Shopping in Florence

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Second only to culture in the city comes shopping. Florence has been a centre of craftsmanship since the Middle Ages, when shoemakers and goldsmiths were accorded the same status as artists and sculptors. Today, the city remains famous for its high-quality leather produce, goldsmiths and marbled paper. Artisans are still seen plying their trade in workshops all over the city. The area around Santa Croce is home to the city’s leather-makers, while the Oltrarno is cluttered with the workshops of local gold and silversmiths – although the Ponte Vecchio is home to the glitzier of such shops.

Shopping Designer boutiques cluster around the Via de’ Tornabuoni and Via Calzaiuoli, where Versace, Ferragamo, Gucci and Valentino all have stores. Fashion aficionados should also visit Via della Vigna Nuova. The more frugal can find 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. Nearby stands the covered food market, which is open from 0700-1400 Monday-Saturday. Bursting with olives, hams, cheeses and fresh vegetables, it is the perfect place for one to buy a picnic or just indulge a love of grub. The flea market at Piazza dei Ciompi specialises in antiques and collectable junk and provides an enjoyable rummage for the bargain-hunter. It is open every day, except for Sundays and Mondays in winter. 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 16th century. Lotions, potions and herbal remedies abound in elegant packaging. Handmade shoes created in time-honoured tradition are available for purchase at Francesco, Via Santo Spirito 62r, while Pineider is considered the most exclusive stationers in all Italy, having designed calling cards for Napoleon, Byron and Maria Callas, among others. As a general rule, shops open 0930-1300 and 1530-2000, 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 opening on Sunday. Sales tax is 12-14%, depending on the value of goods purchased. Non-EU citizens should retain receipts for goods over €155 to reclaim their VAT (IVA). Global Refund (tel: (0331) 283 555; fax: (0331) 283 698/9; e-mail: taxfree@it.globalrefund.com; website: www.globalrefund.com) can provide further information on obtaining a tax refund for goods purchased in Italy.

Tourist Information
Azienda di Promozione Turistica (APT)
Via Cavour 1r
Tel: (055) 290 832. Fax: (055) 276 0383.
E-mail: infoturismo@provincia.fi.it
Website: www.firenze.turismo.toscana.it
Opening hours: Mon-Sat 0830-1830 and Sun 0830-1330.

Other branches are located outside the central station, at the airport, at Via Manzoni 16 and in Borgo Santa Croce, near the church.

 

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Getting to Florence

Situated in the northwest of Italy, surrounded by the wine-growing hills of Chianti, the city attracts rapture and frustration in equal proportions.

When's best to visit Florence?

It is best for visitors to avoid the peak summer months of July and August, when the weather can be unbearably sticky and the prospect of trailing around museums becomes unappealing. Early autumn, when the countryside glows with mellow fruitfulness, is the best time to visit, avoiding the heat and the queues and capitalising on the soft light, empty streets and the abundance of wild mushrooms and just-pressed olive oil.