Shopping in Florence, Italy
Shopping is one of my favorite things to do when I travel. I think it’s one of the best way to meet locals, shops owners almost always have the inside into the city’s bests and worsts, and they almost always want to shoot the breeze. So of course living in Florence, I hit the markets on a daily basis, building up my own little network of Italian vendors who know me. I asked my friend Paulo for a few tips on how to get the best deal. He leaned over the counter, beckoned me closer, winked, and said: ‘I can’t tell you my shop secrets.” So of course, I figured it out myself.
1. Head outdoors for bargains In Florence there are a few open-air markets where you can find everything from food to wallets, bags, leather jackets, hats, t-shirts and jewelry. As long as it isn’t an actual store, it’s legal to negotiate prices with street vendors in Florence. Never pay full asking price for an item.
2. Offer vendors half of what they originally ask. Don’t be afraid to shake your head and walk away when they tell you how much something costs, because nine times out of ten they will chase after you and keep lowering the price till you are satisfied.
3. Sellers prefer cash to credit cards since they’re a huge hassle (and usually charge a small fee per transaction), so when I get them down to a decent price, I’ll offer them a few euros less in cash, which they grudgingly accept-usually.
4. Buying fake designer bags and paintings anywhere is illegal Vendors need a license to sell outside and open air markets are totally legal but if a police officer sees you buying a bag or sunglasses you will be heavily fined. Whenever a police car drives by one the guys selling their items from a tarp on the ground quickly pack up and vanish into the crowd before you can blink twice.
5. Don’t be fooled by imitations Florence is world-renowned for its leather products. Be careful however when you buy leather goods. Unless there is a stamp inside saying something like “Italian Leather Firenze” or “Leather Made in Florence” etc. you’re most likely getting a product made from Chinese leather that’s been imported and sold unsuspecting and ignorant tourists for several times what its really worth.
6. Take a friend to the market If you are a foreign female under 30 years old, especially if you’re American and blonde, DO NOT go shopping for a leather jacket on your own. Salesmen at the leather stores and leather stands are reputably slimy and extremely aggressive. They may be overly complimentary and will repeatedly ask if you have a boyfriend or fiancé (even if you say yes they won’t desist their advances).