Sunday, May 17, 2009

Europe Report III of IV: Shopping Florence

Shopping Florence (...oh, I know, somebody has to do it!)

The famed Duomo of Florence, with the Campanile Baptistry in the foreground.

artstore mandragora

A store not to be missed in Florence is the artstore mandragora ( located on the Piazza del Duomo.

Similar to the "museum stores" in the US, this is probably the best of the bunch next to the Santa Barbara Museum of Art store in Santa Barbara, CA, and the MOMA museum store in NYC.
Find great European Art and Literature books, Italian leather journals, Art Reproductions, as well as handmade Jewelery, Ceramics, Glass, and original Paintings and Drawings.
Finds at the artstore mandragora include this framed pastel picture by Enrico Fizialetti (born 1964) a student of Luciano Guarnieri and a graduate of the venerable Istituto per l'Arte e il Restauro Palazzo Spinelli in Florence. Price--a mere EUR € 400 (about $600 US). The piece was framed in an exquisite Italian frame that appeared to be vintage, and worth the price of the picture itself!
In consideration of purchasing this, or any picture, I would select this picture for its colors and its composition, and of course I love the frame. This piece may not be more valuable than what one would pay for it, but that's not the point. The point is if you like it, and you can afford it, then it is a very good picture at a very good price.
One of my favorite pictures in our personal collection was purchased in San Marco Square in Venice, Italy from one of the ever present artists. It's a conti pencil drawing of a reclining nude female in the style of Picasso. Granted it's no Picasso, but it's not just a copy, not to me. It's an artists heartfelt homage to Picasso, and it is wonderful. The piece is framed in gold leaf, floated on linen, and sits on the music ledge of our baby grand piano.
Do you think it looks more important than the $15 we paid for it eight years ago? You bet it does. It looks as good as any piece in our collection that costs thousands more, and I like it better than most anything else we own.
The point here is about having the confidence to choose art, and buy it, especially when your traveling whether domestically or abroad. In addition to the owning the piece, the interaction with the artist or the gallery is an important part of the memories and the enjoyment of owning a particular piece of art.

Ermenegildo Zegna - Agnona
A Great store located on the corner just a block from the Arno River. Huge selection of the latest Zegna Collections. My bag was lost by American Airlines, so immediately after I checked in at the hotel I headed over to the neighborhood Zegna store (as if every neighborhood has one!).

The store was just one convenient block from our hotel in

The Italian Sultan of Cool: Ermenegildo Zegna
I bought a great sweater, a pair of pants, and a couple of shirts.
My bag arrived at 7:00 am, the next morning. Whew! I'm glad they didn't bring it to my hotel before I got to the Zegna Store. That was a close call!

Ermenegildo Zegna Via de' Tornabuoni, 3
Tel: 055 264254‎

Owned by the fourth generation of the Poggi family. This small shop features Italian Silver plate, Miran Lamps, And smaller antique accessories. Downstairs find a great collection of Silver serving pieces, both new and antique. Mind the narrow, steep stairs, and allow Mr. Poggi to go first so he can turn the lights on for you!
Ugo Poggi, Via Strozzi, 26r
Tel: 055.216741

The Straw Market

The Famed Straw Market in Florence, Italy, is located on the Piazza del Mercato Nuov, at the corner of Via Porta Rossa and Via Por Santa Maria.

Shopping the Straw Market is a must, if not just for the experience of learning to negotiate prices, Italian style.

The markets name belies the goods found there, the space is not located in a barn, but under a semi-enclosed beautiful, spacious loggia dating back to the 16th Century. Stalls are arranged cheek to jowl (pardon the pun considering the Bronze Boar--see below).
Find leather desk sets and boxes; Florentine gold-leaf trays, mirrors and boxes; tourist trinkets and umbrellas; leather belts and handbags; Pashmina shawls and printed silk scarves; embroidered linens. There is also a selection of traditional Italian pottery.

The Vendors there are some of the best negotiators I've seen in an open air, or flea market. Be forewarned, The Straw Market is anything but a flea market so be prepared to be pay the price for your treasures.
Florentines call this market Il Porcellino (Little Pig) due to the wild boar fountain located at the market’s south side. The statue, created in 1612 by Pietro Taccas, was cast from a marble Hellenistic original that is now housed in the Uffizi Gallery. Many tourists come to rub the pig’s well-polished snout and throw a coin in the fountain. It is believed that by doing so it insures a return trip to Florence.
Perhaps stopping by the good luck "Bronze Boar" will give you a leg up on negotiating with the markets Vendors, if not at least you'll reduce the weight of the change in your handbag or pants pockets.

Pictured: The famed Bronze Pig that brings one good luck!

Pictured: Racks of Italian leather belts at the Straw Market.
I found a Navy Blue, Paton leather faux alligator belt to go with some alligator trimmed Prada loafers that I had purchased back in LA in the fall. Since buying them, I have searched every designer boutique in Beverly Hills and no one had a navy belt of any kind, regardless of price.
Here I had a selection of various navy Blue faux exotic skins and leathers, and I paid only EUR € 18 (about $30 US). I'm still wearing a great looking faux alligator Gucci knock-off belt that I purchased at the Straw Market four years ago.
Straw Market hours: Every day from 9:00 am to 6:30 pm, except Sunday and public holidays.
and down the street...

and just down the street...
A beautiful store window display, filled with Italian ceramics caught our eye. There is always a place for Italian ceramics in the home, whether purely decorative or used as serving pieces.
I inquired as to the lead content, if any, and the shopkeeper didn't understand my question. I couldn't tell if the shopkeepers lack of knowledge was purposeful or not! who cares, they're gorgeous!
This is a photo I took with myself with a digital camera, and I was just thrilled with the result!


The famous FLEA MARKET of Florence is located in Piazza dei Ciompi and it's opens (every day from 9 am to 7.30 pm. If you're there on the last Sunday of every month, the market vastly increases in size with additional vendors, causing the market to spill out into the surrounding streets.
You can find furniture and "uniquities", prints, coins and jewellery. There are affordable treasures to be found amidst the bric-a-brac and antique books in the myriad cluttered stalls.

The Flower Market
The Flower Market, is located under the portico in Piazza della Repubblica (via Pellicceria).
Frequented by locals and tourist alike, find a huge selection of plants and flowers by local growers.
Flower Market Hours: Every Thursday morning, from 10:00 am to 7:00 pm.

And...saving the best for last: Outlet Shopping...Italian Style!
In addition to boutique shopping in Florence, we spent a day in Tuscany going to the designer outlet mall.

Named The Mall (which was a little confusing since the word 'outlet' is not a part of the malls name), is located on the Europa 8, in Leccio, Reggello (Tel 055 8657775
Open: Mon - Sat 10 A.M.- 7 P.M. and Sun 3 P.M. - 7 P.M.).

Unassuming from the outside, you won't be disappointed as you'll find every designer you're looking for, including Dolce & Gabbana, Fendi, Gucci, Tods, Yves Saint Laurent, Loro Piana, Giorgio Armani, Ferragamo, Bottega Veneta, Versace, Ermenegildo Zegna, Perla, and Prada.
We drove the 45 minutes out in the country to find the mall with friends, but there is a regularly scheduled bus and train service that delivers shoppers right to the doors of the mall.
Pictured, is the inside of the simply designed interior, but chock full of merchandise, Prada Outlet Store.

And back to the City...
Back in Florence, for some last minute shopping before heading to Rome, no trip to Florence would be complete without a swing through the beautiful Ferragamo Flagship Store in the Palazzo Spini Feroni, on Via Tornabuoni n. 2.

A real treat is a visit to the Ferragamo Museum, located on the basement level of the Palazzo. The museum was opened to the public in 1995 by the Ferragamo family, in an effort to illustrate Ferragamo's artistic qualities and the important role he played in the history of shoe design and international fashion.

Pictured, the Ferragamo Flagship Store and Museum.

In addition to photographs, patents, sketches, books, magazines and wooden lasts of various famous feet, the museum boasts a collection of drawings of more than 10,000 shoe styles designed by Salvatore Ferragamo from the end of the 1920's, until his death in 1960.
Salvatore Ferragamo as a younger man, photographed with some of the famous "lasts" (forms) for a collection of shoes.
I googled the Ferragamo Museum when I got home, and here is an excerpt from the entry:
"Ferragamo convinced his brothers to move to California, first Santa Barbara then Hollywood. It was here that Ferragamo found success, initially opening a shop for repair and made-to-measure shoes, which soon became prized items among celebrities of the day, leading to a long period of designing footwear for the cinema. However, his thriving reputation as 'Shoemaker to the Stars' only partially satisfied him. He could not fathom why his shoes pleased the eye yet hurt the foot, so he proceeded to study anatomy at the University of Southern California. After spending 13 years in the U.S., Ferragamo returned to Italy in 1927, settling in Florence."
I knew he was a special fellow, and he's a fellow Santa Barbaran to boot (pardon the pun!).

Okay, its late and I'm tired from all of this shopping!

Goodnight Salvatore.

Goodnight Moon.

Stay tuned for the next installment of shopping (and touring) Europe!

1 comment:

Ginger Sanders said...

Thanks so much for the post! I would love to go shopping in Florence someday. Did you see any nice leather desk sets while you were there? Italian leather has no rival.