Many of us who hail from abroad love waxing poetic about Florence’s maze-like side streets, forgotten vicoli and hidden squares. With our weakness for small-scale Florence’s charms, we risk overlooking one of the city center’s coolest streets, via San Gallo. It retains the wide-open feel of the ancient Roman roads, while the shop owners who pop in and out of each other’s businesses keep the long stretch feeling friendly.
1. Sandwichic (3/r): Panini in creative combinations
2. Rewind (23/r): Vintage boutique
3. LIBRI LIBERI via San Gallo 25/r
At first glance, Libri Liberi is another one of the numerous bookshops along via San Gallo, standing out for its broad selection of pop-up books and graphic novels. But a second look reveals so much more: it’s a thriving cultural center with a secret garden and a community-driven staff—that happens to sell books, too. The space houses the Teatrino del Gallo, which puts on year-round performances, and the popular Sit’n’Breakfast co-working office, where you can rent a chair hourly, daily or monthly (with fast WiFi, coffee and breakfast to boot).
4. Caffe’ Rosano (29–31/r): For your coffee break
5. Mailboxes Etc. (61/r): International shipping and more
6. Hama 3 (65/r): Japanese food
7. L’OLANDESE VOLANTE via San Gallo 44/r
Shopping at L’Olandese Volante feels similar to scoring cast-off treasures from an eccentric grandparent’s attic. What began as a Dutch cioccolateria now stocks a smorgasbord of kitschy knick-knacks and treats from Holland and beyond (chocolates, of course, are still a staple). During a quick survey of the shelves, you’ll spot everything from cookies and candies to nostalgia-inducing toys and seasonal decor. Don’t be surprised if you find Buddha statues, Babar memorabilia and Easter baskets all in the same corner.
8. Risorseria (69/r): Recycled furnishings and trinkets
9. MATTEO of via San Gallo via delle Ruote 1/r
Matteo Campolmi may work on the corner of via delle Ruote, but everyone knows the neighborhood artisan as Matteo of via San Gallo. Campolmi’s tiny, nameless clock-repair shop, where he’s been headquartered for three decades, is housed in a former convent with ‘Pace’ inscribed above the doorway. From cuckoo clocks to chic modern watches, Campolmi can give any timepiece a bit of TLC. Though the digital age sees fewer young people investing in watches and clocks, Campolmi isn’t worried: a signature watch becomes a coveted accessory at a certain age, and he’s convinced the iPhone crowd will come around.
10. Pugi (62/r): Famous schiacciata
11. Copisteria X (72/r): Printing and photocopy
12. Finnegan (123/r): Irish pub
13. IL PLASTICO via San Gallo 127/r
Designed for architecture students seeking materials for their models, Il Plastico is a slice of heaven for anyone with a DIY streak. German-born Vanessa Kubach opened the store she always wished for during her architecture studies in Florence. Students from neighboring Santa Reparata, SACI and even Polimoda make up the bulk of the clientele, but the dizzying assortment of materials includes what you might need for just about any craft project. Il Plastico overflows with cork, foam, copper, wooden cubes, aluminum sheets, styrofoam balls, sand—even miniature trees.
14. Alta Rosa (84/r): Eco chic fashion
While looking out for the bookstores that line this famously literary street, take a peek at the plaque commemorating Felice Le Monnier, a Frenchman who co-founded historic Florentine publishing house Le Monnier (via San Gallo 33).