(Editor’s note: This post about thrift shopping in Florence, is the fifth in our series on finding quality goods at great prices while making this less of a disposable society. You can see more about thrift shopping in Berlin here, Luxembourg here, Paris here and in London here.)
The first city one would perhaps name when thinking of Italian fashion today is Milan; however, it’s Florence that has been driving Italian style for centuries. The Tuscan city hosts numerous high-end fashion shops, handcraft markets and museums dedicated to famous designers, costumes, and the history of clothing. Twice a year during the world-famous fashion show Pitti Uomo, it also becomes an open-air podium for the most stylish people on the globe.
No doubt, Florence is a great place to put one’s taste on display. Parading through the Renaissance city, fashionistas from Pitti Uomo motivate even the most pragmatic and unconcerned of us to add a bit of flavor to their otherwise ordinary outlooks.
If you happen to like dressing up and don’t mind spending time looking for the best, even better! Florence is a wonderful place to get inspired and embark upon an exciting thrift-shopping adventure for the perfect garment or accessory.
And don’t forget to look for leather shoes — the real Tuscan marvel!
One thing to know before you start your shopping expedition is that Florence, being the city of the noble and the rich — and nowadays also the city of tourists — might appear snobbish and jaw-droppingly overpriced. However, knowing where to look and being ready to travel outside of the city center, you will soon find out that Florentine vintage and thrift-shops are full of real gems that cater to the most fastidious visitors and fashion novices alike.
My list starts in the center of Florence and then moves to its environs:
One of the most enchanting and well-curated Florentine vintage spots is just two steps away from Ponte Vecchio — which obviously translates into being pricy and top-notch. A visit to Nadine is pleasant even if you leave without a purchase: the space is full of air and light and the selection of new and vintage Italian designers’ garments and jewelry is stunning. If not in Florence, check their online shop here to get a glimpse of the inventory and an idea of the price range, which is varied.
Across the river from Nadine, in the quieter area of Oltrarno, you find another true gem. The entrance area, filled with sculptures and antique furniture (the shop was founded by a family of antique dealers), hides the most dream-like and sophisticated of all Florentine vintage shops. Every visit to Albrici becomes a journey into the history of sartorial production, Tuscan textiles and luxurious Renaissance-like lifestyle.
Some of the clothing is from the defining designers and design houses of the 20th century such as Chanel, Hermes, Yves Saint Laurent, Valentino and Pucci. A Cartier handbag is 650 euros, and a Gucci bag will set you back 850 euros. But that’s a fraction of their full retail.
Recollection by Albrici
Via dei Serragli 20R, +39 055 211095
Melrose, opened in 1988, has two locations within the city center and has gained a lot of fans among locals and visitors of Florence. A place with an edgy, rock-n-roll feel and great prices, it stores hundreds of great casual garments such as vintage Levis jeans, Burberry trench coats, bags, and leather shoes — some on shelves and some in large dig-in bins.
Although it is usually filled with people, new pieces come in every week and change from season-to-season.
Melrose Vintage Ginori
Via de’ Ginori, 18r · +39 055 267 0030
A little hidden store in the Sant’Ambrogio area for years has been a go-to place for locals. The shop owner, Sabina, who goes clothes-hunting to London and Berlin, gives everyone a truly warm welcome and impeccable advice. You just have to describe what you are looking for, and a minute later Sabina will emerge from her spacious storage with the dress or the blouse of your dreams.
Lady Jane B
via dei Pilastri, 32b, +39 392 371 8579
Now, let’s get serious and right on point in terms of prices. When in Italy, always look for mercatino dell’usato, second-hand markets that offer a wide range of objects, furniture, decorations, and, of course, clothes. When I lived in Florence, I used to go to Emmaus every second week. Overall, I found around a dozen wonderful top-brand garments for 10 euros to 30 euros; for instance, a trendy Max Mara wool coat in perfect condition for 25 euros!
Via Vittorio Emanuele, 52 · +39 055 532 0365
Shopping for shoes in Prato
Even though this post is about vintage and second-hand shops, I cannot avoid mentioning a place that is a real Mecca for bargain hunters. Every local would tell you that shoe- shopping has to be done not in Florence itself but in the little town of Prato, located less than half an hour by train from the Tuscan capital.
Once in Prato, go down the main shopping street, Via Garibaldi, entering every interestingly-looking store you spot. My absolute favorite is Mantellassi, a century-old shop that sells Mantellassi hand-made shoes
as well as a number of international classics.
In Tuscany, people are judged by their shoes, and a short trip to Prato will make you ready to face their judgment. As for the rest, a day of dedicated thrift-hunting will suffice to make sure that you pass for a Pitti Uomo frequent attendant.
Nina Danilova is an art writer and contemporary art curator. She is about to finish her PhD
in Culture Studies. She grew up in Russia and lived in Germany, Estonia, Italy and
Portugal, where she is currently based. She is passionate about history, languages, food,