Vacation rentals in Italy (villas, farms, estates, agriturismo, apartments)
Florence Shopping Notes
Colleen Kochman (ColleenK)
I am not much of a shopper at home in the Boston area. However, once my feet touch down on Italian soil I am transformed into a voracious shopper. There is something about the exquisite craftsmanship and style of Italian products that just seem to pull at my heartstrings and compel me to "shop until I drop". The following shopping notes are from my Spring 2004 trip to Florence when I had 17 days to explore some Florentine treasures.
The San Lorenzo Market Stalls
These stalls in the area outside the Central Market are numerous and are open every day from 9:00am to 7:00pm (except Mondays in winter). The vendors sell a great variety of products and you could spend hours roaming through them all. Many of the vendors are aggressive but friendly and most speak English quite well. I had been somewhat leery about buying merchandise from these vendors on past trips to Florence because I was never really sure about the quality of the merchandise or if these talented salesmen and women would be ripping me off. But when I toured the stalls with Judy Witts (Divina Cucina), a long time Florence resident, she pointed out that if you looked closely you would find that the quality was generally quite good and many of the stalls also had stores nearby. It was really just a way to reduce overhead and therefore they could offer lower prices.
The city of Florence (Firenze)
I found this to be especially true for stationery. The prices were very reasonable compared to stores such as Il Papiro with comparable quality, and some items were identical to offerings in the higher priced "name" stores. These beautiful note cards and stationery make fabulous, inexpensive gifts.
Stalls selling scarves and pashminas were numerous and the quality difference between vendors seemed to differ very little. Nice pashminas could be had for 10 euro, with nicer materials such as cashmere and silk blends costing twice as much. These are very popular presents and I always have requests to bring back several for friends.
Leather pocketbooks or purses are sold in great volume all over the city of Florence. I scouted many stores, on expensive streets and out of the way shops. Once I had an idea of the size and type of leather I liked best (soft lambskin), I priced them wherever I went. Although there are some lesser quality purses for sale in the San Lorenzo stalls, I eventually found the one I wanted there. The saleswoman got the color I wanted from her nearby store and I bargained her down 24 euro by paying cash and explaining that the original price was more than I wanted to spend (see my trip report, listed below in Resources, for more details). It is a Tosca bag made in Florence and as Linda Richmond (aka Mike Meyers) on Saturday night Live would say, " it feels like butter".
An avid ceramics collector, I spent a good amount of time comparing different shops for quality and price. I am partial to the ceramics from Montelupo and prefer more classical designs over modern designs. My favorites in order of preference are listed below.
Rampini Ceramics, Borgo Ognissanti, 32/34, tel: 055-219720, www.rampiniceramics.com
Ceramiche San Lorenzo, Via Borgo S. Lorenzo, 29/r, tel: 055-216083
Ditta Luca della Robbia, Via Del Proconsolo, 19R, tel: 055-283532
Galleria Ponte Vecchio, Ponte Vecchio 104r, tel: 055-2398400, www.ceramichepontevecchio.com
Florentia, Via dell'ariento, 81r, www.florentiaceramichr.it
Olive dishes, 15 euro each, from Florentia
Scarves and Pashminas
BIVA s.a.s., Via dell'Ariento, 8/10R, tel: 055-214391
The price of gold has risen steeply worldwide and Florence is no exception. However, I was shocked at the price tags on simple gold chains as compared to previous trips, especially on the Ponte Vecchio. Other than a small, simple ring I purchased at a shop in the first group of stores on the right hand side of the Ponte Vecchio for 40 euro and a necklace at Cellini Gold, via Por Santa Maria 37R, for more than I really had in mind to spend, I could not bring myself to pay the prices in Florence on this trip and I am glad I didn't. When I returned to Boston, I searched for the gold-filigreed necklace I had been looking for as a gradation present for my daughter and I found it (in the estate jewelry section), for $120 instead of the 379 euro price on the Ponte Vecchio! So unless the price of gold comes down, or you really want a piece of jewelry from Florence for sentimental reasons, I cannot recommend buying gold jewelry in Florence.
Notes from 2004
I was on a specific mission in my jewelry shopping this trip. I was only searching for delicate, thin bracelets to replace one I had lost. The style could be described as classic 18K gold but I was interested in something a little different with a combination of gold and white gold. Here are some stores that I found a good selection of reasonably priced bracelets.
Gioielleria Marchi, Ponte Vecchio, 44-46-48, tel: 055-211413
L. Parenti, via Pisana, 146A/r
The Gold Corner
I Massai, Via delle Terme, 13, tel: 055-294800, closed Saturday and
Madova gloves, Via Guicciardini, 1R, tel: 055-2396526, www.madova.com
NOI, Via delle Terme, 8, tel: 055-210319
Lilivm, Via del Proconsolo, 77R, tel: 055-284136, www.liliumflorence.it
A fior di pelle, Via Guicciardini, 6r, tel: 055-294563, www.afiordipelle.biz
Officina Profumo Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella, Via Della Scala,
16n, tel: 055-288658, www.smnovella.it
I love to bring home small watercolors to remind me of the spectacular scenery of Italy. In Florence, street artists set up their wares in three main areas: on the south side of the Piazza Del Duomo (towards the Arno), In the Uffizi Courtyard and in front of the Pitti Palace. Weather affects how many artists will exhibit their wares and on rainy days only the covered Uffizzi area has a number of artists' work to choose from. Prices depend on the size of the piece but nice small watercolors can be bought for 10 to 20 euro. My favorite watercolor of the Duomo with some Cypress trees and countryside in the background was purchased from a very talented Japanese artist, Hiko Nagahama, near the Pitti Palace. I later wished I had bought more of his work because I couldn't find him again.
Casa Del Vino, Via Dell'Ariento, 16r, tel: 055-215609
By the time I found another wine shop that had excellent prices for Brunellos and Rossos, I had already purchased too many to take home comfortably. I don't have the name of this shop but it was located on the right side of Via S. Antonino as you head towards Santa Maria Novella. A definite stop next trip to Florence!
Colleen Kochman's Member Page: The articles and trip reports that Colleen has published on Slow Travel.
Trip Report 679: A Student in Florence, by ColleenK from MA
www.divinacucina.com: Divina Cucina, Diva's cooking school in Florence
Slow Travel Italy - Travel Notes - Florence - The San Frediano District, by Maureen from MA
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