If you've got some time and want to see needlework while you're in Florence, you should definitely hit a few museums. There are many to choose from and I will admit that I haven't been into half of them, so I can only tell you about what is in the ones I've seen.At the Duomo [Cathedral] there is the Museo dell'Opera del Duomo which houses the incredible collection of Or Nué (Silk Shaded Goldwork) in the Sala d'Altare [Altar Room]: some 20-odd panels depicting the life of St. John the Baptist. The designs for these absolutely amazing embroideries are attributed to Antonio and Paolo Pollaiolo, and the work is some of the best surviving examples of Florentine Goldwork from the Renaissance. Don't miss other embroideries along the wall opposite to these treasures, it is easy to be overwhelmed by the mastery of skill!
The Galleria di Costumi [Costume Gallery] at the Palazzo Pitti is a great place to see embroidery of all kinds used to ornament different styles of dress down through the ages - and in theatre clothing as well. Don't leave without checking out the funeral clothing that has recently been restored of the Grand Duke Cosimo de'Medici, his wife Eleonora di Toledo and their son Don Garcia.
After many years of being closed for restoration, the Palazzo Davanzati is a needleworker's dream. It houses a small but impressive collection of the finest needle lace and other techniques of laces and embroideries. Many pieces that are pictured in Elisa Ricci's books can actually be seen up close here. One room houses some textile equipment like a spinning wheel and many other tools, on the wall are several samplers of various techniques including one spectacular sampler of Reticello. Don't miss the cabinet in this room (it's quite dark in there) which holds many pull-out panels (remember to look on both sides of every panel!) and drawers containing a myriad of different embroideries and laces. The next room is better lit and is full of needlework including some very intricate pieces of Aemilia Ars needle lace from Bologna. Remember to pull out all the drawers in the cabinets in this room to see everything!
Museums I haven't been to, but want to investigate in Florence are: the Bargello Museum which houses one of the famous Guicciardini trapunto quilts (the other one being in the Victoria and Albert Museum in London) and the Loretta Caponi Museum (on the website look under the smaller heading "Loretta Caponi" and then "La Collezione Loretta Caponi" to start a slide show of pieces).
You can learn more about Aemilia Ars, Reticello and Goldwork (Metal Thread Embroidery) at Tuttoricamo, (click on the British flag for the English version then 'Techniques') - while you're there look under 'Prominent Characters' to learn more about Elisa Ricci and under 'History' for the Guicciardini quilts.
I'd love to hear from you if you've discovered other needlework in Florence - please leave a comment below!