Shopping in Florence
Shopping in Florence is a delight. The city is famous for its high-quality leather produce, goldsmiths, marbled paper and much more.
The area around Santa Croce is home to the city's leather-makers, while Oltrarno is cluttered with the workshops of local gold and silversmiths - although the Ponte Vecchio is home to the glitzier of such shops. Pick up avant garde jewellery at Angela Caputi, Via Santo Spirito 58r, or leather goods at MM, Via de'Ramaglianti 6r.
Designer boutiques cluster around the Via de' Tornabuoni and Via Calzaiuoli, where Versace, Ferragamo, Gucci, Max Mara and Prada all have stores. Other stores here are Locman, for watches, and Tod's and Hogan for shoes and handbags. Fashion aficionados should also visit Via della Vigna Nuova where Dolce e Gabbana and venerable hatmakers Borsalino are located, and Piazza degli Strozzi for Louis Vuitton and Escada.
Pick up designer copies in the open-air San Lorenzo Market, in Piazza San Lorenzo, northwest of the Duomo, which takes place every day, except for Mondays in winter. Leather belts and bags, silk scarves and soft wool jerseys can be picked up for a song - although it is advisable for shoppers to check the quality before buying, and bargain hard.
Nearby stands the Mercato Centrale, a covered food market, open Monday to Saturday 0700-1400, bursting with olives, hams, cheeses and fresh vegetables. The flea market at Piazza dei Ciompi specialises in antiques and collectable junk. It is open Monday to Saturday, and the last Sunday of the month.
Specialist shops worth a visit include the Officina Profumo Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella, Via Scala 16. Housed in a frescoed chapel, this old-fashioned chemist was founded by monks in the 17th century. Lotions, potions and herbal remedies abound in elegant packaging. More fascinating old remedies are at Alessandro Bizzarri, Via Condotta 32r, a 19th-century shop with ancient bottles filled with herbs, oils, spices and old Florentine remedies. Florence has the world's oldest photographic firm, with Archivi Fotografici Alinari, Largo Fratelli Alinari 15, selling vintage prints from their amazing archive.
Handmade shoes created in time-honoured tradition are available at Francesco, Via Santo Spirito 62r, while Pineider, Piazza della Signoria 13r, is considered the most exclusive stationers in all Italy, having designed calling cards for Napoleon, Byron and Maria Callas, among others. For luxurious soaps, scents, creams, candles and lotions made to traditional recipes, head for Ortigia next to the Ponte Vecchio in Borgo San Jacopo.
You can buy marked-down designer items at The Mall, 8, V. Europa, only half-an-hour's drive from central Florence, off the SS69. It offers savings of around 25% to 65% on names from Gucci to Salvatore Ferragamo.
As a general rule, shops open 0930-1300 and 1530-1930 or 2000, although larger department stores and supermarkets may stay open throughout the day. Food shops are usually closed on Wednesday afternoons, or Saturday afternoons in the summer. Clothes shops are often closed on Monday mornings. There is limited Sunday opening.
Leatherware, gold, shoes, fashion, food and wine are among the most popular souvenirs from Florence.
Value-added tax (IVA) is 21% on clothing and luxury goods. Foreign tourists from non-EU countries can claim a tax refund, provided they spend at least â¬155 at the same shop on the same day. Those who are eligible should ask the shop assistant for a receipt (with a description of the articles purchased) and a 'tax-free cheque'. Upon departure from the EU (no later than 90 days after the date of purchase), these should be presented to customs.