IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

10 unique gifts to buy when you’re in Florence

This Italian city is famous for the finest shoes, leather goods, jewelry, and more. Designer Diane Becker tells you the best places to shop.

These days, most products are mass produced. But in Florence, you can still find one-of-a-kind, hand-crafted items. Sure, they may cost more, but they’re worth it. Diane Becker, a former New Yorker who is head of the design department for footwear and accessories at Polimoda, the International Institute of Design and Marketing in Florence, was invited on the “Today” show to share her insights into where to shop.
1. Custom-made shoes
Stefano Bemer makes the ultimate handmade men’s shoes. He even twists his own linen cord for stitching the soles. The whole process takes about 3 months. Even though his shoes go for $2,000 a pair, they’re built to last a lifetime. Each pair comes in a wooden box with its own shoe cream and care instructions.

2. Leather goods
The city’s vegetable-tanned leather is world renowned. In fact, 80 percent of the world’s finest luxury leather handbags and accessories are made within a 20-mile radius of Florence. In the city, the Santa Croce district offers a variety of leather-goods shops.

3. Fabrics
In the 1600s, a group of noble families created a central workshop for weaving fabrics. In 1950, the Marquis Emilio Pucci, heir to one of the founders, took over management of the workshop. Today, the vibrant-colored fabrics are used for interior furnishings and can be custom ordered. A small line of accessories is also available in the showroom.

4. Gold Jewelry
Florentine jewelry makers are known for their superb skill in stone mounting, engraving and attention to detail. Each artisan has his own recipes for creating gold alloys in different colors. Many shops are located on the famous bridge over the Arno River, the Ponte Vecchio.

5. Marbled “Florentine” PaperGiulio, Giannini & Figlio is the oldest store in the city that creates the famous marbled paper used to decorate picture frames, photo albums, folders, books, and stationery. Though originally used inside book covers, Giulio, Giannini & Figlio is said to have been the first to use the marbled paper on the outside.

6. CeramicsTerra-cotta or “cooked earth” comes from Tuscany, the region around Florence. The clay from this area has an orange-brown color. Ceramics are usually painted with traditional Florentine designs, including cherubs and patterns popularized by the Medici family during the Renaissance.

7. ToiletriesThe Farmacia de Santa Maria Novella is famous for its soaps, powders, potpourris, and lotions. The farmacia was founded in the early 13th century by Dominican monks who grew herbs for medicinal use. By the 17th century the farmacia’s products were so famous that the monks decided to make them available to the public.

8. Olive OilThe most sought after is 100% extra virgin, hand-harvested, and is either cold pressed or stone pressed. Extra virgin olive oil is considered the best quality because it comes from the first press. Like wine, olive oil varies from year to year. And starting at the end of October, Florentines delight in tasting “olio nuovo,” or new oil.

9. Wine
Florence is famous for its Chianti wine. Sangiovese grapes are used to make Chianti Classico. Every major palazzo in the center of Florence has a villa in the surrounding hills that provides the noble family with wine and olive oil. House wines and inexpensive wines bought in grocery stores are popular with Florentines.

10. Tuscan Villa
If you want to spend some time in the Tuscan sun, you can buy your own villla. A top-quality farmhouse or villa in the countryside goes for about 600,000 to 800,000 Euros, or between $720,000 and $960,000. Or rent one. A villa that accommodates 10 guests costs anywhere between 2,000 and 6,000 Euros a week. Or stay in a bed and breakfast for a night or two.