How to shop for Italian gifts on your Tuscan holiday

Paul De Tourreil | 23/11/2018
Market in Florence. Shopping in Tuscany.
Florence Central Market

Tuscany. The name alone conjures up sumptuous visions of world-renowned treasures: Michelangelo’s David, the remarkable Renaissance heritage of Florence, the timeless beauty of the Tuscan landscapes, and the epicurean delights of its cuisine. It’s no wonder that the Tuscany region of Italy remains one of the most sought-out destinations for tourists from across the globe.

But when you visit Tuscany, how best to bring back a little bit of that magic home with you? Italy souvenirs will be a sure-fire hit back home, so along with your memories and countless photos, you would do well to seek out genuine Italian products made by the region’s traditional artisans, who are quietly continuing a centuries-old tradition of producing masterworks in leather, wood, stone, ceramics and more.

Leather: a Florentine claim to fame

In 1921, the son of a leather artisan returned home to Florence, Italy after working at the Savoy Hotel in London. Inspired by stylish luggage of wealthy guests, he set the family business to creating fine leather luggage and accessories for an elite clientele. The young man was Guccio Gucci — perhaps you’ve heard the name?

Fine jackets, bags, wallets, shoes and other leather goods have been a mainstay of shopping in Florence for hundreds of years. Lively open air markets, elegant boutiques, and quiet workshops all have their place in the Florence leather-working tradition. By the fourteenth century there were more than a thousand cobblers in the city, many of whom set up shop in the Oltrarno quarter where they continue to ply their craft to this day. If you are enjoying an unhurried Tuscan holiday, why not order some made-to-measure shoes for a unique, practical, and stylish memento of your time in Florence.

Italian Leather. Leather market in Florence, Italy.

Marble: the pride of the Tuscan hills

The province of Massa Carrara, in the far north of Tuscany, is home to the Apuan Alps that yielded the matchless white stone of Michelangelo’s Pietà and many other famous works. After touring the region’s marble quarries, you can visit the nearby town of Pietrasanta, sought out by sculptors the world over, and take home your own piece of this famed artistic tradition.

Alabaster: since 300 BC

The ancient Etruscans’ favoured material for funeral urns as well as vases and other decorative objects, alabaster has long been prized for its durability, delicate veining, and its luminescent quality. A handful of dedicated artisans have preserved this craft in the city of Volterra, where alabaster has been sculpted for more than two thousand years.

Pietre Dure: hidden gems abound 

Similar to mosaic, the meticulous art of pietre dure or commesso, involves inlaying marble or brilliantly coloured semi-precious stones into furniture or other wooden panels. This historic tradition is kept alive by master artisans in the city of Florence itself. Check out the Museum, and head over to the Studio to shop for a distinctive Italian souvenir.

Ceramics: get outta town!

Located a mere thirty kilometers from Florence and easily accessible by train, Montelupo Fiorentino is an important center for the colourful dishware known as maiolica. This is the place to take in the history of this art form before selecting your own piece of Tuscan ceramics to take home.

But wait, there’s more!

Lamps, gilded picture frames, furniture and other woodcrafts —- the choices for Italian gifts and souvenirs on your Tuscany holidays are virtually limitless.

A quick word of advice as you visit Tuscany: prices, selection and quality will vary widely. The market is not necessarily less expensive than the chic boutique. You can find stunning works in the dustiest out-of-the way places, and the most picturesque locations don’t necessarily have the best items.

And along with your shopping, you’ll bring back a lifetime’s worth of cherished memories of scenic landscapes, cozy villages, and a cornucopia of gastronomic delights.