Fashion Travel Guide – Florence

Ponte Vecchio Museo Salvatore Ferragamo Gianfranco Ferre Design at the Galeria del Costume Palazzo Pitti Galeria del Costume CHANEL Boutique Piazza della Signora GUESS window display GUESS window display Duomo Cathedral by night Ponte Vecchio

Saying that Florence is a jewel of Italy is an understatement. Home of the Italian Renaissance and of many large Italian fashion houses, such as Gucci, Emilio Pucci, Roberto Cavalli, Salvatore Ferragamo and Patrizia Pepe, Florence is the perfect inspirational getaway not only for artists, designers, musicians and fashionistas, but also for anyone who is in search of an enchanting holiday.

Having studied History of Fashion, I could not wait to visit La Galleria del Costume, situated inside the Palazzo Pitti on the other side of the river Arno. This museum which pertains to the State is dedicated to Italy’s fashion and holds a detailed history of fashion throughout the years. It hosts a collection that includes antique clothing, accessories, theatre costumes and top film documentaries of prestigious Italian and foreign designers, such as Valentino, Yves Saint Laurent, Giorgio Armani, Gianni Versace, Ottavio Missoni, Emilio Pucci and many others.

I was also lucky enough to meet Nierederes, a designer, who also works as a Sales Representative at the CHANEL Boutique in Piazza della Signora. Whilst my boyfriend patiently waited for me at Cafe Rivoire overlooking the majestic sculptures of David, Neptune and Perseus, I eagerly walked into the Chanel Boutique situated just next to this Café.

After offering me a green tea, Nierederes was kind enough to give me a tour of the boutique and a demonstration of some of the exclusive outfits of the latest ready-to-wear collection. The designs, he explained, were a revival of the ‘Garçon look’ introduced by Mademoiselle CHANEL herself in the 1920’s. He pointed out to me one unique black and white dress with a nun-style collar, which I couldn’t photograph, obviously, as no photos are allowed to be taken inside the boutique – apart from the changing room (wink wink).

He explained that Mademoiselle Coco Chanel, having been raised in a French orphanage, was strongly influenced by the simplistic and stark dress of the nuns and their environment. Whilst listening attentively, I could not help but remember about a dress which I had received as a gift and put away in one of my forgotten wardrobes due to the nun-style collar which I was not very fond of. This visit inspired me to recreate the look and Nierederes suggested to combine such a dress with long, satin sleeves and a purple lipstick with pale ‘fond-de teint’, for a sweet  but impenetrable look.

He also demonstrated the double-breasted tweed coats with tweed jacquard lining, which I tried on together with a slim-fitting leather trousers and a white bow-tie style shirt, which according to him, with my black shoulder length hair, really completed the Garçon look. The sky-high, unreachable prices were obviously a bit discouraging, especially for my budget, but I surely made up for it at Via Calimala and Via Por Santa Maria where one will find high-street brands such as H&M and Zara, and the large Italian department stores of Coin and Rinascimente.

The other haute couture labels are mostly found at at Via Tornabuoni namely Gucci, Prada, Pucci, Cartier and Bulgari amongst many others. Off Via Tornabuoni, boutique shops continue along Via della Vigna Nuova where one can find brands such as Lacoste, whilst Via del Parione is famous for ateliers and workshops by local and international stylists, designers and artists.

By walking through the tiny alleyways opening onto Piazza del Duomo with breath-taking views of the immense Duomo Cathedral, one can take to the streets of Via Roma where more luxury shops such as Luisa Via Roma can be found.

Oh, and of course if you are obsessed with shoes you cannot miss Salvatore Ferragamo’s shoe museum. Yes, the one and only, famously known as ‘The Shoemaker of Dreams’ who designed shoes for Hollywood stars like Sophia Loren, Audrey Hepburn and Greta Garbo, many of which are featured throughout the exhibition. These shoe artefacts are entirely dedicated to the history of the Ferragamo Company, the life of its founder, and his remarkable creations displaying his innovative crafting techniques following his studies on the anatomy of the foot which led to the invention of the Ferragamo method, a totally revolutionary shoemaking technique.

The building itself, a medieval palace built in the early 13th Century, and the set-up of the fairytale-like surrealistic interior will surely fascinate you. Needless to say, any fashion lover who has studied fashion design or styling must visit this museum to admire such master pieces impeccably crafted by Ferragamo himself which have been worn by the most beautiful models and movie stars since the late 19th Century.

If by now you have made up your mind to visit this charming elegant Italian city, make sure you pack your best designer outfits and accessories as Florentines are not shy about fashion and love dressing up and showing off the latest trends. Perhaps this fashion vogue has found its way into the culture through the trade of fine wool and silk in the Middle Ages, making Florence at that time Italy’s richest and most influential city. It has preserved its charm and standard ever since, and this might explain the high pricing strategy of various shops.

Apart from fashion, Florence is widely known for its remarkable cuisine and once there, one must definitely try some of their culinary specialities such as the Bisteccha Fiorentina and Pasta al Tartufo accompanied by a glass of Chianti wine which is cultivated in this region. Walking to the Ponte Vecchio (the famous bridge of the popular movie The Perfume), a few metres away on the left-hand side, one finds Ristorante Alfredo sull’ Arno which offers tables beautifully set overlooking the river Arno with a background view of the Ponte Vecchio where one can admire a beautiful sunset sipping on a glass of brandy.

Another popular restaurant is Tratoria Nerone, just a few metres away from the Train Station offering traditional Tuscan recipes in a mix of baroque and ethnic setting.

No wonder this city was on the top of my travel list. Next trip? Who knows, maybe Moscow or Morocco? :)