Italian excellence ensnares all the senses when you visit Florence. The stunning sites to see, the delicious local cuisine to taste, and the warm smell and smooth feel of Italian leather at the leather markets in Florence are just a few sensations you can expect to enjoy during your visit.
Not only do leather goods make an excellent souvenir from Florence, but the experience of shopping at a leather market in Florence is a must-do for any visitor.
But with this unique experience comes many questions: Where are the best leather markets and shops in Florence? Can you pay with a credit card, or is it cash only? How do you know you’re getting a high-quality product?
Worry not, because we have done the research (along with adding our own two cents) to answer all of your questions about leather markets in Florence. So leave your purse at home, because you’ll be ready to buy a chic Italian leather bag during your visit to Florence!
The History of Leather in Florence:
Florence is perfectly located geographically to support a robust leather-making industry. It has plenty of surrounding land to raise cattle, and the Arno river provides the necessary water for the tanning process. That’s why tanners have been making leather in Florence for hundreds of years.
Back in Medieval times, artisans began to establish Arti—a kind of trade union—to protect workers and keep trade secrets. In 1282, the Arte dei Cuoiai, or the leather-workers guild, was created. These arti laid the foundation for Florence’s economic success that persists today.
Over time, Florentine craftsmanship (like leather) became well-known throughout Europe and the world. While leather production is more industrial these days, you can still find excellent, handmade, artisanal leather in Florence in its many shops and markets.
Mercato Centrale and San Lorenzo Market
The San Lorenzo Market is the most popular leather market in Florence. It’s the outdoor portion of the Mercato Centrale, which houses a food court and stalls selling Tuscan products under its big green roof.
The structure was a result of a period in the late 1800s called risanamento (“making healthy again”) when Florence was the capital of the newly unified Italy. Large-scale re-planning of Italian cities like Florence and Naples gave birth to the Mercato Centrale.
Today, Mercato Centrale sits in its original location a short stroll from the Santa Maria Novella train station. It’s located between via dell’Ariento, via Sant’Antonino, via Panicale and Piazza del Mercato Centrale.
In the morning, vendors wheel their carts from nearby warehouses to set up shop outdoors for the San Lorenzo market. It is open Monday through Saturday, from around 8 am-6 pm. However, if it’s raining or cold don’t be surprised if you don’t find many vendors.
What you can buy at San Lorenzo Leather Market
If it can be made out of leather, you can find it at San Lorenzo. Jackets, purses, bracelets, sandals, belts, backpacks, wallets, gloves, keychains, coin purses…you name it! You can also find plenty of non-leather items like hats, tapestries, coats, and scarves.
In general, when you’re purchasing leather in Florence, look for a “Made in Italy” label to indicate that you’re getting authentic Italian leather. However, we’d be remiss if we didn’t point out that when you purchase anything on the street and not in a branded store, take any “Made in Italy” labels with a grain of salt.
With that said, you can absolutely find good quality leather items at the San Lorenzo Market that can last you many years of use or make the perfect gift for someone back home. They just might not be real Italian leather.
If you want that durable pair of leather boots or a slick jacket that fits you perfectly, you’re better off finding a reputable, boutique leather shop than buying something off the street. (Keep reading for some of our recommendations for excellent and affordable leather shops in Florence.)
Local’s Tip: Giorgio 1966 Leather Factory (Via del Canto dei Nelli 34, Florence) is a favorite shop among locals, and they have a stand at the San Lorenzo Market in addition to their store.
How to buy items at San Lorenzo Leather Market
The vendors at the San Lorenzo leather market have a lot of competition, so they will fight for your attention and might seem pushy. Don’t let them intimidate you! Take your time, have fun browsing, and only ask to see or touch something if you’re very sure you want to buy it. It’s totally okay if you ask to put it back and move on.
If you love the thrill of getting a good deal, feel free to haggle with the vendor. They may seem firm in their prices, but if you remain respectful and don’t egregiously lowball them, you’ll be sure to strike an agreement.
Most vendors have portable card readers so you can pay with a credit card. However, cash is preferred, so you’re more likely to get a good deal if you pay cash.
Other Leather Markets and Shops in Florence
With the deep artisanal heritage across Tuscany and the popularity of leather goods, you’ll soon find that you can’t walk more than a few minutes without finding another leather shop or market to explore! Here are our recommendations of other spots to find the perfect leather souvenir or gift.
Located just a few steps from Ponte Vecchio is Mercato Nuovo. It is nicknamed the “New Market” to not be confused with the “Old Market” that used to be in Piazza della Signoria. It’s covered by 16th-century loggias and smaller than the San Lorenzo market, but you can find many similar items here.
Local’s Tip: Don’t forget to take your picture with the bronze wild boar statue and touch its nose for luck! If you’re hungry, one of the best lampredotto carts, Trippaio del Porcellino, is right next to the market serving up the original Florentine street food.
Boutique Leather Shops & Brands in Florence
To score some designer leather, take a walk along Via de’ Tornabuoni for your luxury favorites like Fendi, Prada, Gucci, and Salvatore Ferragamo.
Insider’s Tip: Looking for more luxury goods or designer outlets? Check out our article on shopping in Florence.
If your budget is somewhere in between street vendor and designer prices, we got you! There are a handful of boutique Italian brands with storefronts in Florence.
- Cuoieria Fiorentina. Cuoieria Fiorentina has three storefronts in Florence, and a workshop and outlet store in Reggello, just outside of Florence. We love their shoes, wallets, and bags.
- Pratesi. Pratesi specializes in gorgeous leather bags at their storefront on Via Panzani.
- BenHeart. BenHeart is an Italian leather boutique guaranteeing 100% made-in-Italy products with two locations in Florence and more around Italy. This is the place to get a leather jacket.
- Bemporad. Bemporad (Via Calzaiuoli 11/15/17/B) dates to 1885 and originally only carried a menswear collection. Now all genders can find beautiful pieces, particularly leather jackets.
- Casini. Casini (Piazza de Pitti, 30) is an Oltrarno shop located in front of Palazzo Pitti with fabulous shoes, jackets, and signature bags.
Verity Pryor-Harden is a freelancer of many talents living in the historical Tuscan city of Arezzo while studying Visual Communications in Florence. She’s a sucker for a cold spritz in a piazza on a hot day, enjoys making bizarre wine pairings, and is a Tuscan street food enthusiast. Follow along on Instagram @verityeph.