Long ago and far away I wandered the streets of Florence looking in vain for a needlework shop that someone had told me about. Never mind that I didn't have a map, the directions were... go to the Duomo, face the Baptistry, in the left corner of the piazza take the road called Borgo San Lorenzo, it turns into Via de' Ginori... walk until you get to number 23. Well, frustratingly I couldn't find no. 23. The addresses completely skipped over the 20s on the odd numbered side of the street. I never found the shop, though I wandered up and down the street, peering into all the shops that were open. More frustrating was the fact that I had seen some painted canvases with Florentine scenes on them in a window while I was wandering around and thought "oh, I'll come back here on my way back and take a look", but I didn't take note of the address or even the street name so of course I never found my way back. Note to self: don't do that again. If you see something you like, go in right away and look at it because even if you do miraculously find your way back, the shop will inevitably be closed for lunch. Most shops are closed from 1 - 3 pm.
Last year in May, I took one of Vima diMarchi Micheli's fantastic needlework tours of Italy. If you ever get the chance, you should do at least one of these in your lifetime. Vima knows all kinds of interesting shops in Florence... and other cities too! She took us to lots of places but my favourites in Florence were: Casa dei Tessuti in Via dei Pecori, no. 20. What a fabulous fabric shop! Passamaneria Valmar in Via Porta Rossa no. 53. An amazing passamaneria shop with tassels and buttons, and trims and braids and cushions and more! Right next door at no. 51 is Bruno Falugi a store where you can buy needlework fabric and threads and household linens. I went back every day we were there and bought more.
On our own, my roommate and I stumbled across Ricamo e Cucito in Piazza dell'Olio, no. 8. Lots of cross stitch and needlepoint but mostly American and English stuff you've already seen on the internet or in stores at home. They did have some Italian and French patterns which were interesting and some lovely work on display.
With Vima we also visited the Scuola del Cuoio, in the Monastery of Santa Croce, Via S. Giuseppe, no. 5. Breathtaking leatherwork - purses, wallets, home decor stuff like frames and desk accessories, cosmetic accessories holders... just an incredible display. If you go, do not miss the handbag display - each one is an individual creation hand-decorated by a very talented lady.
There are some special places to look at needlework in Florence but I'll save that for another post!
This is one of the hexagonal carvings from the face of the Duomo... now kept inside the museum.