Florence’s centre is shopping mania. Let’s start with the two main thoroughfares, with the more important stores starting on Via Roma (Gucci, Miu Miu, Pinko, Stefanel), which leads from Piazza Duomo to Piazza Repubblica, where Florence’s main department store, Rinascente, can be found. This street (changing name to Via Calimala and Via Por Santa Maria) continues all the way to the Ponte Vecchio, with many more chain stores (Zara, H&M, Benetton, Camper) as well as the Mercato Nuovo, a leather and souvenir market. The parallel a block over, Via Calziaiuoli, will take you down to Piazza Signoria from Piazza Duomo where you will be tempted by more chain stores and Florence’s other popular department store, Coin – don’t forget the little streets that connect these two main thoroughfares like steps of a ladder. Via del Corso and its lovely boutique stores shouldn’t be missed for serious shoppers.
The home of Florence’s luxury designers, this elegant street houses all the big names in fashion, as well as beautiful churches and palazzi along the way. The streets shooting off Via Tornabouni, particularly Via Porta Rossa and Via della Vigna Nuova, house more elegant shopping.
Station and San Lorenzo:
The Station area has more shops than you might imagine, with chain stores, bookshops and boutiques filling up the main street, Via Panzani and Via Cerretani, which run parallel to the nearby San Lorenzo markets adding cheap and cheerful leather, clothes, scarves or accessories to the batch. Borgo San Lorenzo, which connects Piazza Duomo to the San Lorenzo church and start of the market, has shopping with a younger vibe.
Ponte Vecchio and Oltrarno:
The Via Por Santa Maria, which takes you from the centre to the Ponte Vecchio, is where you’ll start to find more traditional stores selling jewellery, embroidery and leather gloves. The Ponte Vecchio itself is famous for its picturesque and traditional jewellery shops, while the Oltrarno (the “other side of the Arno”) is and always has been the artisan quarter of Florence. Home of the handmade, in the winding little streets you can find artisan workshops making iron sculptures, violins, books or jewellery. Crossing the Ponte Vecchio, Borgo San Jacopo is a good street to start on for some boutique shopping. Via Santo Spirito, and the streets winding through the charming Piazza della Passera are alive with characterisic artisan studios.
Try to avoid the touristy leather stalls in this area, instead look out for the fantastic little streets that have hidden artisan’s boutiques with beautiful handmade pieces from jewellery to clothing. Borgo Albizi, leading from the centre, Borgo Pinti and the little Via Matteo Palmieri near the theatre are good places to start, while Piazza Ciompi houses Florence’s famous flea market and antique furniture shops and Via San Giuseppe takes you to the Leather school, behind the church of Santa Croce.
While many of the chain stores in the busy heart of Florence have taken on the full working day, there are still some, especially smaller, artisan or boutique stores, that will close for the traditional lunch hour usually between 12:30 and 3:30pm. To avoid disappointment, save your shopping for the later afternoon and evening, most shops are open until around 7:30pm.
Stores are generally closed on Sundays and on a Monday morning, but in the centre, through the thoroughfares that lead you from the Duomo to Piazza Signoria and the Ponte Vecchio you will usually find stores open for business as usual with a slightly later start and earlier closing time on Sundays. But so as not to be disappointed, try not to save all your shopping for Sundays, when most shops in the Oltrarno and Santa Croce area will be closed.
Credit cards and ATMs:
Many stores take credit cards (Visa and Mastercard) but American Express is not a favourite and is often not accepted. Some stores, especially chain stores and department stores, require proof of ID when paying with a credit card so make sure you bring along your passport or other ID.
ATMs are conveniently located in the heart of busy shopping areas of Florence and main squares of the city, such as Piazza della Signoria, Piazza Repubblica and Via Por Santa Maria near the Ponte Vecchio, which is also where several money exchangers such as Thomas Cook can be found.