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As Italy is known world-wide for its style, fashion and an appreciation of beauty, a walk through an Italian shopping district can be much like a live walk through the pages of a beautiful fashion magazine. This makes Florence a window shopper's heaven – the perfect mix of fashion, aesthetics, architecture and city views.
Here's an itinerary to satisfy your shopper's instinct allowing you to visit some of Florence's most elegant shops and fashion districts without necessarily having to empty your wallet.
Start in Piazza Repubblica, where Rinascente, Florence's main department store, and historic cafés watch over the square. Pass through the huge, Parisian style archways of the piazza (the 19th century architect had just been on holiday to Paris) and head down Via degli Strozzi towards the Strozzi palace, home of one of the most wealthy families of the Renaissance and an excellent example of the period's not-so-subtle way of showing off money through the larger than life architecture. Along this street find some of the most famous and elegant names around, such as Ferrari, Bulgari, Fendi and Louis Vuitton.
At the end of the street at the corner of Palazzo Strozzi you reach Via Tornabuoni, Florence's most luxurious street, once home to the Renaissance city's wealthy merchants who left behind the beautiful palazzi you still see gracing this street. Turning left here, you can sashay past Gucci, Prada, Armani, Pucci, Dior and even Cartier and Tiffany. At Tiffany you come to the corner of Piazza Santa Trinita. The gorgeous medieval fortress-like palace ahead is the Ferragamo store, one of the most fabulous buildings in Florence's fashion world. Inside, you could even detour from your window shopping to visit the Ferragamo shoe museum. Opposite is the church of Santa Trinita, where a quick visit to the Sassetti chapel will reward you with Ghirlandaio's beautiful frescoes of Renaissance fashion from the 1480s – deep red cloaks, delicate broacades and even eyeglasses.
Continue sauntering towards the Arno river and cross over the bridge, the Ponte Santa Trinita, for some spectacular views of Florence's riverside and the famous Ponte Vecchio. The “oltrarno” or south side of the river is known for its artisan workshops and antique stores, where you can find a spectacular mix of quality craftsmanship and tradition with contemporary design and aesthetics. Take a right onto the quietly elegant Via Santo Spirito, just one block in and parallel to the river, where boutiques such as Aprosio & Co, Studio Puck, Quelle Tre and Angela Caputi embody this fashionable, contemporary oltrarno style. At the next intersection, take a right over the bridge of Ponte alla Carraia and take a right “2 o'clock” turn onto Via della Vigna Nuova.
Another elegant street, thanks to the wealthy merchant family, the Rucellai (named after the expensive red dye that was so sought-after amongst Renaissance Europe's fashion-savvy) whose beautiful palace and loggia create what some call the most perfect Renaissance space in Florence. Find covetable shoe shops, bag shops (Furla and Temporary), La Perla, as well as international brands such as American Apparel until you reach Gianfranco Ferrè , where you may recognise you are back on Via Tornabuoni again. Here, take a left (for a quick break, stop off at the fabulously fashionable Caffè Giacosa of the Roberto Cavalli store, a great place for people watching as much as the excellent pastries and coffee), then continue up the north end of Via Tornabuoni with Max Mara, Tods, Hermes, and another fashionable break at Procacci for a glass of sparkling prosecco and a little truffle canape.
Just after you pass the elegant baroque facade of the Church of San Gaetano, take a right where you can find local designers Ermanno Scervino and Adele Fado on Via dei Teatina, which turns into Via dei Pecori as you get closer to the Duomo. A right onto Via Roma will take you past some of Florence's favourite designer boutiques: Raspini for shoes, Luisa Via Roma for clothing as much as its sleek interior and bar. At Miu Miu you are practically back in Piazza Repubblica, and if you're not shopped out enough yet, visit Rinascente for a few more major designers and then reward yourself with a drink at the rooftop café of the department store where you can survey the whole of Florence. After all, as Coco Chanel said, "Fashion is not something that exists in dresses only. Fashion is in the sky, in the street, fashion has to do with ideas, the way we live, what is happening."