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; www.coin.it) and La Rinascente (Piazza della Repubblica 1; 055 219113; www.rinascente.it) 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; www.lisacorti.com), 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; www.stefanobemer.it) and Roberto Ugolini (Via Michelozzi 17r; 055 216246; www.roberto-ugolini.com) 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; www.madova.com) 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; www.ilbisonte.net) 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; www.leatherschool.com) 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; www.themall.it) 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; www.prada.it). A special shuttle service is available to both outlets; see the websites for details.
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.