The convenient location of the Golden Tower Hotel & Spa makes it easy to take advantage of a variety of entertainment opportunities that range from the many art and cultural exhibits to the most famous shopping streets, like Via Tornabuoni, Via Roma, Via de’Calzaiuoli and Via della Vigna Nuova. Here you will find all the most fashionable stores and the most exclusive brand names, all just around the corner from our hotel.
There are also historical and traditional Florentine shops: the antique stores are all on Via de Fossi and Via Maggio, and their side streets, while goldsmiths and jewellers do their business in the famous little shops on Ponte Vecchio. The area on the other side of the Arno, known as the Oltrarno, is the Santo Spirito district, famous for its artisanal workshops where wood, jewellery and lamps are still made by master craftsmen.
The nearby San Frediano district is home to the workshops of traditional Florentine artisans, where fine fabrics, silver, handmade footwear and glass objects are made.
Florence is renowned for its exquisite leather ware and the selection of items crafted with leather to be found in the boutiques and workshops is wide, especially in the Santa Croce district, at the Porcellino market and the San Lorenzo market. You can even see a demonstration of this ancient Florentine art at the old Santa Croce monastery, which offers guided tours and leatherworking courses.
When in Florence, you can even create shopping itineraries based on the district that most interests you, visit a variety of historical stores and treat yourself to meals in fine restaurants or a drink in a prestigious historical bar. Just a few steps from the Golden Tower Hotel & Spa, on the beautiful Piazza della Repubblica, you’ll find the historical Giubbe Rosse café. It was inaugurated in 1897 and was famous as a popular cultural and literary gathering place, especially in the 1920s and 1930s. A break in the day for a coffee here is a must, perhaps after having lunched at Paszkowski, the cosmopolitan eatery which, in the summer, enlivens the piazza with its live musical entertainment. On the corner with Via Porta Rossa, immortalized by Puccini in his Gianni Schicchi, full of shops and historical monuments, we find the old and revered Quercioli & Lucherini haberdashery. Not far from Palazzo Davanzati, which houses the charming museum of a Florentine home in the Middle Ages, is the Armeria Bulli. It was founded in 1886 and specialised in items for the hunter. Continuing along, you’ll come across the famed Giuseppe Gazzarini leather shop, while book lovers can spend time browsing at the ancient Libreria Cartoleria Bruno Baccani. Turning onto Via de’ Tornabuoni you’ll find the time honoured Parenti jewellery store.
Those who love old prints must walk down Via della Vigna, where Giovanni Baccani, one of the most famous print stores, has been open for over a century. On the other hand, Ugo Poggi, on Via Strozzi, is the place to go for those who are looking to buy fine porcelain and crystal.
Anglophiles shouldn’t miss a visit to the Old England Store on Via de Vecchietti. Here, in its very British interior, they can buy tea and teapots, imported foodstuffs, clothes and gift items. Heading towards Piazza San Giovanni is the famous and antique shop called Casa dei Tessuti (House of Fabrics) which, true to ancient medieval tradition, not only sells, but also makes fabrics, drapery and costumes.
When you get to nearby Piazza San Giovanni you’ll find the Bishop’s Palace, which since the early 1900s has housed the Officine Panerai, a firm specialised in the manufacture of precision instruments and prototypes of clocks and watches.
Founded in 1882, Buca San Giovanni is one of Florence’s most characteristic restaurants. It was once the secret meeting place for initiation rites of the Red Cross masons, the cradle of libertarian thought, as evidenced by the wrought iron grill that still bears their symbol. The rooms inside are under the protection of the Beaux Arts commission and boasts a fresco attributed to the school of Giotto. The restaurant offers an original cuisine prepared with ancient flavours and innovative dishes.
Once past the Cathedral of Florence, walking down Via de Martelli, you’ll find the Giorni-Libri Stampe Occasioni bookstore. It is a haven for both tourists and collectors of rare books. Since 1937 it has offered a vast array of second-hand and out-of-print art and culture books. The Libreria Antiquaria Gonnelli, on the other hand, is one of Italy’s oldest antique bookstores. It was founded in 1875 and was the habitual meeting place of intellectuals from D’Annunzio to Prezzolini.
Heading towards Piazza San Marco, on Via dei Servi, is the Farmacia SS. Annunziata, the existence of which is documented back to1561, when it was an apothecary shop run by the Benedictine monks of San Niccolò. In the Oltrearno, as the area on other side of the Arno is called, one should stop into the Mannina artisanal shoe store. In their workshop you can see the materials, tools and forms used to make the customized footwear. Not far away is the 15th century Palazzo Pitti, one of the city’s most important museums. It houses the Palatina Gallery, the Modern Art Gallery, the Silver Gallery, the Costume Museum and the old Carriage Museum. Behind it, in all its grandeur, is the famous Boboli Garden. Continuing on you’ll reach Piazza San Felice, home of the famous Farmacia Pitti which dates back to the 15th century. It has a stone entrance embellished with insignias and symbolic decorations, while the inside still boasts original 18th century furniture that probably once belonged to the grand-ducal pharmacy. The famous Bar Bianchi, which was opened in 1920, is also on Piazza San Felice. Also well worth a mention is the Antica Tappezzeria Borsellini, which was founded in 1890 and is now run by the family’s fifth generation. They specialise in arras and cloth objects, but also make sofas, armchairs and draperies.
And, finally, how can we not make mention of the traditional Florentine markets. These open air markets are frequented by locals and tourists alike for the wide range of inexpensive typical and unusual items to be found here.
The most famous markets are:
Mercato di san Lorenzo
, right in the historical centre of the city, just around the corner from our hotel;
, where you can buy leather goods, located in the Logia del Porcellino;
Mercato della Pulce
on Piazza Ciompi not far from Piazza Santa Croce heading towards the Cathedral Duomo, where they sell lots of different types of antiques;
Mercato delle Cascine
, inside Cascine Park, held every Tuesday morning. Here you’ll find everything from clothes to fabric, fruit, cheese, bread and household goods;
not far from the Medicee Chapel, where on the lower floor they sell all sorts of rare Florentine culinary delicacies and other types of food;
Mercato di sant’Ambrogio
is just two steps from Santa Croce and is a valid alternative to the San Lorenzo Market.