Italy: Best shopping spots in Florence

Florence: The wonderful thing about shopping in Florence is that it’s contained; the centro storico, or historic center, is small enough that you can cover the whole place—and its shops—on foot.

And, while many of the international designer labels have store frontage in the city center (mostly on chi-chi Via Tornabuoni), it’s the hidden away independent boutiques and ateliers, where centuries-old artisan traditions continue to thrive, that make the city’s retail scene so compelling. Step into these shops, and you’ll find everything from exquisite bespoke shoes and tailored clothing to jewelry, leather goods, artisan-made perfumes, and hand-bound books (not to mention a palate-perplexing variety of food and wine).

There’s no less intrigue at the independent clothing and jewelry boutiques in the Santo Spirito and Santa Croce neighborhoods, either, and the markets, with their decidedly non-designer finds, are also well worth exploring. Whether you’re all about quality, or just want to pocket something with a story behind it, we’ve got you covered: here are our picks for the 11 best places for shopping in Florence.

AquaFlor Firenze: Housed in a ravishing vaulted space—formerly the stables of a grand, Renaissance-era palazzo—this shop has a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it entrance. But once you’re through the modest doorway, you’ll find yourself immersed in the sensual fantasy world of the legendary perfumery. Master perfumer Nicola Bianchi founded his business in Lucca before moving to this space in Florence’s Santa Croce neighborhood, the only outlet for his collections, which are all beautifully displayed in mahogany-and-glass cabinets or laid out on antique tables. It’s as much a feast for the eyes as it is for the olfactory nerve.

The Mall Firenze:!Culture vultures pack into the Uffizi gallery; fashionistas flock to The Mall. This high-end designer outlet village, set in the lovely Tuscan countryside just south of Florence, runs regular hour-long shuttle buses from Florence’s Santa Maria Novella train station. Well-laid out with wooden walkways, green lawn, and plenty of space, the complex can get very crowded at peak times (during high tourist season and sales) with long lines forming outside the most popular shops, including Prada, Gucci, and Balenciaga; but it’s all worth the fuss if you’re lucky enough to bag that pair of Ferragamo shoes for cheap.

Angela Caputi Giugiù: Inspired by classic Hollywood movies, Angela Caputi started her costume jewelry business in Florence in the 1970s and managed to stay true to her original artisanal principles even as she rose to international fame. She continues to use resins made in Italy, and the pieces themselves are still assembled at her flagship in the Santo Spirito neighborhood—where Caputi herself is often found. With her shock of white hair and chunky jewelry, she’s easily recognizable and happy to chat. That’s an experience you won’t get anywhere else.
Italy, Florence, Shop, Stefano Bemer
Courtesy Stefano Bemer

Stefano Bemer: The late Stefano Bemer opened his bespoke men’s shoe business in the San Frediano neighborhood of Florence in 1983. (He famously took on Daniel Day-Lewis as an apprentice for ten months in 1999.) After Bemer’s death in 2012, the brand was acquired by Tommaso Melani, director of the famous Scuola di Cuoio leather school. Now housed in a deconsecrated chapel in the eastern Oltrarno, the brand still upholds Bemer’s initial quest to create perfect, stunning footwear. All shoes are designed and made in-house with high-quality leathers from all over the world (South African ostrich, Tuscan calfskin, American pony skin, and U.S. alligator), and all components—insoles and outsoles, heels and welts, oak shanks and cotton laces—are handmade by a team of local artisans.

Il Torchio: Part shop and part studio, Il Torchia is a brightly lit Oltrarno workshop that showcases the traditional art of bookbinding—updated for modern times. You’ll find albums, photos frames, and other gifts made of Florentine leather, in addition to handmade marbled papers and canvas, all of which incorporate techniques that have been practiced in Florence for centuries. Some of the more traditional designs haven’t changed since the 1980s, when the shop opened; others (books with olive wood as the front cover and leather-bound books held shut with brightly-colored elastic bands, for example) are more contemporary.

Il Bisonte: Now a global brand with outposts all over the world, Il Bisonte was founded in Florence in 1970 by Wanny di Filippo; this is the original shop, which still stands on the same site of the ex-stables of Palazzo Corsini in the heart of the city. The deeply satisfying smell of good-quality leather hits you as you walk into the vaulted rooms, which are filled with chunky bags and accessories sporting the brand’s iconic bison logo. Gorgeous briefcases and leather travel cases cost between €750 and €850 (about $864 to $979); women’s shoulder bags cost around €350 (about $403). Expensive, yes—but everything is handmade by artisans in or near Florence from butter-soft cowhide, and is designed to last a lifetime.

Richard Ginori 1735: Ginori’s Florence flagship has stood on the same site, just a few blocks from the Piazza di Santa Maria Novella, since 1802 (its factory, just outside Florence, was established in 1735), and was famously re-vamped in 2014 when it was acquired by Gucci. Today, it’s one of the loveliest stores in the city—nearly 5,400 square feet of exquisite things—and one that’s almost too beautiful to enter. Many designs, which are arranged in rooms meant to mimic an elegant home (the dining room, the drawing room, etc.), have changed little over the years. Pieces can be pricey—one plate in the Paesaggi, or Landscapes, collection goes for over $1,000—but come during the occasional sales, and you can find items from the factory for ridiculously low prices.

Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella: One of the oldest herbal pharmacies in the world, the Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella now has locations in London, New York, and Tokyo, among others; but it was founded in this beautiful frescoed chapel in 1221 by Dominican monks and opened to the public in 1612. As soon as you walk in, the scent of the signature potpourri—a mix of herbs and flowers from the Tuscan hills—fills the air. Mahogany-and-glass cabinets in the main vaulted, frescoed chapel are filled with glass bottles of oils and perfumes, skin and body lotions, the brand’s exquisite trademark soaps (in rose, pomegranate, iris, and more). Visit the back room to see the brand’s famous herbal concoctions: Baby Relax for a fretful infant, tisanes, or herbal teas (like the excellent Mouse Ear Hawkweed), and the famous Acqua di Santa Maria Novella elixir, an ‘anti-hysteria’ remedy.

Madova: The Donnini family has been making gloves by hand since 1919, and this store—which opened in 1954 next to its factory, just off the Ponte Vecchio—is still the only place where you can buy the accessories in person (you can also order online). A squeeze of a shop, it’s entirely lined with shelves and drawers, all stacked with neatly packaged gloves in every shape, size, and color. But don’t touch; an assistant will ask what you’re looking for, measure your hand, and root around among the stock until they find the perfect pair. For men, there’s a toasty pair lined with lambskin; for women, a fancy-pants pair of black leather gloves with a black- and fuchsia-striped ruffle is the must-buy.
Italy, Florence, Shop, Eataly Firenze

Eataly Firenze: The Florence branch of Eataly (which now has stores around the world, in the United States, Japan, Turkey, Brazil, Qatar, Russia, and more) is located just steps from the Duomo and offers the very best of Italian food and wine. You can come here for coffee, lunch, or dinner; for grocery shopping; or for cooking and wine-tasting courses. It’s a one-stop-shop for great Italian produce, and it’s also a great place to buy gifts and souvenirs. A mezzanine houses a restaurant with everything from potato-stuffed tortelli to burgers; upstairs, the restaurant FAC (short for Fast and Casual) does good, wholesome food quickly. Expect traditional Tuscan specialities like pappardelle with chicken livers, sage, and lemon, and braised pork ribs.
Italy, Florence, Shop, Atelier Scriptorium Firenze
Courtesy Atelier Scriptorium Firenze

Atelier Scriptorium Firenze: At Scriptorium, a tiny atelier-shop hidden off the imposing courtyard of the aristocratic Palazzo Pucci, handcrafted books and stationery are the specialty. You can choose from albums bound in leather and filled with handmade paper; exquisite leather boxes and desk accessories; calligraphy pens with a variety of nibs; wax seals to personalize your correspondence (you can have one made with your initials); silver-tipped walking sticks; magnifying glasses, and much more. All items can be customized, and only the very best local artisans are employed. Luckily, you know you’re getting the best of the best: Scriptorium works with many of Florence’s most high-profile families and five-star hotels, including the Four Seasons.