to start? Here’s what to look for when shopping in Florence:
Why? Quite simply, the quality is of the highest standard. All gold sold in Florence must be at least 18 karats – you shouldn't find anything less in the city. From simple pendants to ornate cocktail rings there’s something for everyone in Florence.
Where? The Ponte Vecchio is famous for its collection of jewellery boutiques and justly so. These shops have been here for centuries. And while you wouldn’t think that shopping in a touristy location would be a good idea the competition on the Ponte Vecchio allows you to shop around quickly and easily before committing to a purchase. The prices are surprisingly reasonable too. .
Avoid Silver. Florentines have great contempt for silver. Go for a superior piece of jewellery made from white gold instead.
Why? Florentine leather is famous for being strong supple and incomprehensibly soft. A word to the wise: this leather is quite expensive. But if you’re looking to make an investment in a quality leather product that will last for decades go Florentine. You won’t regret it.
Where? Visit the boutiques in the neighbourhood surrounding Santa Croce. Santa Croce itself is home to Florence’s original leather school Scuola del Cuio and to this day you can buy their handmade products. Not surprisingly this neighbourhood has been home to the city’s finest leather shops for quite some time.
Avoid The famous Florentine Leather Markets. The leather sold in markets is cheap imported and often Chinese not the supple Florentine leather for which you came. Stick to the real thing.
Why? Walk through any piazza and then dare say to that Florentines know nothing about fashion. Are you kidding? These are some of the most fashionable people in the world! Their casual looks are often more put-together than some stars at the Oscars.
Where? Looking for designer items? Head to the boutiques between Piazza della Repubblica and Piazza Santa Maria Novella especially down Borgo Ognissanti. Be sure to visit the original Roberto Cavalli store just for the experience the store itself is. But if you’d rather shop for duds that are as trendy as they are affordable check out the stores along Borgo San Lorenzo just outside the market.
Avoid Poorly made clothing at the markets if you are looking for that quintessential item to last for years. If you find something you love at a market make sure the seams are intact, make sure you haggle, and be prepared to walk away from a purchase if the price isn’t right.
Why? Many would argue that Tuscan and Florentine cuisine is among the best in Italy. With some of the proper ingredients you could attempt to replicate some your very own ribollita or pappa al pomodoro or cantuccini!
Where? Mercato Centrale the city’s largest food market. Among the butcher shops and bakeries you’ll find plenty of unique food items to bring home. Come here for bags of dried truffles, high-end olive oils, balsamic vinegars, famous Baci chocolates and bottles of Chianti. And if you’re feeling brave throw in a bottle of vin santo - a sweet and very potent dessert wine!
Avoid Fresh produce if you are flying home!
Why? Everyone you know is going to want a little piece of Italy brought home to them…and you might find your special something! In Florence you can find everything from cookware to t-shirts to rugs to football memorabilia. Paper production is an age old tradition; Florentine marbling is a famous technique. You will come across specialist shops with locally illustrated cards, calendars, notebook that make idea gifts.
Where? Markets are great for finding everything you want – and everything you didn’t even know you wanted. They’re all over the city. Small street vendors often have hidden treasures at great prices. Visit the enormous market at San Lorenzo but be careful not to pay too much! For great prices and variety every day of the week visit the enormous market at San Lorenzo.
Avoid Accepting the listed price at face value. Florentine merchants love to bargain with drama and flair. Never underestimate the power of walking away!
The general rule of shopping in Florence Italy? Always look for quality. It might take paying a bit more than you anticipate but you’ll leave with items that will keep your memories of Italy alive for years to come.