I was recently invited by my dear friend, Clair, for a week long girls-only shopping trip to Florence, Italy. Heaven. Florence is the perfect city for a girls-only shopping trip, and is a retail-therapy lovers dream come true. Our apartment was right above Bocca Dama, a wine bar and restaurant at the Santa Croce Square.
Florence is stunningly beautiful, with gorgeous medieval architecture everywhere you look. The nooks and crannies are intriguing, enticing, and alluring. Just when you think you've thoroughly discovered a section of the city, there's simply more to discover. For example, the popular Basilica of Santa Croce, with the Scuola del Cuoio (The Leather School), street markets, and bistros seem familiar after a day or two, but keep walking and you'll find there's even more to uncover in the wonderful San Ambrogio Square. I scored a gorgeous cashmere wrap for only 20 Euros there! We also met the wonderful Fabio Picchi, a Florentine chef and author. He owns Cibreo, http://www.edizioniteatrodelsalecibreofirenze.it/ a wonderful place to stop and enjoy lunch while exploring the San Ambrogio market. Fabio can't be missed. He has a gorgeous crown of silver hair and a full beard. He was casually cool, wearing a linen shirt, colorful trousers, and his sneaker game was also on point (with red New Balance shoes!) The staff at Cibreo is excellent and the food is fantastic! The Teatre del Sale is a members only theatre (7 Euros for the membership + dinner), which serves a wonderful buffet dinner with offerings such as roasted asparagus pasta, chicken, homemade breads and lots of vegentables. Water, wine and desserts are also included. The staff yells out in Italian which dishes are coming out of the kitchen (which is perfectly visible), and everyone rushes up to fill their plates up. It was all delicious, but we didn't care for the integglias (intestines). An American blues band played that night and they were amazing. They sang American blues with Italian accents and really killed it! If you head to Florence, Cibreo and the Teatre del Sale cannot be missed.
The small cafes everywhere are a Godsend! Stop for a caffe' machiato when you're feeling exhausted from carrying all those shopping bags, and it's a welcome refuge for a tired shopper for a mere 2 Euros. Add a biscotti or a little cookie and it's only 2.50. A nice change from our over priced Starbucks. You just have to get used to the tiny size, but they pack a beautiful punch. We loved sitting down for a minute and watching the street style of the Florentines. They really know how to dress beautifully. It was really lovely to see. No t-shirts and shorts. You could definitely spot the Americans from the Italians! The fashion is very inspirational.
My friend Clair and I are excellent shopping buddies. We could scope out a store in two seconds. We could spot whether it wads 'too mature' or 'too young', but if it was a good one, we were all about it. And there were PLENTY of these in Florence. Most of them had beautifully made Italian clothing and leather handbags (unlike the plastic-feeling imports we have in the US). And the best part is that it's all accessible on foot.
I love the Italian commitment to quality, particularly in their leather goods. I know to avoid the street vendors, so I made my large purchase at Il Fiorentino, after visting the Gucci outlet at The Mall in Tuscany and also after a few trips to The Leather School. I fell in love with a red Gucci bag with bamboo accents and a hand laced top edge, but didn't buy it BECAUSE it was made by Gucci. Some people might find that crazy. I would've actually been more inclined to buy that bag had it been made by a small artisinal shop in Florence than buy a major luxury retailer. My thinking was that Gucci has enough money. I'd rather find a beautiful bag and support a smaller shop. I found just the one at Il Fiorentino later that day. I absolutely love my new woven blue bag! It's a technique that is out of my technical reach for now, and I had to have it!
I miss Florence already. It's one of my favorite cities in the world. The shopping, food, and style is so impeccable. You feel fabulous just walking down the street there. I'm already dreaming of the next trip....
"Even now I miss Italy dearly, I dream about it every night" – Eila Hiltunen
A terrace view of Florence + Tuscany
Pasta at Cibreo (shared portion).
Painter working on a street scene near Santa Croce.