One of the best experiences my wife and I had when visiting Florence, Italy was to wander through the leather markets. Florence is world renowned for its quality leather and master artisans, so we were excited to have the chance to browse the market and find some wonderful souvenirs to take home.
To get the most out of your experience while browsing Florence’s leather markets we recommend keeping the following things in mind that we learned and wish we knew beforehand.
Like any good open-air market, haggling is not only expected but in some cases encouraged. For some, like my wife for instance, this may be a wonderful thing as you can get great deals on quality items. For others, like myself, who struggle with talking the price down you may be walking away with an overpriced item that you bought for more than even the vendor expected to charge.
It’s important to either go with someone who’s a good haggler or learn to develop these skills yourself to avoid getting overcharged for things. Because many of the vendors expect to be haggled, they list their prices much higher than usual in order to guarantee their target profit margin.
But it’s also important to bear in mind that these vendors are making a living, I’ve seen people try to haggle so low that they end up offending the vendor or even cause them to sell near cost. This is complicated by the fact that many vendors may be pricing their products lower than usual in order to incentivize sales and can only lower their prices so far. Learn to ride the line between talking the price down while acknowledging the vendor’s financial needs and you should do fine.
Every Booth Has Its Own Story
Many of the booths we explored were established by bigger companies hoping to draw in new customers or sell their excess inventory. Others were smaller merchants hoping to break into the market, hobbyist craftsmen trying to fund a passion, shady dealers selling knockoffs, and entrepreneurs who were selling cheap goods they had purchased from others dealers who couldn’t make it to the market.
Because of this they often have a variety of pricing methods that could either gouge your wallet, be a fair deal, or end up being an amazing steal for you because the profit is secondary to their goal. Getting to know the vendors and their intention with the booth can be a great way to determine which is which and whether you are getting an amazing deal or a rip-off.
To ensure fair dealings and anti-monopolistic practices there are certain rules and restrictions in place to regulate pricing. It is very lenient, but they are there. This is good news for someone looking to buy as it means that they won’t set astronomical prices for their wares and often means they are willing to match or come close to nearby competitors’ prices in order to maintain a profit.
For this reason, don’t buy the first thing you see, wander around a little and get a feel for the pricing of each booth in relation to their neighbors. If you find a pair of boots you like odds are there’s a nearly identical pair for much cheaper because they’re at the other end of the market where the competition might be more fierce. Finding these hotspots of competition can be a great way to get lower prices and minimize the amount of haggling you have to engage in.
Afternoon Is The Best Time To Shop
To ensure the best experience my recommendation is to go to the markets in the afternoon (3-5 p.m.). At this time people are barely getting off work, new merchants are taking over for those who’ve been working all day, and tourists are just starting to wander into the market. This will give you energetic vendors ready to make a sale before they have to close for the day and they often bring new items with them to keep the booths stocked, locals may start to wander in and haggle with their experienced knowledge of actual prices, and most importantly, you’ll have enough tourists to generate competition, but not so many that they can pass up your offer because a clueless tourist will come along and pay the inflated price they want to sell at.
Apart from prices, this also ensures that you are dealing with happy people who haven’t been there all day and the market isn’t so crowded and picked over that you have a miserable experience.
Keeping these things in mind the Florence leather markets can be a wonderful experience during your next trip. My wife and I absolutely loved the San Lorenzo market and we came home with leather jackets and a great pair of boots that serve as excellent souvenirs from our time in Italy.
Author: Benjamin Baker
After serving abroad in a religious capacity for two years Ben has felt the pull to travel and explore ever since. This desire was further fueled by his wife Maddie and the two have traveled to many places over the last few years. Ben’s hope is that by sharing his knowledge and experiences obtained while traveling that others can improve their lives and the lives of others through travel. Check out additional articles written by Benjamin.