Anyone who’s been to Florence, Italy knows how hard it is to leave. Breathtaking architecture, rich culture and history, and heavenly food and wine are just a few of the many things this incredible city has to offer, and it’s enough to make you want to cancel your trip home and start a new life in the Tuscan countryside. Florence is known as the cradle of the Renaissance, and hordes of visitors flock here each year for a glimpse of the statue of David or a taste of its impeccable fashion scene. It’s fueled by an ancient artisan tradition, and all throughout the city, fine Italian goods are being handmade in workshops with highly skilled techniques made possible only by generations of experience. There should be no settling for mass-produced figurines of David, here – instead, take advantage of this opportunity to bring home handcrafted souvenirs that will not only evoke fond memories of your amazing trip, but will also help you bring back a piece of Italy in your suitcase.
Travel to: Florence
The best things to buy in Florence, Italy
Leatherworking has a long history in Florence, and many renowned designers, like Gucci and Salvatore Ferragamo, got their start here. This valued material has been used by expert Italian craftsmen to make everything from book covers and shoes to purses to leather jackets, and you’ll see all this and more in Florence at markets like San Lorenzo, which offers a raucous look at the wide array of goods that can be crafted from leather. For the best quality product for your money, however, venture away from the markets to less-touristy spots like Oltrarno on the other side of the Arno, where you can get a close look inside the leatherworker’s workshop, catch a glimpse of him at work, and get the chance to customize items specifically for your measurements for a personalized souvenir. Look to boutiques like Benheart or Giorgio 1966, both beloved Florentine leather brands, or pick up a pair of leather gloves from Madova, a Florentine specialty item. With the proper research, you’ll get an authentic, well-crafted souvenir of incomparable quality.
Much like leatherworking, there is also a long tradition of crafting ceramics in Tuscany. Florence was once the center of this tradition, but the majority of the production has moved to surrounding towns. There are ceramic cities that are scattered throughout the Tuscan countryside that share this history of ceramic production, each with its own regional trademark. From maiolica ceramics in Montelupo Fiorentino, the terracotta of Impruneta, and the porcelain in Sesto Fiorentino, Tuscany has been at the center of the production of beautiful handcrafted ceramics painted in colourful Florentine mosaics that are evocative of the Italian aesthetic, make great souvenirs and gifts, and provide fabulous additions to your kitchenware collection. Bring home a small addition, or commission a larger piece and have it shipped back home to avoid damage during your travels.
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Italian high fashion was born in Florence. Not only is the city home to designers like Gucci, Ferragamo and Roberto Cavalli, but it also contributes to the fashion scene in innumerable ways. From museums to fashion schools to yearly fashion events, it’s clear that fashion in Florence is no joke. There’s no better way, then, to take home a piece of Florence than shopping in its stores and taking home new pieces of Italian couture to add to your wardrobe. A quick walk down Via Tornabuoni will give you a taste of Florence’s high fashion, but even small boutiques in Florence carry impeccably chic pieces, so you’re sure to find something fabulous outside the luxury designer brands. Vintage shopping in Florence is a great way to pick up amazing finds for a fraction of the original price, and you’ll love inspiring envy in everyone who asks you where you got your souvenir.
Bringing food home from Italy is a no-brainer. It doesn’t even have to be fancy or expensive – even things that you can get at supermarkets in Italy will be miles better than the equivalent back home. A lot of foodies are careful to bring back products that aren’t available for purchase back home, and it’ll be an adventure in itself to taste test exactly which flavours you’ll want to bring home to savour and share. Sundried tomatoes, dried mushrooms and truffles, and pasta will transport well, and jars of pesto or bottles of balsamic vinegar and olive oil will be well worth the luggage space. Take a bottle or two of your favourite wine with you, or a bottle of limoncello for a taste of Italy back home.
While gifting your souvenirs to friends and family, why not wrap it with handmade paper made in Florence? Handmarbled paper is a Florentine specialty that makes a gorgeous gift, and it often features colourful Florentine designs. Souvenirs like leatherbound notebooks, boxes, and stationery are practical and beautiful at the same time, and will be a welcome reminder of your trip while you pen your next grocery list, letters, or great work of fiction.
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Perfume and cosmetics
Many perfume workshops operate in in the center of Florence, producing wonderful fragrances that waft out onto the streets. It’ll be hard to resist buying soaps, eau de colognes, perfumes, and creams from these centuries-old establishments, who carry on the ancient pharmaceutical traditions that started with balms, salves, and oils. Pick up some acqua di rose at Santa Maria Novella’s six-hundred year old original store, or customize a scent for a one-of-a-kind souvenir.
The sparkle and shimmer of the historic gold shops of Ponte Vecchio is hard to miss, and it’ll be tempting to pick pieces from the rows of shiny display cases inside the shops surrounding this famous bridge. Away from its glitzy allure lies workshops where you can watch experienced goldsmiths at work on their latest work of art. Pick up a new cameo for your collection, and watch as your jewellery is made right before your eyes.
Though it can be hard to resist buying everything that catches your eye in Italy, the fine Italian craftsmanship will be worth every penny. What will you splurge on in Florence?