Renowned more for its classical architecture than for its bargain shopping, Florence was, in fact, the historical home of fashion in Italy. Home to the likes of Giovanni Battista Giorgini, the father of the Italian school of fashion (the country's equivalent of France's haute couture), Giorgini held informal fashion shows and soirées in Florence in the early 1950s. Florence still manages to pack a powerful punch compared to sister-cities Rome and Milan when it comes to shopping. With everything from luxurious designer boutiques and vast shopping malls to bustling open-air markets and street-side hawkers, visitors to Florence will be able to shop to their hearts' content.
Head to the Via de' Tornabuoni, Florence's main upmarket shopping street, where luxury fashion houses and jewellery stores abound and high-quality leather goods, shoes and clothing can be found; or head to The Mall, a huge designer outlet where labels such as Alexander McQueen, Gucci, Fendi and Burberry (to name a few) can be found. For jewellery, visit the Ponte Vecchio, where tiny shops dot the sides of this medieval bridge over the Arno River; while the place to find great antiques and objets d'art from the 16th century is the Via Maggio.
Those looking for something a little less pricey should visit the local markets, such as San Lorenzo, a popular spot where souvenirs and leather goods abound. Head for the Mercato Centrale in Via dell'Ariento, the best food market in Florence, or visit the Sant'ambrogio in Piazza Ghiberti, where everything from fresh fruits and vegetables, meat, fish, cheeses, clothes, flowers, shoes and homeware stalls are plentiful.
Travellers should beware of buying fake designer goods from hawkers, as it is illegal, and you could be faced with a hefty fine if caught by the police. Shops generally open from 9am to 1pm, and reopen at 3.30pm until 7pm from Tuesday to Saturday. Most are closed on Sundays and on Monday mornings.
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