The Best Places to Shop in Florence
Whether for leather goods, curios, bath and beauty products, or hand-painted ceramics, shopping is a pleasure in this compact city. Artisans have been part of the city’s fabric for centuries so expect the best and most interesting pieces on sale in the shops and boutiques of Florence.
Via della Scala, 16, 50123 Firenze FI, Italy
Elevate the normally mundane experience of shopping for medicine-cabinet basics like soap and toothpaste with a visit to one of the oldest pharmacies in the world. In this 13th-century chapel with early Renaissance frescoes, Gothic carved wooden cabinets, and crystal chandeliers, most items are still crafted according to formulas originally created by Dominican monks. A small museum displays equipment once used to make Santa Maria Novella products, as well as a collection of beautifully painted ceramic jars that held the herbs and powders. Linger a little longer in this fragrant world by ordering a pot of herbal tea or a small glass of one of the historic liqueurs in the tearoom.
50125, Sdrucciolo de' Pitti, 13/red, 50125 Firenze FI, Italy
In Florence‘s Oltrarno neighborhood, an area known for its craftsmanship, this modern store stands out. Run by a couple, the store is full of fabric and paper goods. There are books covered in silk screen designs, and elegant prints on bags made of upholstery fabric and beach chair fabric. There’s a worktable at the back of the store where you can see the goods being made.
Via Maggio, 51r, 50125 Firenze FI, Italy
Florentine native Betty Soldi spent years honing her craft in design capitals like London and New York before returning home and partnering with Matteo Perduca, a pairing that joins her graphic-design chops and love of calligraphy to his passion for collecting. The shop carries light porcelain cups adorned with swirling monograms and images of Florence. Shelves of ceramics, vintage furniture, framed graphic-art prints, and intricate paper sculptures fill the enchanting space. Sign up for a workshop and learn how to put ink to paper to create a memorable masterpiece.
Piazza Lorenzo Ghiberti, 50122 Firenze FI, Italy
Who knew grocery shopping could be so photogenic? In summer, you’ll be tempted to photograph the piles of tomatoes; in winter, the tangles of greens. Wander around to get a sense of what is in season and what you will find on local menus at lunch and dinner. Rows of stalls sell meat, salami, fresh fish, pasta, cheese, and bread. If all that food makes you hungry, look for the Trattoria del Rocco inside the market, a diner that serves lunch created from produce sold on-site. The early bird gets the worm here: Everything is swept up and closed down by early afternoon.
Borgo Santa Croce, 6, 50122 Firenze FI, Italy
You will probably smell a whiff of roses emanating from Aquaflor well before you arrive. Inside the stunning 16th-century Palazzo Corsini-Serristori in the Santa Croce neighborhood, Sileno Cheloni creates scents that vividly evoke the Tuscan seaside or pine forests. Cheloni studied with a Sufi master in Cyprus and worked in Milan and Lucca to learn Renaissance techniques before opening this shop, made up of three rooms lined with wooden apothecary cabinets that display glass bottles. Large tables are piled with soaps in scents like tomato-leaf and rose. Spend some time in the Parlor of Essences to create your own unique bouquet or learn about the rare oils that are used to fashion the signature fragrances.
11r Borgo degli Albizi
The perfect souvenir for the food-loving traveler? Slim bars of chocolate wrapped in paper patterned with groovy midcentury designs. Or a pale blue box tied with a satin ribbon, holding a treasure of pralines, caramels, and squares of dark chocolate. Vestri is a family-run establishment that has been turning out delicious chocolate creations for more than 30 years. The clan owns its own cocoa plantation in the Dominican Republic, which ensures the quality and ethical sourcing of its products. The shop also sells modern confections like white chocolate with salt and sesame, as well as sweets based on ancient Florentine recipes. Take decadence to the next level and indulge in a scoop of creamy gelato affogato, drowned in hot chocolate, while you shop.
Via delle Oche, 4-red, 50122 Firenze FI, Italy
This independent bookstore feels like a cozy home, with rooms full of books and comfortable chairs in which to sit and browse. Fans of Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code may recognize the shop as the one where Robert Langdon searched for Dante’s Divine Comedy. There is an extensive selection of English-language titles about Florence, Tuscany, and Italy that range from tiny novelty volumes to large coffee-table tomes. Head to the back and you will find a few shelves of secondhand paperbacks that provide material to read that doesn’t require Wi-Fi.
Borgo Santissimi Apostoli
This might be the most photographed store in Florence—the charming but cluttered scene includes strings of dried garlic and chilies, baskets of fresh fruit, colorful ceramics, wooden serving utensils, wild-boar salami, Tuscan olive oil, and handmade copper pots—with displays inside the shop and spilling out onto the sidewalk. This historic establishment, on the ground floor of the old tower of Borgo Santi Apostoli, is so friendly that the owner will pour you wine and offer a few bites of pecorino cheese while you decide how much room is left in your suitcase.
4/r via San Egidio
Founded by the Sbigoli family, this Florentine workshop has been glazing and painting terra-cotta pottery since 1857. Now run by the artistic Chini family, the sense of history remains. Every piece in the showroom is handmade and unique. The simple patterns are based on medieval and Renaissance colors and designs, ranging from muted green-and-ivory geometrics to bright yellow flowers. There are full dinner settings, lamps, serving platters, coffee sets, and tiny bowls perfect for holding your rings beside the kitchen sink.
25r Via dei Cimatori
Florence has been the place to buy leather for centuries, and this workshop has become the place to shop for leather in the past few years. Two best friends, Ben and Matteo, create stylish and modern leather items through traditional methods. Both men had backgrounds in the Italian high-fashion world (Ben worked with Simon Spurr and Luisa Via Roma) before establishing this brand with outlets in Milan, Rome, and Tokyo. Every item is crafted with local leather by Italian artisans outside Florence. The belts, bags, shoes, and jackets have a stylish edge, and each comes with a lifetime guarantee.
Via de' Guicciardini, 16, 50125 Firenze FI, Italy
Amid the parking garages on the other side of the Arno, you’ll find a small workshop where the son of legendary shoemaker Calogero Mannina turns out exquisite shoes. Starting with the finest hides (from polished calf to textured ostrich), Antonio shapes pieces on hand-carved wooden lasts made from customers’ feet, then sews them together into timeless designs like men’s wing tips, laced oxfords, and loafers. He also crafts a few in women’s styles, like pumps and ballet shoes.
Florence, Metropolitan City of Florence, Italy
You may think Boutique Nadine has a bit of an identity problem. Not only does the shop have two locations just a few blocks from each other in the heart of Florence, but they are both part vintage-clothing store, part indie-designer boutique, and part midcentury-furniture emporium. In the plus column: Everyone finds something to love here. Clothing is arranged by color and walls are hung with classroom world maps. A long table, overseen by a crimson statue of Buddha, displays bowls of beaded bracelets and rings and trays of sunglasses. You may walk out with a vintage designer piece or a classic striped T-shirt, or shoes, bags, a bottle of Aquaflor perfume, or some pretty paper goods.
33/R Piazza Ghiberti Lorenzo
The bright colors and floral patterns that adorn Lisa Corti fabrics are inspired by her childhood in Ethiopia and her lifetime of travel to India and Asia. The inventory is extensive, with housewares, women’s clothing, children’s wear, and ceramics. Each handmade item reflects Italian design sensibility and craftsmanship. At her shop in the Sant’Ambrogio district, you will find hand-blocked tablecloths, bedspreads, and pillows alongside blue Jaipur tiles and ceramic serving bowls. Beach lovers can savor multicolored caftans and strappy sandals in the same riot of colors and prints.
Borgo Santi Apostoli, 44/46r, 50123 Firenze FI, Italy
Jewelry does not need to be made from precious gems and metals to be beautiful. Angela Caputi’s internationally acclaimed brand, Giuggiù, started in a small workshop in the Santo Spirito district of Florence. Her bright and chunky items are currently found on the arms of some of the world’s most fashionable women. (Style icon Iris Apfel included part of her own Caputi collection in an exhibition at New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art.) Angela designs each piece herself and has them made by artisans throughout Italy. The bold plastic pieces are crafted to look like coral or faceted beads or sea creatures.
Piazza del Mercato Centrale, 50123 Firenze FI, Italy
Foodies (and those simply interested in local color and a good meal) should head to San Lorenzo and its covered Mercato Centrale. Florence’s main market for edibles is housed in a 19th-century glass-and-iron building. On the ground floor, delis, stands, and butcher counters sell a fantastic array of local fruit and vegetables, cheeses, dried porcini mushrooms, baked goods, balsamic vinegars, and olive oils plus fresh fish, poultry, and meat. Upstairs, a modern food hall has opened: Stalls sell prepared foods and meals for happy and immediate consumption at a central seating area.
Borgo S. Jacopo, 12, 50125 Firenze FI, Italy
The scents that go into Ortigia’s gorgeous bath and beauty products are inspired by Sicilian plants (orange blossom, Sicilian lime, pomegranate, almond) and evoke the essence of this exotic, southern Mediterranean island. Beautifully presented in exquisite packaging, the bath essences, soaps, body lotions, scents and scented candles are all made from natural products in Sicily. They make wonderful gifts (if you can bear to give them away, that is…).
Via Montebello, 58r, 50123 Firenze FI, Italy
During my last stay in Florence, I wanted to learn more about the artisan trades, and Bruscoli was recommended to me by a local. I am so glad it was. As I walked along the Arno River on my way to the workshop, I had no idea what an extraordinary little slice of Florence’s history I was about to witness. At Bruscoli, you can learn about the artisan heritage of Florence from Paulo Bruscoli, a fourth generation craftsman and owner of a small shop that sells both Florentine paper and leather products engraved with gold leaf. From stories of the bookbinding tradition in his family and the great flood of 1966 to his extensive collection of traditional engraving tools, the details housed in this small shop bring to life a tradition deeply rooted in Florence’s heritage yet unlikely to continue in the future. Bruscoli is an easy walk from the city center. High-quality leather and paper products are for sale, but Paulo Bruscoli specializes in personalized items, which you can order and pick up later or have sent to you. Mr. Bruscoli speaks English.
Via S. Giuseppe, 5R, 50122 Firenze FI, Italy
This leather workshop is hidden away in a former Franciscan monastery next to Santa Croce. The Scuola del Cuoio was originally founded to provide skills and work for some of the city’s orphans after World War II; masters and apprentices still produce wallets, purses, journals, and jackets. Take a quick tour of the beautiful cloisters, frescoed corridors, and workspace, or sign up for a full workshop and try your hand at making something of your own. Everything is crafted on-site using traditional methods. Be sure to get your purchases personalized with a gold-stamped monogram.