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Favorite Souvenirs from Italy: Ceramics in Florence

Gucci, Pucci, Ferragamo, Versace, Chanel, Celine– do these names ring a bell?

designer shopping florence gucci versaceThese are just a few of the glittering designer boutiques lining the streets of Florence.  Enter one of these shops at your own risk, as it’s easy to get caught up in the moment and blow your vacation budget on a single pair of shoes.  Not that I know anything about that.
No doubt Florence is a label lover’s dream.  But can these glamorous Florence stores co-exist with the kind of local artisan shops that we know are plentiful in the surrounding Tuscan villages?  I wasn’t so sure.  It did take some ground work, but after following some guide book leads, then ignoring said leads, I  can happily report that navigating the zig zag roads to a dusty hill town isn’t the only route to great Italian souvenir finds.  There are great artisan workshops right within Florence’s city walls.

Like most of Italy, Florence is known for its ceramics, which make great souvenirs

While collectors of ceramics may scope out specific artists and designs, you don’t have to be an expert or spend hundreds of dollars to find great pieces.  I popped into at least a dozen shops in Florence in search of classic designs and reasonable prices to bring home as my souvenir from Italy.  What did I learn?  As you might expect, if you get little away from the center, you’ll find the smaller, family owned shops (and the better deals) where you can find your own favorite Italian souvenirs.

souvenier shopping Florence ceramics CroceFlorence can get a little crowded at times.  If you’ve been to Florence before, you’ll know that is a just a tiny bit of an understatement.  Especially when the cruise ships dock in nearby Livorno.  So after you’ve joined the crowds and done the must-sees, take a little detour and head in the direction of Santa Croce church– a 13th century church you’ll want to visit anyway for its Giotto frescoes and the tombs of Michelangelo, Machiavelli, and Galileo.  While in the area, take some time to poke around the nearby shops to find authentic souvenirs from Italy and sample fabulous gelato from places like Il Gelato Vivoli.

Look for this storefront (courtesy Google street view).

Then wander a few streets over to via Verdi, where you will find the Le Mie Ceramiche workshop, a great place to scope out souvenirs.  Ceramics artist Ambra and her father make all of the shop’s pieces by hand, either on site or in their nearby workshop.  The exuberant Ambra is often minding the shop, and when not tending to customers, can be found hand-painting the ceramics before they’re fired.

Photos courtesy of Le Mie Ceramiche

Ceramics Shopping 101

Walk into the store and take a deep breath.   Yes, the shop is filled with nothing you need but everything you must have, but before you go crazy and buy out the place, you might want to figure out what pieces will work best back home, and make a memorable souvenir from Italy.

A quick reality check for all ceramics shopping in Italy:

Consider the size of the piece and whether it will fit into your space.  If you have a small kitchen with minimal counter space, you may want to pass over the pitchers and biscotti jars.

Think about your current decor and what will complement it best. Will those bright sunflowers that look so beguiling in the shop add a much-needed pop of color or will it be too much Tuscan sun?

Do you have enough room in your carry on for the piece (remember to factor in the bubble wrap)?  If not, select something sturdy or consider shipping.

 

souvenier shopping Florence best ceramics plates

My hand-painted plates have survived multiple moves, completely intact.

These vibrant plates were the perfect fit for me and are one of my favorite Italian souvenirs.  A classic geometric pattern, with a heavy, rustic feel, the plates will always find a spot on my kitchen wall, regardless of how many times I change my decor.  Almost completely flat, they are easy to pack.  Make sure to buy them in pairs as a single plate looks a little lost on the wall by itself.  The simple design is “safe” enough that they also make great gifts.

Photos of current stock above, courtesy of Le Mie Ceramiche.

best souvenir shopping florence ceramic bowlsOr pick up something even smaller, like these adorable miniature bowls, not much bigger than an apple. Perfect for olive oil dipping or setting up your mise en place.

Have you bought ceramics in Italy as a souvenir?  Share your favorite shops and tips in the comments below!

Details

Le Mie Ceramiche
Via Verdi, 8r (just off piazza Santa Croce)
Store hours: Mon- Sat 9:30 – 1:30 and 2:30 – 7
Phone: 055 24 66 007
Prices (approximate): small bowls €25, mugs €20, 30 cm plates €35 and platters €65.

Credits: All photos by Souvenir Finder copyright 2013 except for Le Ceramiche photos Creative Commons licenses as indicated.  Attributions available by clicking on photo and below:
#1 Shopping in Florence / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
#2 Santa Croce, Florence / CC BY 2.0  By David Wright

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9 Responses to Favorite Souvenirs from Italy: Ceramics in Florence

  1. Charu Suri (@Butterflydiary) 09/30/2013 at 1:31 pm #

    Totally agree! Local souvenirs are truly the way to go. I recently wrote a post about shopping for local candles in Ubud, Indonesia. Florence is all about the ceramics…nice reminder, thank you!

    • Kiki 09/30/2013 at 2:10 pm #

      Thanks for sharing! Can’t wait to check out your post about candles– never been to Indonesia. Love seeing what they sell– gives you a window into the culture.

  2. frederick suhr 03/17/2014 at 1:40 pm #

    I am looking for the contradi flag of the Campo (elephant )

    • Kristin Francis 03/17/2014 at 2:40 pm #

      Hi Frederick,
      If you are going to be in Siena, you shouldn’t have any trouble finding something like that– just wander around the shops near the center, there are lots of contradi focused items.

  3. Jennylynn 02/19/2015 at 12:50 pm #

    I love Le Mie Ceramiche and have bought several items there (including a serving platter which I love). If you are short on luggage space I’d also recommend buying spoon rests and bottle stoppers!

    • Kristin Francis 02/20/2015 at 5:12 pm #

      Jennylynn those are great tips– I always need more spoon rests! Glad you also love the store.

  4. louise@jowdy.net 11/19/2016 at 4:01 pm #

    I have broken a spoon rest from Italia, a NONNA holding fish, also another holding fruit

    can you please help me???

  5. louise@jowdy.net 11/19/2016 at 4:03 pm #

    Please find a ceramic or Italian pottery NONNA with fish or fruit for me. I bought it years ago and now I’ve broken it!

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  1. How to Find the Best Shopping in Tuscany - 01/28/2014

    […] or how much to spend. I recommend leaving high-end ceramics shopping to the collectors and instead look for a small shop run by a local ceramics artist (no famous name required). Then follow this simple rule and you can never go wrong: Buy what you […]

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