I don't really know what happened; my Italian isn't good enough, and the shopkeeper couldn't/wouldn't speak English. But is was a most unpleasant experience, and possibly worth relating as a warning.
I had purchased a pack of 100 cigarettes (a present) from a small 'Tabacchi' (on Via Cavour, very near Piazza S. Marco). Paid cash, got change, no problem. Then I wanted 2 packets of another type; got them, paid cash (10 euro note), no problem.............until.......well, basically, it seemed as if the shopkeeper was trying to tell me that he'd given the 10 euro note in mistake as change for the first purchase. And he didn't. And I knew it (and I'm sure he did too). He got increasingly irate, and shouty, and it wasn't very nice at all.
In the end (possibly because I stood my ground and tried to communicate as best I could in my dreadful Italian, rather than cough up more money) he thrust all my original cash down on the counter and grabbed all the cigarettes back. I ended up 20 cents short (no big deal) but was considerably shaken.
Maybe a genuine mistake by a short-tempered/stressed man....but maybe an attempt to con a middle-aged English woman (he was really quite scarily cross). Don't know, but thought it worth mentioning in case it's a regular scam.
I've seen a few warnings here about the fines or illegality of buying counterfeit goods from street sellers in Florence. Good advice but there is a better reason, especially in Florence, not to buy a fake Gucci bag or other leather product from street sellers. Simply put, you are throwing your money away. Over the years, a number of people I've known have bought nice looking leather jackets, handbags, wallets and purses from street sellers. Each and every item started to fall apart within days of purchase. The leather ripped easily because it was poor quality to start with. The seams came apart because they don't use the right type of thread to sew the stuff together. People, please! Florence produces the best leathergoods in the world. Take advantage of that while you're there. You don't necessarily have to buy name brands like Gucci, but buy your leathergoods from a reputable seller and whatever you buy will still look good years later. I've still got leathergoods I bought from a place there called Leonardo's Leather School over 20 years ago and it's still in good shape today. I going back to Florence soon because someone stole my old Leonardo's Leather wallet and I loved that thing. Never found one as good anywhere...here I come Leonardo.
To sell a fake (i.e. a false Prada or Gucci bag, for example) is a crime all over the world. That buying such a fake is a crime too, it is a relative new thing in Italy. And the buyer may be forced to pay a penalty. Last time I went to Florence (Feb. 2009) I saw this stange but useful sign. Useful because there are no fakes street vendors any more. I suggest the police to go to Toscana's beaches during summers as well. If you want a good bag but cannot afford an original designer's one or think (rightly) they are bloody expensive and overpriced, go to the Mercato del Porcellino and buy and authentic leather bag. It's of good quality and will remind you your vacation in Florence for a long time.
In the late afternoons and evenings, especially around the narrow alleys or along the side shops and boutiques, you will notice Africans selling fake designer leather bags, wallets, belts, sunglasses, etc. Please don´t buy, if police catch you buying fakes get ready to pay a good penalty. There are many signs like the one on the pic in the main streets of Florence. The vendors (not all of them) are rude and don´t stop shout. I stopped to watch a bag near Ponte Vecchio, he told me that it was a Gucci and I told him that i was not interested with the bag. I started walk and suddenly and the vendor was beside me selling the bag for 10 euros, i didn´t buy because the day before i bought a real gucci bag in the oulet in Leccio.
Se suelen poner en las calles o cerca de los callejones cuando cae la tarde y al comienzo de la noche, la gran mayoría son africanos pero también hay árabes y de origen hindú o pakistaní, venden de toda clase de falsificaciones de las primeras marcas, bolsos, carteras, cinturones, gafas de sol etc. Por favor no las compres, si te pilla la policia comprando falsificaciones la multa es bién alta. Suelen ser algo molestos y groseros (no todos). Recuerdo que me paré a ver un bolso cerca del puente vecchio, me dijo que era un gucci le dije que solo lo quería ver, a los segundos de salir andando de allí me lo veo corriendo hacia mi y intentando venderme el bolso por 10 euros. No lo compré porque el día antes me compré un bolso autentico de gucci en el outlet en Leccio.
In Florence, I cant tell you how many times I saw people selling small amounts of items, ie.. tripods for cameras, or the africans selling the fake purses.. as soon as they see the police, they pick up and move NOW, in fact, dont even LOOK at these bags or people or they will literally follow you.. the ones in the market place with the actual stands, those are fine to deal with, most are very honest. I bought a beautiful leather purse and a couple of souvenirs.
When you walk around Florence in the late afternoons and evenings, especially around the narrow alleys or along the side shops and boutiques, you will notice Africans selling fake designer leather bags, wallets, belts, sunglasses, etc.
Although the thought of owning fake designer items - due to low prices - are very tempting, DON'T don't buy them. I was told that if the Florentine authorities/polices caught you red-handed trying to buy or have bought a fake designer item, you (the customer) will be fined heavily (a few thousand Euros, I was told).
This was the Italian way to discourage the sale - and purchase - of fake designer items. Since they were unable to stop the salers of fake designer items, they punish the buyers instead - so that the demand can be curtailed.
There will be plenty of opportunities to purchase an item by your favorite designer, not only in the posh boutiques but also by vendors who sell fake luxury bags on the streets of Florence or right in front of the boutique! The business is so open that tourists may think that it's OK to buy them.
These guys sell bags & purses on blankets and the moment the police arrives, they scoop up the blanket and run off.
Be warned that purchasing a fake item might get you into trouble because buying/carrying a fake designer item carries a penalty or heavy fines. You may not be caught buying one but the customs may when you leave the country
It is exteremely dangerous to buy in Florence city center from abusive street sellers. You can be amazed by their Gucci bags, Prada wallets, Dolce & Gabbana Belts, Christian Dior Sun glasses and so on... But be extremely careful because there is a law in Italy, which forbids to buy from abusive street sellers. If Police catch you buying some fake product they can apply to you a fee of more than 1500 euros. A few days ago I saw two poor tourists who were stopped by the police... they had sunglasses in their hands and they were extremely SAD in their faces (because they thought to save money by buying fake sun glasses and they had to pay a fee of more than 1500 euros!!)... SO BE CAREFUL
Florence is unfortunately full of guys selling cheap crap to gullible tourists. Some sell sunglasses or fake brand bags, others sell posters of Italian art. They're everywhere and I wish the city would crack down on them more than they do because they can clog up the city in some high traffic areas. They aren't supposed to be there anyway, since we watched poster and sunglasses sellers pick up their merchandise in seconds whenever the cops came, only to set back up again almost as fast. And then we'd watch tourists buy from them, especially college-aged Americans, and they'd pay at least 10 eur for a poster that had been lying on the ground all day. If you want a souvenir, buy it from a proper shop and not the shucksters on the street.
It`s not so original advice: more cheaper to by fresh fruits and vegetables
in supermarkets, than in cafe in the central streets! If I nkow it before,
didn`t pay 4 euro for one apple and orange! I strayed in one of supermarkets
later for comparison ans saw that price for one kilo (!) oranges
is 1.50 euro... to my great surprise!
In my opinion, in the city center many shops have too high prices, especially food shops. Small cups of ice cream can cost more than gold!!! And this is not fair!Once I entered in a bakery store and there was a tourist who wanted to buy 2 cookies. The baker asked him 4 euros for the two cookies, and the tourist left the two cookies in the store and moved away! the funny thing was the that baker complained. So don't be ashamed if you feel that you are paying too much for something in Florence
Warning to all SHOPAHOLICS.....Stay clear of the Via Tornabuoni and Via Vigna Nuova areas of Florence!! If you dare to venture into these areas...bring plenty of cash and leave a lot of room on your credit cards!!! This young woman was clearly a victim. She was last seen being lured into the 'seedy' shops of Prada, Armani, and that vicious King of Italian Fashion....Roberto Cavalli!! Beware of the Gucci ghetto!! If you're an Italian lingerie junkie....then I would definitely advise you to avoid any of these areas! The 'wackos' at La Perla will never let you see the LIGHT OF DAY!!!!!
Well, my first time there I bought some belts as gifts from some of the street vendors and some of them fell apart after 6 months. How Embarrassing! The second time, I only bought leather products from stores ( although it was much more expensive) I am sure some of the vendors have nice wares, but I didn't want to take any chances!
Also some of the vendors are very bold! I was walking down the street and one vendor started chasing after me with some leather pants! He then put his hands all over my hips, telling me that these pants would be the perfect fit and just right for me and how great they would look on me. Well, I told him 'No thanks, but I had already purchased a pair of leather pants '( a big lie)! But he still wouldn't give up! I finally ignored him and just walked away.