Florence is probably the best city in Tuscany for shopping.
The Florentines have been producing exquisite goods for centuries, from gilded furniture and gorgeous leather goods to silver jewellery and marbled paper. Despite tourism, consumerism and high labour costs, you can still find high standards of craftsmanship in many spheres, and prices are fairly reasonable for the quality on offer. As well as all the shops, there are markets and market stalls dotted around the centre. It is worth shopping around and bargaining, for which a little Italian will go a long way.
WHERE TO SHOP
There are a number of small artisan shops as well as boutiques, chain stores and designer shops in Florence. For standard purchases, department stores and supermarkets are just as good and offer cheaper prices.
Markets are also a feature of Italian life, where real bargains can be had. Apart from the permanent open-air markets in the city, many neighbourhoods have a weekly market where, if you are lucky, bargains can be found.
The Oltrarno neighbourhood south of the river is the traditional home of craft workshops. Often you can also find here guided tours of studios and workshops which are very interesting.
Tobacconist’s shops (tabacchi) are licensed to sell postage stamps, schede (telephone cards), salt and candles, besides cigarettes and tobacco. Farmacie (pharmacies) abound, and take it in turns to open at night. They sell a range of items, including baby food.
WHAT TO BUY
Just some ideas what you should buy in Florence:
- Antiques (visit Via Maggio and the surrounding streets in the Oltrarno district)
- Books (e.g., La Feltrinelli International or The Paperback Exchange)
- Ceramics (e.g., La Botteghina del Ceramista or Sbigoli Terrecotte – both of them are in the city centre)
- Clothes. Florence is a high-spot for fashion, and the centre is full of top designer boutiques. The most elegant streets are Via de’ Tornabuoni and Via della Vigna Nuova, where Versace, Valentino Armani, YSL, Prada, Gucci and all the other big names in fashion have their outlets: the shop windows are an attraction in themselves. Via dei Calzaiuoli and Via Roma also contain expensive shops, whilst along Via del Corso and the streets leading from the Duomo to the railway station are some cheaper options.
- Food and wine (e.g., Alessi or La Bottega dell’Olio; Central food Market – Mercato Centrale – is also highly recommended)
- Leather. Leather goods are the best buy in the city. Quality ranges from the beautifully tooled creations of local artisans to shoddy goods aimed at undiscerning tourists. For top-of the-range quality (and prices), you should start with the designer boutiques in the Via de’ Tornabuoni or shops in streets around the Piazza della Repubblica.
- Perfumes and room scents (you will extremely enjoy Officina Profumo Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella or AquaFlor)
- Shoes (e.g., Baldinini or Ferragamo)
And this is just a small part of Florentine goods that you’ll certainy appreciate!