For students studying abroad in Italy, Florence offers the thrill of Italian music, food and, most importantly for some, shopping. There are two main markets in Florence: the Piggy Market and the San Lorenzo Market. On opposite sides of town, each has something to offer. Here are some finds, tips and opinions about the markets from one Link reporter.
The Piggy Market
The Piggy Market is located near the Ponte Vecchio bridge. This is the smaller market of the two, and the prices for goods are typically higher than the San Lorenzo Market because, as one might guess from the location, it is generally more of a tourist attraction. This market may have the legendary pig, but you are not as likely to find deals and steals here.
The San Lorenzo Market
The San Lorenzo Market is located near the Medici Chapel on the other side of town from the Piggy Market. Because this market is larger in size, there is more opportunity to find better prices among the vendors.
- Before you make your purchases, walk around the entire market and compare prices.
- There are almost never fixed prices in the market. Do not buy an item at the labeled price without asking for a discount.
- One owner may have control of several booths selling the same items in different colors or sizes. This is important to know when trying to barter, because to get a different bottom price you may have to go to the other side of the market to get away from the franchise.
- If a booth is specializing in one particular product besides scarves, leather or paper, the prices may not be as flexible. For example, a booth selling only gloves may not allow much bartering, but it never hurts to ask.
- If you want to buy several goods, buy as many as you can from the same booth. Let the vendor know before you buy that you are making all your purchases at that particular booth, and ask for a special price in return. If he or she refuses, move on.
- When buying a handbag, purchasing from a store behind the booth is typically more reliable than buying on the street. The older the owner of the shop- the more trustworthy.
- The two main highest quality, trusted brands of leather handbags: I Medici and A.D. Firenze.
- Calf and lambskin are the highest quality of leather
- If you can scratch the leather and then rub out the scratch with you finger, the leather quality is high. However, if the finish is polished, this test will not apply.
- Stitching, stitching stitching! Always check the stitching; it may be the difference between a 40-euro bag and another costing 100. To see if the stitching is quality, slightly peel at the edge of the bag where it has been sown together. Sometimes the bag has been glued together; this simple test will quickly show if the bag is genuinely sown or if it is generic. Typically, a shop and booth will sell both sown and glued bags.
- Consider these factors when buying a handbag from the market or the store behind the booth: Is the hardware real or will its paint chip? How many pockets does it have? How many handles? What are the straps like? Are they durable? Are they sown of double leather, or single? What is the finish like? Which leather is it made from? Was the bag hand sown, or was it glued? Does the shop have the color you want? If not, perhaps the owner will lower the price. All of these factors contribute to price and quality.
- Know the size of the belt you want to purchase; a good vendor will cut the belt to the size you requested while you watch.
- Be careful: One can be easily fooled into purchasing a belt that only has thin strips of leather on either side of cardboard. These belts will quickly deteriorate.
- Read and feel a scarf carefully before purchasing. Sometimes scarves will be cashmere finished, not 100% cashmere. True cashmere is never inexpensive.
- Pashmina scarves are not always made in Italy. Read the label carefully.
- Be cautious of scarves less than 5 euro. Check the quality. Will the material easily get caught on things and pull? These scarves do not last long.
- Always check the prices of several booths before purchasing a scarf. Typically, many booths sell the same scarf at different lengths and prices.
- Always ask for the bottom, bottom price.
- If a stack of scarves is 8 euro each, try asking, “Two for 14?”
- If a ring is 5 euro, put two coins amounting to four euro in your hand to show these coins are all you have and are willing to spend.
- Name your price, and walk away. If the vendor calls you back, you have won. If the vendor does not call, the purchase was not meant to be, or you can always return later.
These are some of the bottom prices found for typical souvenirs in the San Lorenzo market
Postcards – 20 cents
Key chains – 1 Euro.
Leather key chains – 2 euro
Single strand leather bracelets – 50 cents (typically sold for a euro. Check the clasps, some of them are cheap and easily break.)
Leather bookmarks – 1.50 euro
Ties – 2 euro (when bought in multiples)
Glass rings – depending on size, 4 and 5 euro
T-Shirts – 5 euro
Pashmina scarves – 3 euro
Silk scarves – 2 for 14
Cashmere scarves, full length – 12 euro to 20, depending on print and color
To read more from Abby Kellett, read her blog.