As well as the extensive art and history scene in Florence, the city is known for its extensive shopping opportunities. As well as many markets and high-end, luxury Italian items, Florence is known for things like leather, jewellery, paper, antiques, and ceramics, as well as classic Tuscan food and wine. Here is an outline of what to shop and where to find them:
Florence is Italy's leather capital and it is well-known for this tradition. Florence has a large range of leather goods from clothing and apparel, to books, boxes and purses. As well as this, there is a spectrum of leather quality, and where you shop will depend on both what you want to buy and what kind of quality you are looking for
Artisanal leather articles
If you want small gifts that have a personal touch, try going directly to the artisanal workshops. These craftsman are more focused on how the products are made, rather than the production of the leather itself, but they are a great middle ground for buying leather souvenirs if you are looking for something a little more special. Try going across the river to Oltrarno district where you can find many artisanal workshops.
High end leather
If you are looking for high-end, high-quality products, especially clothing and apparel, it is best to go to the well-established leather stores that are all throughout the city. It is possible to find medium to high quality leather products that are not in these stores, but it can be a lot more difficult to judge quality in market places (especially if you are not sure what to look for). For expensive, luxury items, go to the designer fashion houses along Via de’ Tornabuoni.
Wide range, low priced, leather gifts
If you are not too worried about the quality and want a large range of items, you can always go to the San Lorenzo market. This will be aimed more at tourists, but it will still be an enjoyable experience even if you are wanting to go somewhere else and buy something of better quality.
Cuisine in Florence still has a distinctly Tuscan feeling to it, even though the range is incredibly varied. There are many local products that you can easily transport so that you can enjoy Tuscany in a bottle when you get home. Florence is nestled in the Chianti wine region, so buying local wine is a great way to keep the Tuscan feeling alive after you have left. There is also many other products like local olive oils, pastas, and meats that you can find that would make great souvenirs.
For authentic local cuisine like this, go down to the San Lorenzo market, or try the Sant’Ambrogio Market for fresh, in season products.
Marbled paper, perfumes, ceramics, jewelry
The region that Florence is situated in has many other Tuscan treasures on offer if you are looking for unique gifts to take home. The area is also famous for its marbled paper, its fine silver and gold jewellery, and ceramics from towns like Impruneta, and perfumes that reflect the Tuscan feeling. The city is also famous for its unique antiques and collectables, made famous by the renowned collector Stefano Bardini.
For most of these products you can just go to places like San Lorenzo market. There will also be personal, handcrafted goods in the workshops that line the shops of the Oltrarno district, and often you are able to see the artisans at work. If you are looking for actual shops you can try Ceramiche Ricceri for ceramics (or actually go out to the town of Impruneta), and Aqua Flor for a real perfume buying experience. Papiro is one the classic shops for buying Florentine stationery so you could try here if you are looking for a paper based souvenir.
If you are looking for serious antique collectibles, take a wander down Via Maggio and via de' Fossi, or check online to see if you are visiting when the local antique markets are taking over the streets of Florence.
10 tips for shopping in Florence
Florence is one of the best places for shopping in Italy, whether you want high-end clothing and apparel, or simply want to wander through souvenir markets. Here are 10 tips for your shopping experience in Florence:
1. Wander down Via del Corso
If you want a good place to start that is not in the markets, start by wandering down Via del Corso. Here you will find just about everything you could want to buy from Florence, and there are shops and boutiques for every taste and budget. You will find a huge range of items from both local and international brands so get ready to explore.
2. Watch out for fakes
Florence is a city that is known for shopping, but it has also become a saturated, mass produced market in some places. Places like San Lorenzo market are fun to walk around and browse all the many wonderful Florentine souvenirs, but if you are serious about quality and authenticity, you should not always believe what the vendors tell you (and you will often find your 'one of a kind antique' down the road for a cheaper price).
3. Be aware of your surroundings
The shopping scene in Florence (especially the market places) are full of tourists who want to spend money, and pickpockets like to take advantage of this. If you are in crowded areas, make sure that you are aware of your surroundings and keep an eye on your belongings.
4. Enjoy the San Lorenzo Market
5. Go to Oltrarno for more personal items
If you want gifts that have been made authentically, head over to the Oltrarno district. If you cross the river you will reach the artisanal district that is full of workshops with people working and selling their wares. If you want to buy quality leather goods but don't want to splash out on apparel, here you can buy smaller items like books, purses and boxes directly from the craftsmen.
6. Check out the Straw Market
7. Know what to look for when buying leather
If you want to be assured of leather quality you should probably avoid the markets altogether, but if you want to try and determine the quality of the leather there are a few things to look out for. Some general tips are how soft and supple it is (top quality leather is not stiff), the smell of it (it should smell musty and natural), the colour, and the stitching (it should be tight, neat and close together). Some things like colour can be imitated by using chemicals and wax so if you want to be assured then move away from the markets.
8. Buy food at the Sant'ambrogio market
9. Find Florentine souvenirs other than leather
The area around Florence is famous for much more than just its traditional leather making. If you are looking for souvenirs other than leather, try finding some of Florence's famous marbled paper products, their ceramics from places like Impruneta, their gold and silver jewellery that is sold along the Ponte Vecchio, and their large range of weird and wonderful antiques made famous by Stefano Bardini.
10. Know where to shop like a local
If you just want to wander through stores like a local would, head over to Via dei Calzaiuoli. This is where you will find a large variety of stores, ranging from high-end brands, to international department store brands.
Florence is famous for leather. The whole area called “San Lorenzo” has a big market specialised in leather which was established a long time ago.
Jewelry is the spearhead of Florence. Especially on Ponte Vecchio (which is also called the Golden Bridge for this reason), you will find a lot of jewelry stores.
If you’re looking for something even more quirky you should head in San Niccolò, where Alessandro Dari has a shop (called Alessandro Dari Gioielli) where he sells his handcrafted jewelry. VERY PECULIAR!