Artisan Florence: Insider Guide to the Best Shopping Experiences

During the Renaissance, money flowed into Florence’s growing banking sector and the elite, including the Medici family, showed off their new wealth with art, palaces, and luxury goods.


“They started commissioning local artists to do gorgeous pieces of art that would adorn their walls to showcase at their latest dinner party,” says Nardia Plumridge, author of Lost in Florence. “In terms of the artisan culture, that’s been in Florence for hundreds of years. You have these amazing workshops where people make beautiful leather or jewelry in silversmith workshops. It still remains today. it’s something that’s very magical about Florence.”


Lost in Florence is a beautiful book that highlights the best of independent Florence, from food and wine, to hotels and shopping. As the Postcard Academy podcast has covered the city’s best food and wine on previous episodes, I dedicate my conversation with Nardia, an Australian expat who spent years in Florence before moving to Bangkok, on Florence’s artisans. You’ll learn where to find the best jewelry, clothes, perfume, stationery, and more. Shopping not your thing? It’s still worth it to pop into these shops, many of which are like mini-museums.


Subscribe to the Postcard Academy for free to hear all of Nardia’s insider Florence travel recommendations. Here are highlights of her favorite Florentine makers.

 
“I really adore the artisan culture...these beautiful workshops and people keeping traditions alive, but with a modern twist, Nardia says. “I thought people aren’t really celebrating these people’s stories and telling readers or travelers where to go to have that kind of authentic experience. That’s where the idea of  Lost in Florence  was born, to share the stories and the places that you see by going a little bit off the beaten track.” Photo credit Olga Makarova.

“I really adore the artisan culture...these beautiful workshops and people keeping traditions alive, but with a modern twist, Nardia says. “I thought people aren’t really celebrating these people’s stories and telling readers or travelers where to go to have that kind of authentic experience. That’s where the idea of Lost in Florence was born, to share the stories and the places that you see by going a little bit off the beaten track.” Photo credit Olga Makarova.

Best local fashion designers in Florence

Hello Wonderful! “It’s run by two Italian fashion makers,” Nardia says. “They not only design everything in house, they literally have their sewing machines in the shop and they’re cutting and sewing at the back. They have a beautiful storefront, showing off their latest creations at very reasonable prices.”

Boutique Nadine “It’s run by another lovely couple of local Italians and they have a lot of vintage fashion there and jewelry, but they also have their own line called Odette which is beautiful stuff for ladies, beautiful dresses and other kind of very feminine and whimsical pieces. So you can get beautiful stuff in vintage or something new depending on your style.”

FLY! “What’s really interesting about FLY is it’s a shop front, but at the back through a door it’s actually a fashion design school. They actually have courses where people come and learn the craft of couture, but then the students make pieces and they sell it in the shop. So if you’re a fashionista and want a one-of-a-kind piece, go check out FLY!”




“Today we know Milan as the fashion capital of Italy with all their runway shows, but actually Florence has a longer history with fashion dating back to the Middle Ages with their textile heritage,” Nardia says. “Before Milan even had the fashion shows of today, Florence hosted those shows in Palazzo Pitti in Oltrarno. In the 1950s and 1960s it was the fashion capital of Italy. Today we have Gucci and Pucci and Ferragamo, three big fashion houses that most people would know around the world that actually have their headquarters and have their history in Florence and are still open today.”

“Today we know Milan as the fashion capital of Italy with all their runway shows, but actually Florence has a longer history with fashion dating back to the Middle Ages with their textile heritage,” Nardia says. “Before Milan even had the fashion shows of today, Florence hosted those shows in Palazzo Pitti in Oltrarno. In the 1950s and 1960s it was the fashion capital of Italy. Today we have Gucci and Pucci and Ferragamo, three big fashion houses that most people would know around the world that actually have their headquarters and have their history in Florence and are still open today.”

Best jewelry stores in Florence

Alessandro Dari. “It’s got a little bit of a magical charm and it feels a little bit like you’re going back into Florence of 300 years ago when you go into his store. He’s got a personality, but his store itself is sort of a museum showcasing this kind of crazy jewelry that would look good on the characters of Game of Thrones. He also sells little pieces inspired by the church façades of Florence or inspired by crowns of princes and he makes everything in his workshop.”

Officine Nora “There’s a wonderful studio that has five emerging designers from around the world. You ring a doorbell and they’ll open a door for you, and you can go into this workshop, which has five different stations for the designers, and they’re all making their own pieces, like gold and silver, to their own specifications. There’ll definitely be something for everyone there.”






Nardia getting Lost in Florence. Photo credit Sofie Delauw.

Nardia getting Lost in Florence. Photo credit Sofie Delauw.

Best perfumer in Florence

Aquaflor “What’s really lovely about this place is the experience and the ambience. It’s in a 16th-century palace in the ground floor in these three rooms. And just everything they’ve done with it, interior décor to the lighting, has this very atmospheric feel, almost like going back into Florence of the past. All their products are made in Florence, and they’ve got all these different perfumes you can try while you’re still there. But one thing you can also do which I love is you can make a private appointment to get your own bespoke perfume made. So you sit down with a perfume master and you will sniff all those different lovely scents and they make notes of what you are more drawn to, and then they’ll create your own special bottle that you get to take away that no one else will have.”

“Go to these places even if you just do some window-shopping. It’s not like the usual shopping experience you get in Paris or London. It’s very Florentine. ”Picture credit Sofie Delauw.Photo credit Olga Makarova.

“Go to these places even if you just do some window-shopping. It’s not like the usual shopping experience you get in Paris or London. It’s very Florentine. ”Picture credit Sofie Delauw.Photo credit Olga Makarova.

Best stationery store in Florence

Il Torchio “My favorite paper place is run by a lovely artisan called Erin. There’s a big wooden desk where Erin is hand-making these papers. She does a lot of that beautiful traditional marble effect. But she also does leather-bound notebooks as well. Everything is made by hand in the studio, which is also the store on display. Some of those papers are so gorgeous, I think you could frame it, just frame literally a piece of paper.”



Best artisan foodie experience in Florence

In Fabbrica “They actually are a silversmith workshop by day and the upstairs is their canteen for the workers. When everyone’s clocked off, they turn it into a restaurant with a very simple menu but very delicious. And because they make silver, they have all these candelabras and candles and these silver goblets you drink your wine from. It’s very small, literally inside a silversmith workshop, which I think is really really fab and, again, very uniquely Florentine.”



Love fashion? Listen to the Paris episode of Postcard Academy.





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If you found this article useful, please share it, and subscribe to the Postcard Academy podcast. Each week, expats and adventurers share their insider travel tips on the best food, nightlife, and cultural experiences in the most interesting places around the globe. I’m your host, Sarah Mikutel, an American who's spent the last 8 years living in, and traveling around, Europe.