I wanted to shop in Florence but found it very overwhelming in terms of where to buy real Italian leather, how not to get ripped off by a jeweler when buying something gold etc. Maren was great. She knew just where to go and the shopkeeper/owners knew her and took great care of her clients. The highlight was an "off the beaten path" visit to a goldsmith in his five story walk up workshop. He was amazing, and we designed a gold, diamond and pearl necklace for far less than we could buy in the states. Maren is a must for shoppers and a lovely person as well!
I spent 5 days in Florence, with so much to see and do, and lets face it - buy, I did not want to waste time attempting poor Italian and demonstrating my inability to read a map. So day 1 myself and my travel buddy booked Maren for half a day shopping tour - it was the best money we spent, a close second were the awesome leather boots, jacket, bag, gloves, well you get the picture. Maren was great, she took the hassle out of the experience, we were able to buy top quality authentic Florence leather goods at way less than what we would pay at home. Not only the leather (though it was a big part) but stationary, papers, handmade brading/ribbon, perfume, food and so on.
After booking Maren, she was in contact with me prior to our tour to confirm what we would like to buy, what sizes we were ect, so that she could customise the tour for us.
While shopping Maren would also share valuable information about Florence and gave us heaps of great tips and suggestions for things to do and places to go on the remainder of our stay.
I highly recommend Maren and shop4it tours to anyone wanting quality, authentic Florence leather in particular as well as any other items that come to mind.
If you are lucky enough to be in Florence around Christmas seek out the seasonal Christmas markets.
They are exciting and it is a chance to find some real bargains and local flavor.
At one market in the square in front of the Ospedale degli Innocenti we found (a partial list) wine served by the farmer that made it, 5 kinds of oilve oil sold by the farmers that grew and pressed it, 5 cheese makers, 4 bakers, dozens of local craftsmen. This is just one of the markets we visited. It was just a gas.
Barbara picked up a colorful handmade wool felt hat.
What brings most people to Via de Tornabuoni is the one-of-a-kind high-scale shopping experience provided by Italian designer boutiques such as Pucci, Gucci, Ferragamo, Cavalli, Prada, Armani, La Perla, Versace and Dolce & Gabbana, which take up most of the commercial space on the famous avenue and a few side streets. Even if this kind of activity is not included in your budget, it's still fun to go window shopping and people watching, and it's even more fun to look at the area's architecture. Via de Tornabuoni is home to some of the city's most famous palazzi, including Palazzo Bartolini-Salimbeni, Palazzo Rucellai and Palazzo Strozzi, and it's also where you'll find the Piazza di Santa Trinita. The piazza is easy to recognize thanks to the column that stands in its centre, with a statue of "Justice" sitting on top. The column, which comes from the Roman baths of Carcalla (built in the 3rd century A.D.), was a gift from Pope Pius IV to Cosimo I de Medici. Across the street from the piazza it's possible to see and visit the church of Santa Trinita (free admission), which is especially known for its Sassetti Chapel. This chapel contains frescoes painted by Domenico Ghirlandaio that famously depict scenes from the life of St. Francis set in a Florentinian background.
There are some very nice areas to shop, and some that are "arranged for tourists" Every time I was on a tour, we were directed to see the Duomo, and then, oh, by the way right to your rear is all the shopping you will need and they drag you over there. I do not want to shop, or be pushed into it. Besides, after coming here about 5 times now, the best places to shop are the side streets. We went into some antique shops owned by proprietors and second hand shops that had many fine items that were not affiliated with tour companies to promote goods to tourists. The Ponte Vecchio bridge is the most packed with people and wanderers and gawkers. The prices are not good -like in high-on the bridge, but they do sell a lot. Mass volume of people brings results.
Just 30-40 minutes away from Florence there's the outlet The Mall, a village in the countryside where all the major brands (Armani, Gucci, Bottega Veneta, Ermenegildo Zegna, Loro Piana, etc.) have their shops and sell at lower rates all year round. The arrivals are on Monday, so any day between Tuesday and Friday are good day to have a look and make great deals. Last time I went there I found an Armani suit for 150.00 EUR!!!!!
Not always there a big choice or very good prices, but most of the times and because it's only half-day and 25.00 EUR to go and retunr by the shuttle living twice a day from the city centre, it worths an attempt.
Hire a car and head South of Florence for the day for some seriously discounted designed shopping outlets.
1 Pellettieri d'Italia, Levanella-Montevarchi, Strada Statale 69, 52025 Montevarchi (AR)
Opening hours: Monday to Saturday 9.30am to 7pm; Sunday 2pm - 7pm
How to get there: Montevarchi is 22 miles south-east of Florence, reached via the Autostrada A1 to Arezzo/Rome.
Leave at exit 25 marked Valdarno.
Follow road signs into Montevarchi and continue out of town on the SS69 towards Arezzo.
Outlet is 2 miles from centre of the town - 100 yards on the left after the 2nd IP petrol station. Head down Via Levanella towards the back of a low-rise factory building.
Drive as far as you can and you will come to a car park. The factory shop is behind the glass windows in front of you.
The Mall - Armani, Gucci & YSL
Via Europe 8, 50060 Leccio-Regello
Opening hours: Monday to Saturday 9am to 6pm; Sunday 3pm to 7pm.
How to get there: From Florence take Autostrada A1 towards Rome/Arezzo; after about 10 miles leave the motorway at exit 24 for Incisa - on leaving the motorway turn right on the SS69 and head for Leccio.
The Gucci shop is on the left just after the Casa Cucina shop. The mall lies just behind, next to a large car park.
Dolce & Gabbana
Localita S Maria Maddalena, Via Pian dell'Isola 49, 50064 Incisa in Val d'Arno
Opening hours: Monday to Saturday 9am to 7pm; Sunday 3pm to 7pm
How to get there: A couple of miles before the Gucci shop, there's a turn to the left to Rignano and Plan dell'Isola.
Take this turning - over bridge & 200 hundred yards on your left is a very modern building surrounded by a high fence. This is the shop.
Via Pian dell'Isola 66/33, 50067 Rignano Sull'Arno (FI)
Opening hours: Monday to Saturday 9am to 6pm; Sunday 3pm to 7pm.
How to get there: Follow directions for the Dolce & Gabbana shop but, instead of turning left after crossing the bridge, turn right and drive for 200 yards until you see the Fendi Outlet sign pointing down the back of a light industrial zone.
One should not miss taking a trip onto the best shopping street in Florence - maybe most elegant street in the world - considering that all famous fashion brands: Gucci, D&G, Versace, Fendi, Prada, Armani, Ferragamo (brands so loved by fashion people in America) are on each sides of this street - Via de' Tornabuoni. For the normal visitor it is only window shopping, because entering one of this stores makes you very unconfortable as the employees inside are wearing designer clothes also and they weights you before showing you the goods. So, if you don't have a overflowing credit card in your pocket, you might just enjoy the walk.
No one does windows like the Florentines and of course it goes without saying that the Italian designers are the leaders in fashion especially shoes. You can definitely shop til you drop without spending a dime.
Shopping is always obligatory; for me, anyway :) And the chance to shop at Florence's famous San Lorenzo market was probably the main reason I left the comforts of my hotel in Rome. Little did I know that the term 'market' is not exactly synonymous to 'bargain.' On the other hand, after this Florentine experience, I can say that the word 'Honey' is synonymous to 'sucker!'
I love markets. The apparent lack of overhead always lulls me into thinking that I can get the best deals, the little inconveniences notwithstanding. And I THOUGHT I got good deals in my purchases of leather belts, pottery, ceramic ware, and pashmina shawls (US$10 each, woohoo). Turns out that I could've saved myself the trouble of lugging my purchases all over the Arno and gotten even better bargains in the shops in Rome. But at least I can proudly say that I bought the stuff in Florence (if anyone tells me that these things were actually made in Taiwan...)
shopping at the Antica Farmacia di Santa Maria Novella
This is a very old pharmacy started by monks about four or five hundred years ago. You won't find Tylenol here, but you will find unique perfumes, heavenly lotions, and that kind of thing. They still make a perfume originally concocted for Catherine de'Medici and a lot of their products are still made according to recipes hundreds of years old. I splurge on their rose-scented body lotion and lemon-scented hand cream. It's a good place for unique gifts, and the room is beautiful--all old wood, etc. It's briefly shown in the movie 'Hannibal,' where Hannibal is caught on videotape trying some scent to send on a letter to Agent Starling.
If you are thinking about a GOOD Italian leather jacket, please stop by and see my 'good friend Janni Derma.' Janni designs all is own coats and the quality is excellent. I've had my jacket 6 months and it is in better shape now then the day I bought it. Just visiting Janni is an experience in and of itself. I'd never go back to Florence without stopping to see Janni! What a fun man and if you ask ladies (or even if you don't) he'll 'find you a husband!'
For folks with absolutely no appetite for fine art and sculptures, Firenze boasts of many famous leather shops and designer boutiques... Let's see -- shop to your heart's delight at Versace, Prada, Ferragamo, Armani....and a host of many other famous boutiques!! Most likely, you'd be able to f ind lovely handbags, shoes, clothes here.... (you name it, they'd probably have it here!)....
Florence has lots of great art to see. However, we had just come from Amsterdam so we were all museumed out and we only had 1 day so we decided to just tour around Florence. We had a great time wandering through all of the street market stalls. Stereotypical girl thing to do I know (shopping) but we really just wanted to enjoy the sun and meet people.
It was really interesting talking to the street venders, they are not nearly as pushy as in some other places I've been to and they often quite happy to talk to you about 'must see' places in Italy and about your own country. We had some really great conversations with vendors who gave us great tips about what restaurants to eat in and good dance clubs (the one restaurant we tried was fabulous, though I can't remember the name. We never ended up going to the dance club).
We had a HUGE day at the markets, great prices on Leather jackets we brought up big.
Florence is beautiful... next time i would spend more time in Florence than Rome.