A city of philosophers, artists, architects and academics, the Florentines have long been brimming with innovative ideas.
Nowhere is this more evident than in their love to create—be it sculptures, fashion, housewares or toiletries—all with a detailed eye for beauty and luxury.
Craft guilds in Florence have played an integral part in the city’s social and economic makeup since the 12thC. The Corporazioni di Arti e Mestieri (Guilds of Arts and Crafts) served as a way to organize the city’s craftspeople: cobblers, jewelry makers, furriers, painters and pretty well every type of creator imaginable.
Each artisan and their respective guild played a crucial role in society, responsible for their part in ensuring that Florence’s reputation as one of the utmost quality and skill could never be rivalled.
This sense of dedicated artistry and pride still rings through today with high-end garments, hand-hewn furnishings, exquisite paper, delicate porcelain and much more still made in Florence, using talents passed down throughout generations.
Compact and wonderfully walkable, it’s easy to get around Florence by foot, doubling your shopping venture into a self-guided walking tour (though once your bags start accumulating, you may want to consider a taxi).
A quick note on taxis, they can’t be flagged down on the street like in other cities. Taxis are instead stationed at designated stands. If you’re unsure, you can always check with the store owner or ask them to call one to the shop.
THE ICONIC ROAD IN FLORENCE
Named after a prominent Florentine aristocratic family of the 15thC, Via Tornabuoni is Florence’s answer to Rodeo Drive and Fifth Avenue.
Here you’ll find all of the major luxury boutiques: the first Salvatore Ferragamo store and museum, Gucci, Pucci, Versace, Pomellato, Hermes, Tiffany and Cartier, just to name a few. Even if you don’t plan on opening your wallet, it’s worth taking a look at the edgy window displays alone.
It also makes a great place to people watch; keep an eye out for the most fashionable locals who frequent the road.
FLORENTINE FASHION SHOPS
While Milan is famous worldwide for its strides in the fashion world, people tend to forget that the original birthplace of Italian style is Florence.
After all, this is the home of Catherine de Medici, perhaps one of the most celebrated style icons of all time, and some of Italy’s most iconic luxury brands like Ferragamo, Gucci, Pucci and Roberto Cavalli.
Not to mention, Firenze holds the biggest menswear event on the fashion calendar, the Pitti Uomo shows. Many of these labels have their flagship stores in the city, which are often accompanied by a museum dedicated to the designer’s life. Here are the classics.
Housed in a five-story medieval castle purchased by Ferragamo himself in 1938, the Salvatore Ferragamo flagship store boasts a larger collection of Ferragamo shoes than any other store in the world.
The shop is an art gallery unto itself, with beautifully curated displays of his classic flats to limited-edition reissues, amid vestiges from the building’s imperial past like wrought iron gates and archways lined with Coats of Arms.
Venture to the store’s basement museum for an exhibition of shoemaker’s vintage wares from 1927 up until his death in 1960 for a peek into his personal and professional life through film and photograph.
The son of an Italian leather maker, Guccio Gucci initially didn’t have much interest in adopting his father’s trade.
Upon leaving his home in the north of Italy, he moved to London where he worked at the prestigious Savoy Hotel.
During his time here as a lift attendant, he was seduced by the lifestyle of the rich and famous; in particular, the stunning pieces of luggage they toted.
He was almost 40 years old when he returned to Florence, bringing with him a newfound appreciation for style and fashion. He decided to follow in his father’s footsteps after all and take up leather making. He opened the first Gucci shop in Florence in 1921.
At the Gucci Garden, a former palace on the Piazza della Signoria, you’ll find a three-storey museum dedicated to some of the brand’s quirkiest one-offs like the legendary Tom Ford era of the late ‘90s, archived animal-printed pieces of luggage, vintage garments displayed in nature-themed rooms and a handful of gowns made for and worn by celebrities.
A small theatre plays restored films that offer a glimpse into his beginnings and a Gucci store on the main floor bears one-of-a-kind pieces that can only be found here.
Since its redesign in 2017 by Maria Luisa Frisa, it also features a gourmet restaurant, Gucci Osteria da Massimo Bottura, helmed by the three-Michelin-starred chef, Massimo Bottura.
Florentine noble, the Marquis Emilio Pucci di Barsento, better known as Emilio Pucci, was born in 1914 to one of the city’s most distinguished families, priming him from a young age for a life of glamour. He departed for Switzerland to become a ski instructor in Zermatt when the post-war economy in Italy was crumbling.
Tired of unstylish and bulky ski wear, he created a trim piece for him and his elite circle of friends to hit the slopes in style. The outfit was captured by a fashion photographer and published in Harper’s Bazaar USA and gained so much praise that Pucci went on to design women’s clothing fulltime, setting up an atelier in his family’s palazzo.
Placing his focus on freedom of movement, he revolutionized and patented stretch fabrics in a fashion era that was ripe with heavy and stiff material. At the Pucci boutique on Via de’ Tornabuoni, find a collection of garments with his signature magic eye-like patterns as well as handbags, shoes and eyewear.
To learn more about his regal upbringing, you can also pay a visit to his ancestral home, the Palazzo Pucci, a 16thC mansion with frescoed ceilings and adorned with Renaissance paintings and sculptures.
FLORENCE’S HEALTH AND BEAUTY SHOPS
One of the oldest pharmacies in the world, Santa Maria di Novella was founded around the year 1221 by Dominican friars who would grow medicinal herbs in their monastic gardens.
From these herbs, the monks would create salves, medications and balms for their infirmary.
By the 1600s, word spread outside of Florence about the pharmacy and their innovative treatments, and the shop opened its doors to the public in 1612.
While many think of France as the innovators of perfume, it’s argued that the Florentine are, in fact, the pioneers of fragrance.
At the age of 14 years old, the influential queen, Catherine de Medicis, is said to have commissioned from the Santa Maria di Novella apothecary her signature scent, ‘Acqua della Regina’ or ‘Water of the Queen’: a citrus-based elixir which can still be purchased today.
Today, it remains a top choice for beauty in the city and doubles as a museum dedicated to the history of the pharmacy industry.
You could get lost for hours exploring the gold-gilded rooms with frescoed vaulted ceilings and glittering chandeliers, each presenting traditional soaps, candles, perfumes and other toiletries like works of art in wood cabinets and precious jars.
They have also just opened a small cafe inside the store which makes for a great place to linger and enjoy the atmosphere.
Contrasting classic Florentine architecture with stark black and white patterns and emerald green (their signature colour), Aquazzura combines the tradition with modernity, a habit that’s reflected in their timeless yet creative footwear.
Find their standalone shop on Palazzo Corsini, which houses their entire collection plus made-to-order services.
The Donnini family has been in business since 1919 and continue to run the only shop in Europe that still produces and sells strictly gloves made of leather.
One of the family members will be there to guide you through your experience, ensuring that you select the right size in order to avoid stretching.
Gloves for both men and women are crafted with Nappa leather, which is noted for its soft texture, and are lined with cashmere
Leather making is a time-honoured craft in Florence. Head straight to the source with a visit to the Leather School of Santa Croce, found behind the Gothic Church of the Holy Cross.
The school has been training people in the art of leatherwork since the end of the Second World War and showcases a selection of wallets, key rings, briefcases, purses, backpacks, travel bags, journals and more.
For those who like to DIY, you can sign up for a course and assemble your own unique piece!
A great place for fun and affordable bags with vivid designs and leather accessories. Keep your eyes peeled for their small store on the corner of Via Della Vigna Nuova in the middle of Florence.
- Address: Via della Vigna Nuova, 52r
- Phone: (39) 055- 265 4306
DEPARTMENT STORES IN FLORENCE
Prêt-à-porter fashion has deep roots in Florence. During the 1940s, Florence became a top destination for American and British tourists.
This influx of gave rise to American-style department stores and catered to visitors looking to take home a ready-to-wear piece of Florentine fashion.
The department store experience here is a little different than back home, complete with cafés and independent designers rather than mass-produced products lining the shelves. These are a few of the best.
The Italian version of Harrod’s, La Rinascente bears six floors worth of quality shopping from ready-to-wear apparel to high-fashion, plus accessories, housewares, beauty and specialty foods.
For dinner, an aperitivo or a mid-shopping coffee break, consider their rooftop Caffé La Terrazza which offers a panoramic snapshot of the city and a particularly stunning glimpse of the cupola of the Duomo.
The trendiest concept store in town, Luisa Via Roma is at the forefront of men’s and women’s fashion.
Step into its massive brick-and-mortar store just a stone’s throw from the Duomo that stocks mostly Italian designers, both established and up-and-coming.
You can also shop online, but why would you want to?
Originally a small independent shoe shop, Raspini is now a multi-brand and globally-recognized department store with several locations in the city.
The shop on Via Martelli is the original location from 1948 and is arguably the most beautiful, offering views of the Duomo and the Giotto bell tower.
The recently modernized space sees clothing collections for both men and women as well as the brand’s lauded shoe line.
Raspini Vintage, another location found on Via Calimaruzza, is a great place to scope out the previous seasons’ discounted stock.
VINTAGE FLORENTINE SHOPS
Peruse hand-selected pieces, sophisticated fashions by up-and-coming Florentine designers and other treasures at these perfectly-edited concept shops.
Boutique Nadine has two addresses in Florence; the Lungarno location along the Arno river features vintage clothing and accessories for women, while the Via de Benci shop sees clothing, furniture, notebooks and other accessories.
Be sure to check our their in-house clothing brands that can only be found here: a womenswear line named Odette for romantic, airy and feminine dresses, Vigliano, a selection of men’s cotton swimwear and Second Floor for cotton and linen shirts, sweatshirts and wool jackets.
This tiny shop behind the Arno Hotel, founded in 2014 by a pair of stylists with an eye for avant-garde looks and fabulous finds, is known to covet vintage pieces, both pre-loved and unworn, at fair prices from luxury labels like Prada, Chanel, Marni, Bulgari and Valentino.
It’s worth taking a look to see what designer shoes, purses, dresses or accessories you may end up stumbling upon. If nothing else, stop by to say hello to Livio, the darling pup that greets you at the door.
Step out of Florence and into the medina as you pass through the doors of this small yet well-curated shop filled with vintage and contemporary jewelry as well as over-the-top statement pieces with major bling.
Also in Paolo’s (the store manager) collection are purses, clothing housewares and even ancient pieces of art. A visit here is truly an adventure!
DESIGNER OUTLETS IN FLORENCE
Think twice before turning your nose up at these exclusive Italian outlets; you may just find some incredible designer steals that you can’t find back home.
Don’t be fooled by the name—the mall is anything but your run-of-the-mill shopping centre.
Set in the Tuscany countryside in a sleek and modern complex, this open-air, luxury outlet is a collection of multi-level shops including Gucci, Lanvin, Givenchy, Fendi, Burberry, Alexander McQueen, Yves Saint Laurent, Ferragamo, Valentino, Stella McCartney and more at reduced prices.
A destination for true shopaholics, you’ll have to venture a bit out of the city to get here—it’s around a 30-minute drive from central Florence.
If you find yourself at The Mall and in search of some Prada, you’ll need to head to their standalone outlet, also known as Space, found a 20-minute drive from The Mall.
With clothing and shoes for both men and women, plus handbags, luggage and accessories, with some determination and a keen eye, you’re likely to come across a steal. Its rise in popularity has resulted in an increase in prices, but you can still manage to find up to 50% off the original price tag.
The store is open from 9:30 a.m. until 7 p.m., Monday through Saturday, and from 2 p.m to 7 p.m. on Sundays.
Only 100 customers are allowed to enter at one time, meaning your wait could be long if you visit on the weekend (so try to visit on a weekday instead). Arriving early is a good idea.
SHOPS FOR HOME & OFFICE IN FLORENCE
Purchasing handmade paper in Florence is a must! However, boutiques that are still dedicated to the craft are increasingly difficult to come by. Il Papiro is one of the city’s last remaining sources where you can find beautifully-designed paper crafted by hand.
Their specialty is block print paper which, traditionally, used hand-carved wooden blocks to stamp sheets with alternating patterns.
Nowadays, they use laser-cut blocks to lessen imperfections and produce perfect results. Along with block print, find marbled paper plus cards, leather-bound journals and stationery.
Bespoke options are available if you want something tailor-made to keep on your desk, and paper marbling and bookbinding class are on offer for those who want to try their hand at the skill.
The story of Ginori’s works of white gold trace back to 1735 when the Marquis Carlo Andrea Ginori opened his porcelain factory in Doccia, just north of Florence, where production continues today.
The Ginori name is internationally-acclaimed, synonymous with inimitable pieces that have graced both museums and dinner tables across the globe, from ornately hand-painted vases to classic all-white serving ware.
Some items are available online but for the full experience, head to the beautiful showroom where you can see its entire range.
Riccardo Barthel’s story began when his passion for interior design was confronted with a lack of high-quality products and a dwindling of Florentine craft traditions.
Taking charge of the situation, he began his own luxury furniture business, opening his headquarters on Via dei Serragli in 1994. Interior designers know to source vintage or restored gems here, although new items also make up part of the collection.
The best is visiting the showroom, located in a restored boathouse. Along with pieces for the home, they also specialize in accessories and furnishings for yachts old and new.
L’ippogrifo Stampe d’Arte
For beautiful etchings and artwork to decorate your home in Florentine flair.
FOR A BREAK…
What’s better than meandering the streets and bridges of Florence on a sunny day? Doing so with a gelato in hand, and here is one of our favourites places to get your scoop!
Located in the Frescobaldi Palace, facing the Santa Trinita bridge, this cotton-candy pink shop serves all the typical flavours you’d expect plus unique and seasonal ones such as yogurt with strawberries, and honey with dark chocolate sesame. You might have to come back on multiple occasions to taste them all!
Don’t forget to ask the shop about providing VAT (tax) form if you make any purchases of at least 175 euros (from one shop, you cannot accumulate purchases from different stores to this amount). You’ll need to present a photo ID or your passport to prove you are not a citizen of the EU, and you may be asked to show your departing flight ticket as well.
You’ll need to fill in a form with all necessary details, and the shop will be required to fill in their part, too.
Upon departing the last EU country you’re visiting, you must show the invoice provided by the store plus the refund form and the goods purchased to the customs offer at the airport. The officers will need to stamp the form as proof of export.
The refund is sometimes immediate at customs, and other times it can take a few weeks to be processed to your card, depending on the service used by the shop. Often, it will not be the full tax cost returned, as there is usually an administrative fee incurred. Overall, you can expect a return of about 16% of the price of your purchases.