It’s one of the must-buys when you visit Florence; the city specializes in beautiful leather goods and the markets make them affordable. If you have a love of either shoes, purses, belts, coats or jackets, this is the city for you to shop in.
There are leather shops dotted all over the city so it’s definitely important to sample the market before you part with your cash. You’ll find many places have the same things but at different prices. And then of course there are the markets.
The two Florence markets for leather goods are San Lorenzo and Mercato Nuovo.
San Lorenzo is the larger of the two markets and runs most of the length of Via dell Ariento between Via Nazionale (near the main station) and Piazza di San Lorenzo (at the Basilica di San Lorenzo). Along the way you’ll pass the Medici Chapel and the main indoor food market Mercato Centrale, which is tucked in behind the outdoor leather and souvenir stalls.
It’s easy to get a bit overwhelmed at San Lorenzo market. There is so much to see and so many stallholders assuring you that their product is the best at the best price. This is why you need to make a few comparison trips if you have time. What you’ll soon realise is that the market stalls really do often have the same goods at wildly different prices. This is because they expect you to bargain with them – it’s part of the game for them so never ever pay the first price they say.
The stalls are associated with nearby shops so when they say they can get a different size or color or shorten the sleeves of a jacket for you, they can. They’ll often want to whisk you away to these shops – it’s quite safe to go with them. And if you really do want to make a substantial purchase like a coat or jacket the range will be much better in the shop. But just because you’re now in a shop don’t feel you can no longer bargain. They are keen to sell to you and will make a deal.
I have to say, I find the range of shoes at the market fairly limited. I tend to end up in the shops for these and, this being Florence, even the less expensive shops have good quality shoes.
The Mercato Nuovo is located under a loggia on the main road between the Ponte Vecchio and the Duomo. This is a market you will pass often in your travels around Florence so definitely don’t purchase first time here.
This is better for items such as bags and purses as they don’t have the handily located shops with more stock. Though they will always offer to get it for you and these guys are nothing if not salesmen.
Tips for buying leather in Florence
- Don’t buy the first thing you see
- Compare prices
- Try to pay in cash to get a better deal (and to avoid card exchange rates)
- Get any adjustments done on the spot rather than getting them posted home
Also if you spend more than €150 in a shop ask for the tax-refund paperwork then claim back the tax when you leave the country. That’s another savings of over 20% right there.
And whatever you do, don’t fall for the designer ripoffs that pop up on blankets all over street corners. The Italian Government is harsh with these counterfeits and will fine you up to €10,000 just for having one in your possession.