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Art, Culture and Shopping in Florence

Milan may be the undisputed fashion capital of the world and the highest fashion force to reckon with, but history-rich Florence is where all the top Italian brands started.

Home to the very chic Salvatore Ferragamo , or the iconic Gucci who started making luxurious luggage for  jetsetters , after he had left his job as a porter in a swank London hotel; Florentine heritage relies on exquisite craftsmanship and superior quality meant to outlive most of us, if it weren’t for our insatiable appetite for novelty and trends.

Shop Balenciaga Green bag here, Chiffon ruffled skirt by Topshop.

Fountain in Boboli Garden, next to Palazzo Pitti

Joseph Tank top, Topshop floral ruffled skirt, Green Capri Sandals bought in Anacapri, Bronze tinted Ray Bans

Having spent most of my two days in Florence getting a bit more cultured and in the process reverting back to a more intelligent mental state, there was only room for some selective shopping and window-licking as the French would so rightly put it.

My trip to the Uffizzi gallery, the oldest museum in the world , built by the Medici family during the renaissance period, and the grounds of Palazzo Vecchio were punctuated with pit-stops at local market stalls selling quality leather satchels and handbags , some made by the exact same factories and artisans who produce Balenciaga and Prada. Rows of brightly coloured soft leather bags for a mere 30 euros, and leather braided friendship bracelets lined the streets of old Florence.

The sheer opulence of the Baptistry opposite Brunelleschi’s dome and the bronze statues that decorate Piazzale Michelangelo and Boboli gardens were the main inspiration behind my packing list: a palette of cream, green and denim was highlighted by 24 carat and bronze accessories in the form of flat Capri sandals to survive temperatures that hit 40 degrees at noon, also perfect for a night-time stroll on the city’s pavements, and a multi-purpose Francesco Biasa satchel bag that was carried around day and night.

View of Santa Maria Del Fiore Cathedral, from the top of the Brunelleschi Dome, expect to climb a steep 500 steps.

The Baptistry of Santa Maria Del Fiore Cathedral

I even decided to follow the opulent theme to watch Verdi’s La Traviatta at the opera house, in a preppy silk crème blouse, wear-anywhere tailored sequined shorts and  Miu Miu gold strappy sandals I had just bought on sale.

White Chiffon Zara preppy blouse, tailored sequined shorts from Maje, Miu Miu gold ankle strap sandals, Vintage Bronze Satchel bag from Francesco Biasa

The appetite for all things precious, led me to Ponte Vecchio where Florentine jewels seduced passers-by with semi-precious stones and exquisite diamonds, a great feat, when you consider that these same shops were once occupied by butchers.

Semi-precious and precious stones in one of the Ponte Vecchio jewelry shops

Gap Denim Fitted shirt, knitted shorts bought at, Red Converse trainers, Bronze satchel bag as seen before

Chanel’s window display was probably my favourite, a headpiece has given me the idea of turning a necklace into head decoration and I will be surely looking for a structured draped cream skirt that just screams class.

Florentine  Multi-designer boutique Luisa Via Roma opened a black pop-up exhibition space to showcase Jay Ahr’s directional and ethereal designs, this was by no means a shopping  environment but a purely artistic space to put forward the designer’s work.

As my husband roamed around the narrow streets impatiently while I shopped, I couldn’t help but think that the fashion world had gone mad, we were barely 15 days into June which is still meteorologically  considered spring, but there wasn’t a single shop carrying any summer clothes. Instead sun-hungry city dwellers and tourists were welcomed with stuffy and furry knits, coats and winter dresses. I can understand the need to sell 6 to 8 collections a year to keep the industry afloat but this is now a step too far, a leap into inconspicuous and irrational consumption.

Luckily shoes and accessories shops still had transitional pieces on offer. In true Olympic spirit my heart jumped for high-top wedge sneakers, taking last season’s Isabel Marant wedge sneakers from fad to cult status. Every Florentine regazza worth her  “Bella Figura“ in gold, was sporting them: whether in colour-block suede or shiny metallic leather, these sneakers are the next best thing to city high-heels.

Isabel Marant wedge sneakers and other non-branded Italian sneakers

Metallic Hogan Wedge Sneakers

My weekend of fashion in Florence catapulted with a visit to the Gucci museum, which showcased the brand’s early days as luggage maker, to the iconic Flora prints of the 70s and the surfboard and couture gowns of the last 5 years.

The Gallery Art hotel (owned by the Ferragamo family) was holding a photography exhibition of Marilyn Monroe and a display of the sparkly ruby shoes and bag which were especially made for her.

Ferragamo’s custom made ruby shoes and bags for Marilyn Monroe

Our Florentine Shopping List:

Buy wedge sneakers now and wear all the way through winter:

From left to right, click on legends to shop online:

Pair these wedge sneakers with the must have bag of Fall 2012, the Miu Miu Madras bag

Team Metallic Wedge sneakers with a bold dash of colour with this Pink Miu Miu Sting Ray metal bag

All photos and text by Style Under Fire
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