By Marissa Jaskot — May 24, 2015
Florence is my favorite city in Italy. It provides a great balance between sightseeing and fun. One of the most popular things to do there is visit the leather markets, and in my opinion no trip to Florence would be complete without one.
Before leaving for Italy, I had my mind set on acquiring the “perfect” brown leather jacket. I was looking for something timeless, practical, and cool all at the same time. In retrospect, I guess I should have known that this was not going to be an easy task.
I arrived on a Friday morning. Two close friends of mine were already there, and thankfully they were relative experts in terms of the local leather trade. Right away, we went to the market at Fontana del Porcellino, where I placed a coin in the famous bronze boar’s mouth and rubbed his nose for good luck.
We walked around for about 30 minutes before I stumbled upon the first leather jacket that grabbed my interest. It was brown and had a great cut, but it cost 240 euros — well above my budget — so I walked away.
After visiting every stand twice, my friends and I decided to try the larger leather market at San Lorenzo. We passed three hours there with no luck. Simply put, we just couldn’t find what we were looking for. So we had a glass of wine and called it a day — ahhhhh, Italy. What a great country.
The next morning I woke early and gave my leather jacket quest some earnest thought. The truth is, I faced a conundrum. I was having difficulty finding a jacket that possessed both the right shape AND the right brown color. So, after mulling it over, I decided to focus on the right fit. We spent the rest of the morning visiting the statue of David, the Duomo, the Medici Gardens, and then we attended a gelato festival (five euros for five gelatos made for one happy girl!).
Reinvigorated, we walked down to the San Lorenzo Market (again). It was already late, however, and I didn’t want to lose another day to unsuccessful searching, so right away I zeroed in on a particular item. I tried it on. It was nice. Good color. Okay, I thought, this has potential. This could work.
Unfortunately, the attendant salesman was quite pushy. He kept yelling: “Just buy it!” Just buy it!” He even started to insult me for taking so long. Frankly, it was all too much, and we decided to leave. My friend suggested we go next door to the place where she bought her jacket.
As I walked into the store, an old white-haired man approached me. With a calm voice (the complete opposite of what I had just experienced), he asked me what I was seeking. I told him, and he immediately went upstairs. A few minutes later he brought down two jackets…ironically both were black. As I slid my arms into the first of the jackets, I knew it was the one for me.
Staring in the mirror, however, I realized that a significant obstacle still remained. I turned to the old man and explained that — as a student — I had a low budget. He smiled and told me to look at the lady next to me. He whispered quietly that his sales associate was selling the jacket (which looked almost identical to mine) to her for 260 euros. He then said that my jacket was the same quality (with both fire and scratch test), and by the same designer, but because my friend brought me in he would give me a discount. His price was 100 euros, and I walked away happy to support his business while wearing the perfect jacket.
So from my experience, here are five suggestions on finding the perfect leather jacket in Florence.
1. Rub The Boar’s Nose for Good Luck
Before you do anything, head over to Fontana del Porcellino and rub the Boar’s Nose. Its fun and everyone can use good luck.
2. Look Around, It’s Free!
While walking through the streets of Florence, you’ll hear leather salesmen yelling, “come look…it’s free!” Of course we know it’s free to look, but we have to remind ourselves it’s true. The only way to discover what you like and if you’re getting a good deal is to walk around and compare products.
3. Put It To The Test
Once you’ve looked around, take time to test the product. There are two ways a sales person can show you if a piece is genuine leather. First, they can take a lighter and place the flame to the leather- there should be no funny smells or discoloration if it’s genuine. Second, the leather should be scratchproof…key? Fingernail? Bring it on. If it the scratch doesn’t come out, don’t buy it. Overall, the leather should be soft, strong and smell like, well…leather.
4. Talk It Up and Bring It Down
The more you talk with the salesperson the more you’ll establish a friendly buyer-seller relationship, and the more confident you’ll feel after buying the product. The better the relationship, the more you can bargain. Most of the sellers understand that students don’t have a lot of money, and are willing to bring the price down significantly, so don’t be afraid to start bargaining with a really low number — you’ll be surprised.
5. Look Good Feel Good
After taking the time to look around, test the quality of the leather, and negotiate, you should feel good with what you’ve purchased. The piece is genuine and you’ve most likely gotten a steal for the price. Now you can walk away looking good and feeling even better.
Overall, whether you’re buying your first leather jacket or tenth, if you follow these five easy suggestions I promise you’ll walk away with a great story and an article of clothing you love.