What $100 Buys in... Florence
In the Tuscan capital, where Michelangelo carved his David and Gucci designed his first handbag, even mundane objects are beautiful.
$15 Soap Santa Maria Novella is one of the world's oldest and most beautiful pharmacies. Housed in a frescoed former chapel since 1612, the shop is known for its natural products like fragrant, moisturizing olive oil soap. Free tours, offered by appointment, include the on-site library and museum, which display centuries-old recipe books and vases. Via della Scala 16, 011-39/055-216-276.
$3 Eraser In the midst of the great paintings and architecture of the Renaissance, even a non-artist might be inspired to sketch. Pick up a pretty eraser depicting Brunelleschi's imposing dome--the city's most recognizable landmark--at Il Papiro, a shop next door. Piazza del Duomo 24r, 011-39/055-281-628.
$21 Earrings At her tiny boutique, Falsi Gioielli (fake jewels), Silvia Franciosi hand-cuts Plexiglas for earrings and threads crystals onto necklaces. Her bold designs are popular with students at the university down the street. Via de' Ginori 34r, 011-39/055-287-237.
$19 Photo Album Artisans have been marbleizing paper, known as carta fiorentina, by hand for centuries. An example of the swirly pavone (peacock) style, this album makes a fitting home for snapshots and mementos. Archetipo, via de' Ginori 13r, 011-39/055-210-088.
$24 Gloves Madova, an 88-year-old shop now at the base of the Ponte Vecchio, sells its cashmere-lined kidskin gloves for upward of $50. But sifting through an easy-to-overlook basket on the counter for a few minutes can yield a pair with an imperceptible defect at a fraction of the price. Via Guicciardini 1r, 011-39/055-239-6526.
$10 Wine Stopper Hand-painted tappi, good for preserving the last drops in a bottle of Chianti, are common souvenirs. They're made from the same terra-cotta that gives the city its famous red-tile roofs. Sbigoli Terrecotte, via Sant'Egidio 4r, 011-39/055-247-9713.
$5 Honey Pecorino cheese drizzled with honey is a classic Tuscan starter. Re-create the dish with miele di girasole, sunflower honey made by Benedictine monks near Siena and sold by their brothers at San Miniato, a church that overlooks Florence. Via delle Porte Sante 34, 011-39/055-234-2731.