Living in Italy can often prove to be a strain on the purse strings for many students, and, as a result, it can seem difficult to keep up with the locals’ infamous fashion sense.
However, you do not need to put a dent in your funds in order to achieve a little flair on the streets. After all, it is not what you wear, but how you wear it. Scattered around Florence are places that you can find trendy garms at an affordable price. Whether it is the obvious high street outlets, or unexpected local stores with a few hidden gems on the racks.
Here is a rundown of shops to check out in order to piece together an edgy ensemble on a thrifty budget.
1) Melrose Vintage
This global vintage franchise has unleashed two stores unto the Florentine public, offering up a colourful array of pre-loved fashion statements. The shelves are filled with snippets of style from previous decades and, although prices can vary greatly, it is easy to pick up some bargains if you have a keen eye and a knack for bartering.
The branch closest to Santa Maria Novella has two sections. Unbeknown to most, the section at the back, on the left hand side is generally cheaper as it is filled with stock that has been in the store for longer. There are still some great items in there, and you will have much more leeway with these when negotiating with the seller. It also pays to be friendly, at least in this branch. Talking with the owner and staff prior to browsing can really help you out when it comes to checkout. If you are struggling for a conversation starter, it may be useful to know that the guy that usually runs the place is the brother of the owner, Sardinian, and very much in to old school rock ‘n’ roll. In the sister branch, near San Lorenzo market, keep an eye out for the vintage bargain bin, which offers up items for as little as €5.
a) Via de’ Ginori, 18-r (Near San Lorenzo market and church)
b) Via Largo Fratelli Alinari, 8 (Leading off Via Nazionale, near the SMN train station)
2) Upim & OVS
Upim is a chain of clothing stores in Italy and may not seem like a fashionista’s first port of call. There is a sincere feeling of “my mother probably shops here” when you walk in, and the abundance of prams (baby strollers, for you Americans out there) being pushed around the place reiterates those initial thoughts. However, if you know how to throw together a good outfit well enough, you can definitely find some useful items in here for an extremely modest price. Plain black/white tees that have the same fit as H&M’s signature equivalent are almost half the price. Quirky Marvel and DC comic prints are available on tees, vests and jumpers, along with creative artwork of cult icons such as Bruce Lee, Scar Face, and Rocky. This fun regalia can be picked up for around €5 to €10 and can be put towards an understated geek-chic get up.
OVS has the same sort of vibe as Upim but with a better product range. Not particularly trendy, but great for when you need that simple something. With a variety of tee shirts for €8, and an impressive selection of leggings for €10, it is definitely worth stopping by.
Generally, it is worth browsing Upim and OVS for any little accessories or plain items that you require to complete your wardrobe such as hats, belts, wallets, scarfs and tees. Their products tend to be decent quality as well, unlike many things you will find in a market, for example.
*The map on their website in inaccurate. The store is located on the corner of Via Gioberti and Via Cimabue, near Piazza Beccaria. On Google Maps, you can use the address of the Coop supermarket (Via Giovanni Cimabue, 47r) instead, which is just across the street from Upim.
a) Via Gioberti 158/160/R (near Piazza Beccaria)
b) Via Nazionale, 29 (near the San Lorenzo market/SMN station)
c) Via Panzani, 31 (near the duomo/SMN station)
Florence has a lot of markets to offer. Although non of them are solely aimed at clothing, they are definitely worth walking around as a few stalls bear some fabric-based treasures that cannot be found in stores.
San Lorenzo, Sant Ambrogio, Piazza Ciompi, and Santo Spirito are the best options in the centre for a garment hunt. While these markets are usually open every day, Santo Spirito is best visited on the second Sunday of every month and Piazza Ciompi on the last Sunday of every month because on these days the markets are extended and thus offer a wider range of products.
Just outside the centre is perhaps the most noteworthy market that Florence has to offer – especially for budding bargain hunters. The Cascine market is the biggest and cheapest market in Florence. It is located in Cascine Park, which boasts plenty of space to be filled by vendors selling anything and everything under the sun. From fresh meat to furniture to funky threads, it’s all there at Cascine. Clothing items are often made with more basic material, but the prices more than compensate that fact. You can take home some funky linen pants, trendy tees, and a diverse range of accessories in return for that pesky change that was jingling in your pocket.
Parco delle Cascine, Via delle Cascine
4) “Chinese stores”
Excuse any racial faux pas, but unfortunately this is indeed the name bestowed on such stores by the local Italian community.
Such shops can be found all over the city and contain unbranded replicas of the latest fashion trends. For example, many of these places currently stock combat boots and parkas for a cold, yet stylish, spring.
Chinese stores have the impressive low prices of a flea market as most of the goods are imported directly from the manufacturers in China. So if you are not faithful to labels, stop by one of these establishments to get an authentic look with a not-so-authentic price tag.
You may have trouble locating these shops as they rarely have signs outside or any online presence. Simply look out for small doorways that are filled with mannequins, along with a clutter of shoes and accessories to get sucked into.
Two of our favorite “Chinese stores” can be found here:
a) Via Cavour 22/r
b) Via dell’ Oriuolo, 63
For any further information about these places, or any more tips about shopping on a student budget in Florence, drop us a message on Facebook or Twitter.
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