With the holiday season knocking on our door, we turn to two of Florence’s personal shoppers, Jana Soon and Maria Bengtsson for their favourite places to locate the perfect gift.
Jana Soon’s tips
Christmas is around the corner and despite the warmth and cheer the holidays evoke, there can inevitably be “What gifts can I give this Christmas?” dread. To make decision making less challenging, here are my five holiday-worthy proposals to guide you to a few of my favorite unique shops in Florence that don’t break the bank.
Aquaflor + Flor Decor
Borgo Santa Croce 6, Florence
These two shops side-by-side on borgo La Croce are magical. Aquaflor is dark and moody, and lures you with the heavenly scents that permeate each individual room. Specializing in perfumes, home fragrances and handmade soaps, the latter ranges from classic scents, such as lavender, to the peculiar Tomato on the Vine. You’ll also find three holiday gift proposal sample packs and discover a variety of floral, woody or oriental fragrances. Be quick as they sell out fast! Next door, Flor Decor offers an equally unique world of dried flowers, handmade wreaths and more. With so much to see, you’ll find yourself gazing at the cathedral ceilings, enormous frames and decorative chandeliers that hang from above.
lungarno Ferrucci 23, Florence
I could spend hours obsessing in this tiny paradise of colorful prints featuring artisan-made placemats, coasters, lampshades and other gift items. Make your dining table stand out in one of the dozens of themes ranging from floral to fauna, oriental to geometric.
My Style Bags
borgo San Jacopo 54, Florence
Check out this boutique on borgo San Jacopo that carries handbags, backpacks, weekender totes and toiletry bags that can also be personalized with one’s initials (or name) and embroidered onto your purchase in just 10 minutes.
Mio Concept Store
via della Spada 34R, Florence
An array of artefacts made by local artisans in a tiny concept store/gallery, where you can find a variety of jewelry, art and sustainable gifts. I especially love the incognito street artist, Blub. Here you can purchase one of his signed prints on canvas, which have been retouched by hand.
via Porta Rossa 48/50R, Florence
This home decor shop works principally with washable paper and eco-sustainable natural fibers. All their products are made in Tuscany. I love the washable paper bags that can be used for just about anything—bread baskets, plant holders, laundry baskets or trash bins—since they are available in a variety of sizes. An additional item that’s worthy of mention is the simple yet ambience-creating lampshades that can turn a simple wine glass into an elegant lamp by just adding a tea light.
Jana Soon was born in Vancouver, Canada and grew up between Vancouver Island and Toronto. Once a professional ballerina, she danced with the National Ballet of Canada and continued her career in Italy and Monte-Carlo. She went on to study fashion marketing at Polimoda in Florence and currently divides her time between collaborating with the luxury Florentine brand, Salvatore Ferragamo in women’s leather accessories as well as curating her personal shopping experiences, creating capsule wardrobes, assisting with wardrobe cleaning and refreshing.
Maria Bengtsson’s suggestions
Nothing says friendship like a Christmas gift that has been lovingly handmade in Florence. Here are five ideas for original presents, which also furthers the future of the city’s creative artisans.
Riccardo Luci uses an ancient paper printing technique to recreate gorgeous marbled designs on paper and leather with tools inherited from his ancestors. Here you can purchase unique paper, notebooks, photo frames, wallets, pouches, keyrings and eyeglass holders.
via del Parione 35R / www.riccardoluci.com
via Romana 18R
The hand-stitched high-quality vegetable tanned leather bags, backpacks, clutches and wallets designed by Walter Morgante are irresistible. For those of you who appreciate one-of-a-kind leather bags, Mortegan is your place.
borgo dei Greci 19R
Massimo Ravinale creates the finest foulards, scarves and ties from noble fibers in silk, wool and cashmere. The elegant classic designs are inspired by monuments in Florence using applied art techniques.
Negar Azhar Azari
via dei Serragli 59A/R
Negar Azhar Azari is an innovative jewelry designer creating stunning wearable gems in 18k gold and silver using traditional Florentine engraving techniques.
Via dei Macci 75R
Surrounded by vineyards and olive groves, Sara Bardazzi of Mudmoiselle crafts delightful pottery for everyday use in warm and peaceful pastels. Eat from the plates and drink from the cups you love most.
Born in Sweden, Maria Bengtsson is a crafts hunter and personal shopper with a sensibility for beauty and the aesthetic in all their forms. After an initial early-morning visit to Florence, she returned in the early Nineties to study Italian and graphic design while living in piazza Tasso. She started to research authentic Florentine craftsmanship, spending time with artisans to acquire knowledge of what lies behind a true handmade object. With Florentine Experience Shopping, expect private and customized artisan experiences and shopping tours in the Oltrarno and hidden parts of historic Florence. www.florentine-shopping.com / IG @florentineexperienceshopping
Life as editor of this magazine sees me out and about at events, press conferences and the like. This year, I turned to the city’s designers to make matters easier on the image front and act as a walking advertisement (within reason!) for their values and creativity. Here are some of the most memorable collabs in 2022.
For the recent Essence of Florence gala held at the Franco Zeffirelli Foundation and Museum, which was sponsored and organized by Hershey Felder to raise funds for artists’ scholarships at The Florence Academy of Art, Elisabetta Renzoni of Flo Concept Store loaned me the “Barbara” V-neck black dress (185 euro) made from luxury leftover fabric and sold at the lungarno Corsini store. Greek-born, Florence-based jewellery designer Maria Glezelli’s graceful hand-knitted Eterno jewellery (jewellery from 220 euro), provided the final flourishes!
A brilliant night of dancing and fundraising took place in the name of international education on June 11 at the International School of Florence gala, held at Villa Le Corti, near San Casciano Val di Pesa. How I danced in the moonlight in a shimmering black-and-white horizontal striped dress by Tiche Clothing (from 175 euro), a contemporary piece from Tijana Stankovic’s capsule collection crafted from deadstock fabric. The Serbia-born designer paired the outfit with Umbrian firm Back from Rubbish’s (45 euro) Giardini necklace recycled from old bike tyres.
Back in the spring, multibrand store Société Anonyme decked me out in a vibrant and value-driven two-piece Manifesto outfit of their own design emblazoned with words embodying their company culture: print that’s perfect for an editor. Plus, it was perfect for Cuban dancing and opera singing (them, not me!) at Palazzo Corsini, home to the Mascarade Opera Studio. Perhaps the most comfortable high-heeled boots ever worn were generously gifted to me by Florentine shoemaker Valentina Rangoni (from 280 euro).
The advertising in this article was generously gifted to businesses by The Florentine readers David Bach and Alatia Bradley Bach. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to find out more.