Tango Diva : Travel Stories for Women, by Women

Take a page from the Italians—who manage to wear their boots year-round—pull on a pair after arriving in Florence and set out in full stride to greet the new season. Spring fashion has arrived after the winter chill.

In typical Italian style there is a rush to embrace the new trends, and the woolens and furs of winter have been supplanted by lighter fabrics and barer styles (albeit topped with a more practical hat, coat and scarf).

Kate Horan, the force behind the Italian accessories business, Sorelle Bionde, once again shares some of her favorite spots discovered while collecting new finds for her studio in San Francisco. The following hit list is her insider’s guide to some favorite spots for shopping, eating and more. Her suggestions will put some snap in your closet and fill your suitcase with gifts for those unlucky pals who didn’t make it on this trip.

Learn more about Kate Horan’s Florence by reading her other Tango Diva article!

SHOP

What: Elio Ferraro—gallery/store
Where: Via del Parione, 47r (off the famous shopping corridor Via Tournabuoni)
Tel: 055 29.04.25
Website: www.elioferraro.com
Why: Hip, edited, exuding cool, Elio Ferraro, the namesake of said boutique, has assembled an eclectic collection of clothing, accessories, home décor and personal items, culled from the 1920’s to present day. Ferraro is a designer himself, and while accessories is his niche (he designs accessories for Pucci, to name drop), he also is adept at clothing design, showing some of his work at the boutique.

Mostly vintage and one-of-a-kind, Elio Ferraro has forged relationships with the design houses to ensure each season he has access to samples and prototypes from some of the most coveted collections.

Look for his newest endeavor, a second outpost in Rome, just opened in October 2006 on Via Margutta, situated in front of Fellini’s former home.

What: Raspini Vintage
Where: Via Calimaruzza, 17r (off Piazza Signoria)
Tel: 055 21.39.01
Why: Like brand new but discounted to make your euros go farther. No need to weed through racks of rejected looks; this spot has done the editing for you. At last visit, the store was stocked with leathers, fur trims, brocades, jeans, belts, shoes and more.

What: A Piedi Nudi nel Parco
Where: Borgo San Jacopo, 38r
Tel: 055 26.58.221
Why: New to the San Jacopo stretch, A Piedi Nudi is a gallery-like space showcasing an atypical collection of men’s and women’s clothing and accessories. Look for asymmetry, layers, rouching, appliqué, embellishment and a unique eye for styling the pieces, as evidenced by the displays throughout the showroom.

What: Angela Caputi Bijoux
Where: Via Santo Spirito, 58r
Tel: 055 21.29.72
Website: www.angelacaputi.com
Why: Angela Caputi is a Florentine artisan whose reach extends through Europe and into the United States. Despite this, she can often be seen in her studio on Santo Spirito, as well as at the surrounding cafes and restaurants, a definite part of her community. Under her direction, the studio fashions resin pieces into earrings, necklaces, bracelets and belts to create accessory collections that range from the whimsical (turtles encircling the wrist and fruit-shaped beads strung around the neck) to high fashion statement pieces—dramatic colors and shapes that suit the season.

GIFTS

What: Bartolucci
Where: Via Condotta, 12r
Why: Enter through the doors of this space and be transported to the workshop of a virtual Geppetto, the poor woodworker who fashioned out of wood a marionette who yearned to be a real boy. This Tuscan novella, first published in serial form from 1881-1883, illustrates the hard realities of the need for food, shelter and other basic measures of daily life and has endured as a constant image in the Tuscan Region.

While one can find versions of Pinocchio at the outdoor markets and from street vendors, Bartolucci is a family of artisans who not only fashion a beautiful pine wood version of Pinocchio, but also apply their talents to a variety of wooden toys, clocks and related goods. Here, Pinocchio can be purchased at various stages of production (natural wood without varnish to the finished product, with paint). Pinocchio prices range from 35-63 euro.

What: Signum Firenze
Where: Via dei Benci, 29R
Why: Find beautiful paper goods, frames, desk accessories, hand painted globes and hand crafted puppets and dolls.

MANGIA!

What: Barrichino del’ampredotto
Where: La Loggia del Porcellino (near Repubblica Square and the outdoor market)
Why: Cures what ails you. Typical food of the region, lines of Florentines and visitors in-the-know form almost immediately after the cart opens for business. The panini come on a crusty roll, split through the middle and drenched in the broth where the Lampredotto simmers. Specify the red or green sauce to fine-tune the sandwich to your liking—a beer and plenty of napkins to complete the meal.

What: Gelateria La Carraia
Where: Piazza N. Sauro, 25r
Tel: 055 28.06.95
Why: Italians are very particular about their dolce, and especially gelato. Within a few short months of opening, this place already had a buzz among locals and is yet to be found by tourists. Service is not necessarily with a smile, but you will find one on your face as you take your first bites of this creamy confection.

What: Le Funiculi Pizzeria
Where: Via iil Prato, 83r
Tel: 055 26 46 553
Why: Typical pizza style of Napoli—the southern city of Italy credited with setting the standard for pizza pies. This restaurant uses a wood burning oven and the bubbling on the pizza dough is infused with the signature flavor only this type of oven imparts. Pizzas have a slightly thicker, chewy crust than many of the pizzas found in Florence.

What: Olio & Convivium
Where: Via Santo Spirito, 4
Tel: 055 26 58 198
Why: Enter through a store front which showcases beautiful regional products—foodstuffs and a collection of fragrance, skin care and home scents from the famed Santa Maria Novella. Venture beyond to the restaurant, which serves refined Tuscan cuisine with apparent international influences (ingredients and preparation) in a dining area that feels like one is sitting in a private home. Low lighting and intimate table groupings make this ideal for a romantic dinner.

What: Trattoria Garga
Where: Via del Moro 48
Why: A standout salad (hearts of palm, avocado, shaved reggiano and pinoli) and the ricotta cheesecake are two items that regularly make the “must do” at this restaurant. And if navigating the rest of the menu becomes a challenge, the waiters are happy to steer. A recent suggestion that proved worthy was the Taglierini al Magnifico, a specialty of the house that did not disappoint. Reservations recommended due to its popularity as well as its location in the Center.

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