Tuscany (Italian: Toscana) is one of the twenty regions of Italy. It has an area of 22,990 km² and a population of about 3.6 million inhabitants. The regional capital is Florence.
Tuscany is known for its landscapes and its artistic legacy. Six Tuscan localities have been made UNESCO protected sites: the historical center of Florence (1982), the historical center of Siena (1995), the square of the Cathedral of Pisa (1987), the historical center of San Gimignano (1990), the historical center of Pienza (1996) and the Val d’Orcia (2004).
Everything in Florence is art. Shopping for leather goods? Jewelry? Food? Here, such things aren’t merely utilitarian or even decorative personal items. In this major Tuscan city, shopping amounts to searching for a work of genius. And, in Florence, that’s not hard to find.
Formed from a major urban project in the mid-19th century, Mercato Centrale in San Lorenzo offers food and small goods shopping in a classic Florentine atmosphere. A two-story structure of cast iron and glass, there are ten classical arches to welcome visitors. Souvenir shops around the building make sure you don’t go home without something to remember the trip.
The market offers food that are works of agricultural art, while providing an atmosphere that is itself a stellar combination of architecture and social display. Vendors here sell everything from simple meats and fish to an array of cheeses. Check out the wild boar salami for a very different tasting sandwich. Visitors who want to make themselves a snack on the spot will find the freshest ingredients, many straight from local farms.
The market sellers also offer a wide variety of pre-made take-out foods that will have you refreshed and on your way again in no time. Just want some nuts? Mercato Centrale has the best. Looking for a little wine to take home? You’ll find a selection that probably will get consumed long before you leave. Best of all there are free samples of a variety of foods and wines so you can’t go wrong.
Santa Maria Novella Pharmacy
Looking for a fascinating new perfume? The Pharmacy of Santa Maria Novella at Via Delle Scala is your best bet. Unlike what the name suggests in the U.S., this pharmacy offers not drugs but a range of perfumes, herbals, soaps and much more.
Begun in the 16th century by a group of Dominican Friars, it has been doing business ever since. Try some of the almond hand cream and you’ll have to have it imported the rest of your life. Ditto if you smell the pomegranate soap, Sapone al Melograno. Unusually calm for busy Florence, you can find any sweet smelling scent imaginable in this combination of museum and store.
The open air market called Mercato Nuovo, offers leather goods, silk scarves, souvenirs and a variety of other items. New Market, in Italian, here simply means it’s less than 1,000 years old. In this case, the building was completed in 1551. It’s been selling outstanding goods ever since. Looking for a genuine Italian leather jacket? You’ll find one for a good deal less here than at the tonier high-end shops. The perfect purse can be found at one of these stalls and all the vendors bargain.
Old Bridge, built in 1345 and modified little since, is one of the many interesting sights of Florence. But shoppers will be glad to know it’s also a central location for jewelry you can’t find anywhere else. Whether it’s something high-end from Bucelatti or just a simple, unique design, there’s something near the Ponte Vecchio to suit all tastes and budgets.
Approach shopping in Florence like a passionate art collector and you’ll find plenty to satisfy even the most discriminating taste.