Shopping in Florence: fashion and shoes

by nicky.swallow

This guide takes you through the areas of Florence where you will find the best choice of stores selling clothes, shoes and accessories.

Even if your budget doesn’t stretch to designer labels, you should at least take a walk along Via Tornabuoni where Prada, Gucci, Armani, Roberto Cavalli, Louis Vuitton, Tiffany, Cartier and Max Mara occupy the ground floors of elegant Renaissance palaces offering their glittering window displays to the world. Via della Vigna Nuova is another elegant shopping street (La Perla, Massimo Rebecchi and BP Studio) while over the other side of Piazza della Repubblica, the designer parade continues in Via Roma with Miu Miu, Raspini and Fratelli Rossetti.

Via Roma, Via Calzauoli and nearby streets also make good hunting ground for mid-price labels and high street brands such as Zara, H&M, Massimo Duti, Benetton, Sisley, Camper, Geox, Mandarina Duck and Coccinelle. Florence isn’t big on department stores, but COIN (Via de’ Calzaiuoli 56r; 055 280531; and La Rinascente (Piazza della Repubblica 1; 055 219113; are both worth investigation for their clothing lines for men and women.

Florence is full of small, independent clothing boutiques for which you just have to keep your eyes open; try Via Porta Rossa, Borgo degli Albizzi and Borgo San Jacopo. Here are a few of my favourites: A Piedi Nudi nel Parco (Borgo degli Albizi 46r; 055 2340768, and Borgo San Jacopo 38r; 055 2658221), Echo (Via dell’Oriuolo 37; 055 2381149), Lisa Corti (Piazza Ghiberti 33; 055 2645600;, and Quelle Tre (Via Santo Spirito 42r; 055 219374).

For budget clothing, you could do worse than the San Lorenzo market where stalls selling cheap and cheerful imitations of high street fashions, leather clothing and accessories, scarves and "pashminas" (of course they’re not the real thing) jostle for space along Via dell’Ariento and Canto dei Nelli. The warren of narrow streets surrounding the market will also turn up bargains.

The Italians are famous throughout the world for the quality of their shoes, and in Florence you will find everything from exquisitely-made bespoke footwear to mass-produced fashion items. Stefano Bemer (Borgo San Frediano 143r; 055 222558; and Roberto Ugolini (Via Michelozzi 17r; 055 216246; both hand-craft men’s luxury shoes in their Oltrarno workshops if you can afford the price tag. At the other end of the spectrum, the mass of shoe shops in Borgo San Lorenzo will be sure to turn up a bargain, or try Otisopse (Via Porta Rossa 13r; 055 2396717, and Via de’ Neri 58r; 055 2645036) for moccasins and ballerinas in a rainbow of colours and Peppe Peluso (Via del Corso 5/6r) for those wear-‘em-once-and- chuck-‘em party numbers.

If you are intent on buying a leather jacket, by all means have a look at the stalls in the San Lorenzo market, but don’t expect to find quality items here. A better bet is to head for the many shops in and around Piazza Santa Croce; Peruzzi (Borgo de’Greci 3; 055 242832), for example, is a huge emporium with a vast range of men’s and women’s leather clothing and accessories.

For gloves, Madova (Via Guicciardini 1r; 055 2396526; is THE place to go: handwear in every imaginable style and colour is made in the factory just behind the tiny shop. For handbags and accessories, try Bisonte (Via del Parione 31r; 055 215722; for chunky, super-soft styles and Bojola (Via de’Rondinelli 25r) for a more classic look. The Scuola del Cuoio leather school located in the cloisters of Santa Croce church (accessed through Via San Giuseppe 5r; 055 244533; offers a vast range of fairly classic leather bags and accessories and you can watch the craftsmen at work too. Finally, for market quality goods, head for the Straw Market in Por Santa Maria.

If you enjoy market shopping and the buzz of turning up a genuine bargain, you should try the vast Tuesday morning market at the Cascine park set out along the north bank of the Arno near Porta al Prato. Amongst the stalls selling fresh produce, plants and flowers, kitchenware, cheap clothing, footwear and accessories is the odd vendor with a lorry load of designer items with their labels cut out.

Finally, for fashionistas on the prowl for a real bargain, a trip to the designer outlets south of Florence is a must. The Mall (Via Europa 8, Leccio, Reggello; 055 8657775; has shops selling Alexander McQueen, Stella McCartney, Gucci, Armani, Todd’s, Burberry, Cavalli and Marni while at Montevarchi you’ll find Prada and Miu Miu (055 9789481; A special shuttle service is available to both outlets; see the websites for details.

More shopping

Visit my overview on Shopping in Florence or read my other guides: Shopping in Florence: for foodies and Shopping in Florence: the Artisans.

Where to stay

For suggestions on where to stay in Florence, see my Florence Hotels – Award winning expert hotel reviews, from cheap to luxury hotels in Florence page.


I moved to Florence in 1981 to play the viola in the opera orchestra; the contract was for 3 months, but inevitably, I stayed much longer. It was the food that got to me first. On a sunny Sunday in December a couple of weeks after I arrived, a colleague took me for a walk in the Chianti hills. In his backpack he had some rustic sausages, a loaf of saltless Tuscan  bread, a head of garlic, a flask of rough red wine and a bottle of his family's grass-green, freshly-pressed olive oil. In the incomparable, timeless setting of the Tuscan countryside, surrounded by vines and olive groves, he lit a fire, grilled the sausages and toasted the bread: he scraped garlic over the toast before dousing it with olive oil. It was all very romanitic, but I was much more interested in the bruschetta than in my colleague; I'd never tasted anything like it and knew that I had to have more, lots more.

Almost 30 years (and many bruschette) down the line, I no longer play music professionally and now divide my time between freelance travel writing and, as a nod to my musical past, running a chamber music festival in southern Tuscany ( Much of my writing has been based around various aspects of life in Florence and Tuscany, but I've also written (or made contributions to) travel guides to Naples, Milan, Venice, Turin and Cape Town for the AA, Frommer's, Time Out, Dorling Kindersley and Insideout. It's a great way to get to know the the heart and soul of a city providing a valid excuse for being very nosey and eating in as many restaurants as possible in a short space of time. I'm the Tuscany and Umbria editor for the Charming Small Hotel guides and the Italy editor of the Hotel Guru website ( Magazine work includes regular contributions to Condé Nast Traveller. 

Downtime is spent with my Florentine photographer partner in our olive grove just outside Florence where our 300 olive trees produce copious amounts of deliciously pungent olio extra vergine di oliva each year.

My Florence

Where I always grab a coffee: My local bar is Caffé Ricchi in Piazza Santo Spirito, one of the lovliest squares in the city. Daniele makes fantastic cappuccino and knows that I like mine steaming hot (not always a given in Italy) and not too milky. Bag a table on the terrace to watch the daily drama of life in the neighbourhood unfold. 

My favourite dining spot: family-run Da Ruggero, one of the few genuine old-style Florentine trattorie still in business.

Best for people watching: Florentine designer Roberto Cavalli's café (Via della Spada 10r), just off chic Via Tornabuoni, comes complete with  trademark faux animal skin pouffes and a never-ending procession of chattering, designer-clad Italians. 

My favourite stroll: The Oltrarno, which hugs the south bank of the river, is a lively, Bohemian neighbourhood characterised by grand palaces, quiet squares, narrow lanes lined with artisan workshops, a lively nightlife and a relative lack of tourists. Start at Porta San Niccolò to the east and work your way west sticking to the backstreets wherever possible.

The most breathtaking view: from the terrace in front of the church of San Miniato al Monte at sunset. You see the city laid out before you as, in the forground, the Arno turns to molten gold in the evening light.

The best spot for some peace and quiet: the nether reaches of the Boboli gardens best accessed through the Annalena entrance on Via Romana. 

Shopaholics beware!: the Tuesday morning market that is laid out along the north bank of the Arno in the Cascine park sells everything from plants and flowers, fresh produce, bargain-basement fashions, imitation Vuitton and Prada and, if you're lucky, the genuine article fresh off the back of a lorry. The Florentine signoras love it.  

Best new attraction: celebrated antiquarian Stefano Bardini bequeathed his extraordinary, eclectic collection of Renaissance and medieval paintings and sculpture, furniture, arms and armour, musical instruments and the decorative arts to the city of Florence on his death in 1922. After a torturously long restoration, grand Palazzo Bardini and its contents are once again open to the public (Piazza dei Mozzi 1). 

Don't leave without....seeing Domenico Ghirlandaio's sublime 1480 Last Supper housed in the refectory of the convent of Ognissanti (Borgo Ognissanti 42).