Shopping in Tuscany

With a whole host of wonderful cities across Tuscany, it will be hard to concentrate on serious shopping when you are surrounded by such beautiful architecture and scenery. However, there are some fantastic shopping options for those serious shopaholics amongst you.

Florence is probably the city that springs to mind most when you think of shopping for fashion in this part of Italy. The principal shopping street is the Via de' Tornabuoni, where you'll find the showrooms of Italy's top fashion designers including Prada, Gucci, Dolce and Gabbana, Armani, Vavalli and Ferragamo. Of course, the city also offers lots of opportunities for cheaper priced shopping, with high street stores in abundance. You'll also find a couple of department stores in the centre of the city too.

The two other main cities worth a visit if you're looking to spend a few hours around the shops are Pisa and Siena.

The main shopping area in Pisa is centered around the Corso Italia and the Via Borgo Stretto, the two streets divided by the River Arno that runs between them. Whilst you can't head to Pisa without experiencing the main tourist attractions such as the Leaning Tower, you will find that the shops and stalls around that area of the city tend to very much concentrate on selling the typical tourist souvenirs, and it's worth heading further afield to find more interesting and specialised stores.

Siena has some wonderful shops and window shopping will certainly be a pleasure in this beautiful city. In this city, the main shopping streets that you should visit include the Via di Citta, Banchi di Sopra and Via Dei Montanini. All three streets have some wonderful shops and boutiques, and, whilst Siena doesn't have the reputation for fashion that a lot of other Italian cities has, it certainly puts plenty of effort into the creation of beautiful window displays!

Do remember that, whilst opening times are beginning to change, in many places across Tuscany, you will still find that shops will close over lunch, re-opening again at around 15.30 and then staying open longer than they would in the UK, normally closing around 19.30.

If you're heading to Italy to find bargains, then the sales tend to be held in July and Febrary each year, when the majority of stores will reduce prices from 20% to 50%. If you're looking for a bargain at other times of the year, then it's worth heading to one of the outlet malls in the region. Whilst they will also have a great sale during the summer to make room for the new stock coming in, they will offer discounts on designer brands all year round.

Take your pick from McArthurGlen's Barberino Designer Outlet north of Florence (www.mcarthurglen.it) or try The Mall to the south of the city (www.themall.it) where you will find plenty of designer labels inlcuding Alexander McQueen, Armani, Burberry, Fendi, Gucci, Hogan, Stella McCartney, Tod's, Valentino and Yves Saint Laurent. Both malls offer designer brands at fraction of their normal prices. You might also want to head to the Valdichiana oulet (www.valdichianaoutlet.it) where shoppers can find discounts of up to 70% on designer brands.

Of course, each main town and city also has markets to enjoy and a visit to each of these cities wouldn't be complete without a trip to at least one of the markets. The smaller towns and villages will also have their own markets, all of which offer visitors a great opportunity to get a feel for Italian culture and practise those Italian language skills!

Siena holds a lively market every Wednesday in front of the Fortezza, selling everything from clothing to fruit to local crafts.

In Florence, there is the Mercato Nuovo, also known as the Mercato del Porcellino because of the bronze boar - 'Il Porcellino' - that stands in the loggia. You also have the Mercato Centrale in Florence, Europe's largest covered food hall, and another smaller food market - the Mercato di Sant' Ambrogio. The streets around the Mercato Centrale are also full of stalls selling anything from shoes to belts.

Finally, in Pisa, there are also a number of markets to choose from. Every Wednesday and Saturday, there are markets in both Via Buonarroti and Via San Martino selling clothes and housewares, whilst for food lovers, there is a fantastic daily market held in the Piazza delle Vettovaglie, just off the Via Borgo Stretto.

If you're looking for a unique antique to take home with you, each main town will also have an antiques or bric a brac market that you can browse around too. In Siena, the Piazza del Mercato is the venue for an antiques market on the third Sunday of every month.. If you're more into antiques and bric a brac, then head to the Mercato delle Pulci in the Piazza dei Compi. In Pisa, the antiques market is held on the second weekend of each month at the Ponti di Mezzo.

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