Florence offers the visitor a varied choice when it comes to shopping. In this section, we will suggest an area route, knowing full well that it certainly will not cover everything on offer in the city. For more expensive purchases, the route winds through Via Tornabuoni, once the ‘best’ drawing room of the city, where top fashion names and the creations of master jewelers are to be found. Unfortunately this street has recently seen the closure of old traditional shops. ‘Chic’ purchases can also be made in the nearby via della Vigna Nuova.
It is still possible to find historical and traditional Florentine shops: from the well-stocked antiquarian bookshops, which are concentrated on via dei Fossi, via Maggio and their adjacent streets, to the numerous goldsmiths and jewelers and their characteristic shops on the Ponte Vecchio.
One of the most characteristic areas of Florence starts on the other side of the Arno, immediately after the Ponte Vecchio, in the Santo Spirito neighborhood. It is characterized by a variety of little shops, workshops and handcraft shops (wooden creations, handcrafted jewelry, lamps, and metal vases, but also wooden hat blocks as well as the classic straw hats (leghorns) of Florence and many other original creations). In the square that is overlooked by the splendid Santo Spirito church, a national and ethnic handcrafts market takes place every second Sunday of the month.
In the nearby neighborhood of San Frediano, again on the other side of the Arno, there are some of the city’s greatest shops featuring goods from the Florentine handcrafting tradition: furniture textiles, articles made of moulded and hand-decorated silver, handmade shoes, and glass objects inspired by the past. Florence is also known for another handcrafting tradition: that of manufacturing leather items: bags, shoes, belts and articles of clothing. The leather shops are concentrated mainly in the Santa Croce neighborhood.
Extravagant purchases can also be made—with a bit of good luck—in the Pulci (flea) market, located in piazza dei Ciompi. The Porcellino (“piglet”) market in via Calimala, once known mainly for its straw articles, today offers various leather articles and handmade embroidered items. Those who love wandering between the stalls must not miss the Tuesday market at the Cascine or the very central San Lorenzo market, where one can buy souvenirs, articles of clothing, bags. Meanwhile, two floors of the covered market, located in a beautiful liberty structure in iron and glass, offer a grand choice of foodstuffs.
Another typical market in Florence, also located in a closed structure built in the second half of the 1800s and covered by an iron and cast-iron roof, is the Sant’Ambrogio Market (groceries and meats in the covered part, fruit, vegetables, clothing and household objects underneath the outside canopy). Not to be missed, finally, is the independent craftsmen’s market with their colored stalls in the Garden of Piazza dei Ciompi.
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Article by Florence APT