We went on a family trip to Italy last spring. It was delightful, and you can read more about how the trip got started here, all our Italian trips and tips here and here. A bunch of time has passed since the trip, and to say we have been busy since is an understatement. So now, in November, I’m reflecting on how grateful I am for all the experiences of the past year with this set of recaps.
If there’s one question we get a lot, it’s how to shop for leather in Florence. We have been to Florence enough to know that it’s not always easy! Leather shops are a dime a dozen in this town, and if you aren’t careful, you can return home with a piece that will likely fall apart in no time.
But good news — we’ve done the research so you don’t have to! We’re going to run through the top tips and tricks we’ve found for purchasing some leather to love while in Florence, Italy!
Shopping for a leather jacket
Without a doubt, we highly recommend going Ben Heart when you’re on the hunt for a leather jacket. Listen to the story: Ben, the founder, had to have emergency heart surgery. When he recovered, he had a new lease on life, and decided to start his own leather business. His jackets are beautiful, fashionable, one-of-a-kind pieces.
The people who work there are brilliant in helping you find the right jacket for you. And they even offer complimentary embossing so you can include your initials if you wish. Between the two of us, we now own three of his jackets!
The thing about Ben Heart is that he is constantly coming out with new styles. The first year we visited the store, Paul found a classic leather jacket that was perfect. And Ben himself was in the shop that day, so we were super lucky to meet him!
We visited Ben Heart again this year with our family. Neither Paul nor I thought we were in the market for a jacket walking in, but guess what…we both walked out with one! What’s more, since three of us were all purchasing jackets, they gave us a bit of a discount, which was really nice!
To recap: visit Ben Heart for unique, high-quality leather jackets.
Shopping for quality leather accessories
We also recommend going to the Leather School of Florence (Scuola del Cuoio), located in the back of the Santa Croce Church for the best wallets. You know that what you’re getting is going to be the very best in quality. Their men’s wallets are amazing quality. Paul has a lambskin one, and now every male member of our family has received the same wallet as a gift! Like at Ben Heart, you can also get initials embossed in either silver or gold plating, which makes the gift that much better.
Of course they have other great items for sale at the Leather School, including leather-bound notebooks, bags, jackets, belts, and purses. I purchased a small, woven leather pouch for my Mom recently with her initials on it. It’s a really great place to poke around and find some great gifts. Best of all, everything comes in its own green drawstring bag, meaning it’s protected from scratches while flying home, and is gift-ready.
To recap: Visit the Leather School of Florence for the best wallets and accessories.
A note about the prices
The biggest indicator of quality leather is the usually price. No matter what the charming guys in the outdoor markets tell you, that 30 Euro purse is likely not made of the highest quality material.
One thing to note is that as Americans, if you spend over 200 Euro in a shop, you can get a VAT tax refund. Make sure the store fills out the yellow-enveloped paperwork for you, and you’ll receive a refund in dollars upon your departure from the EU. While it may not always be a lot, it helps soften the blow of purchasing a pricey item!
To recap: do your homework on the VAT tax before you make a big purchase.
Shopping for fun accessories
Alright, alright...now that we've said so much about the best quality leather in Florence, it's now time to talk about the fun stuff, too. There's a time and a place for picking up some of the cheap leather from the open air markets, too. Just know that it may not last, and to not fully trust the salesman.
While walking past the market behind Piazza Vecchio on my trip this year, a cute pink bag caught my eye. I stopped to look at it, and the salesman told me it was 35 Euros. I started asking questions about the type of leather, how long it would last, and how flexible the price was. He told me it was lambskin (doubtful), that it would last for many years (we'll see), and that he might be able to negotiate (obviously!). I ended up talking him down to 27 Euros per bag. I didn’t have any cash on me, so I told him I would be back the next day. Sure enough, I found the same guy and he remembered me. He honored the price from the day before, and I walked away with two bags that are fun — one pink and one blue!
I left knowing this was not a high quality bag. But if I get sick of the color or style in a while, it won’t be a big loss. It was a fun experience negotiating with the salesman, too.
To recap: it’s okay to buy a fun, cheap “leather” accessory here and there, but don’t expect it to last.
More resources on purchasing leather in Florence
Everything we have written here has been based on our experiences shopping for great leather items while in Florence. There are other great resources out there, including this from Italy Magazine, and this from Girl in Florence. Enjoy!