A Florence Gift Guide: #ioComproFiorentino

Incense gifts at Antica Erboristeria San Simone/Photo by Cathy Doherty

After a difficult year, many are struggling to hang on, but all can look to the Christmas season as a beacon of light during distressing times. In a recent initiative created by mayor Dario Nardella and commerce city councilor Federico Gianassi, the hashtag #ioComproFiorentino (Buying Florentine) raises awareness for the importance of supporting businesses and artisans within the Florence community. Though Italy remains cautious in its fight against the COVID-19 pandemic, government officials realize the effects the health crisis has had on the city’s economy, and have encouraged Florentines to not only stay local this season, but shop local too.

When buying from a small business, you are supporting either an individual or a family who has spent years perfecting their craft instead of purchasing an item that is mass produced. There is something about a handmade present that feels more thoughtful and expresses an immense amount of care for the person to whom it is being gifted.

KIDS

We all know that Christmas is for children as well as for the child within.  Even Giuseppe Conte answered a letter by a five-year-old child in northern Italy who was worried about Santa’s travels; the Prime Minister confirmed that Santa Claus can travel anywhere and distribute gifts to every child in the world, “with no restrictions.”  An historic Florentine toy store (founded in 1923!) to head to for is Dreoni Giocattoli on via Cavour 31/33r, where a life-size Pinocchio greets moms and dads.  The whimsical and classic items for kids in this shop aim to stimulate the imagination, so this is not the place to buy video games; think train sets, wooden blocks, rocking horses among thousands of offerings. Locally, if you’re looking for the perfect stocking stuffer for your little one or items to keep everyone warm this season, Florentine resident Nicole Pozz creates custom, made-to-order handmade crochet pieces that will put a smile on their face. From playful, decorative fruits and animals to cozy beanies and scarves, each item is made with love. Ideas for gifts can be found through her Instagram.

A read for the young ones in your life, Little Audrey’s Daydream is a children’s book by Tuscan residents Sean Hepburn Ferrer and Karin Hepburn Ferrer about the extraordinary childhood of his late mother, Audrey Hepburn. As a hungry young girl living through WWII, little Audrey spent much of her time in bed to preserve energy. In the book, during the war she daydreams about becoming a famous dancer, a movie star, mother, and humanitarian. This empowering story is brought to life with whimsical illustrations by artists Dominique Corbasson and François Avril. Little Audrey’s Daydream was meant to inspire children to dream big, even when times are tough. It can be found at the  IBS bookshop, via Cerretani 16r.

UNIQUELY FLORENTINE

What is more Florentine than the well-loved basilica of San Miniato al Monte, begun high above the city in 1013?  Next to the Romanesque church is the gift shop, offering Padre Ildebrando’s renowned fudgy chocolate cakes (a steal at €15) and jam tarts, even lemon-y madeleines and almond ricciarelli, holiday cookies that originated in Siena. For a stocking stuffer, consider beeswax candles and a selection of honeys—including Tuscan sunflower—supplied by the beehives of another local Benedictine abbey, Monte Oliveto Maggiore.

Established in 1856, Giulio Giannini e Figlio at Piazza Pitti 37r is known for its exquisite “Florentine style” paper and traditional bookbinding. The store has since expanded its services, now providing a range of products from custom leather-bound journals to face masks and water bottles printed with designs of their famed marbled paper. Giannini also has all-inclusive gift sets available. Orders are taken for custom made leather-bound books.

BOOKS

Wrap up your favorite bookworm’s 2020 reading list with this year’s latest reads. Paperback Exchange(via delle Oche 4; deliveries for free within Florence) is currently taking orders for Barack Obama’s memoir, A Promised Land, a deep dive into the former president’s personal and political lives. Elena Ferrante’s latest publication, The Lying Life of Adults is also available for purchase. Like her previous Neapolitan Novels, The Lying Life of Adults is a compelling coming of age story set in 1990s Naples that will keep readers on their toes. Young readers will gravitate to J.K. Rowling’s first novel since the Harry Potter series, The Ickabog, is the ideal gift for young readers. Previously released virtually for children on lockdown, a physical copy is finally available for purchase and perfect for any young reader. Paperback also carries whimsical pop-up books by critically-acclaimed American book artist Robert Sabuda. To help non- native English-speaking family members with their reading of Anglo-Saxon literature, consider a gift certificate for an online art or language course at The British Institute of Florence, a school and cultural center operating in Florence since 1917.

CHARITIES

Show your support for ATT assistance of cancer patients at home by purchasing a custom sweatshirt. More information about pricing and orders can be found on their Facebook page.  While ANT Tuscany, a cancer screening and patient support organization, won’t be hosting their usual antiques and vintage Christmas fair this year, the nonprofit still has a lot of great gift options—holiday treats, wine and olive oil, chocolates, and potted poinsettias—on the website if you’re looking to make a purchase that pays it forward.

FASHION

Despite his name, Arlo Haisek (via de’ Bardi 20r), is an Italian goldsmith originally from Greve. He incorporates stunning shapes and raw gemstones into his contemporary and stunning jewelry creations that are meant to make a statement. Treat that special someone in your life to a unique, fashionable piece. Accessory designer Angela Caputi, inspired by the haute couture of 1940s and ’50s screen stars, uses synthetic materials to create costume jewelry for women of all ages and inclinations.  Located on via Santo Spirito 58r, her company has been a strong presence in Oltrarno since 1975 which she continues to personally direct. The bright and shiny beads that make a Caputi piece unique are sculpted from malleable plastic dough, giving finished products a resemblance to semi-precious stones. Shimmering cases display necklaces even incorporating Michelangelo’s David, plus elasticized bracelets, black chokers with striking pendants, bright, chunky bangles and seasonal creations.

Also located in the Oltrarno district of Florence, Giulia Materia (Sdrucciolo de’ Pitti, 13) is a small boutique that specializes in handmade clothing and accessories for men and women. From printed shirts to their signature wallpaper books, Giulia Materia combines traditional craftsmanship with modern designs to make one-of-a-kind products that are stylish and timeless. Saviour Clothing is up and coming clothing brand dedicated to fighting climate change while also uplifting artists and creatives. A portion of the proceeds goes to the Coalition for Rainforest Nations. Sweatshirts are among the eco-friendly products made in Montespertoli that will keep your loved one warm this winter. All clothing is handmade, paying attention to sustainable processes and organic fabrics, with a printed design or photograph from featured artists of all mediums.  Browse here or through Instagram. Magenta and Vista readers can get 20% off any product using code MAGENTA starting December 9 until December 31.  Custom-made and off the rack jackets, coats and accessories including wallets, bags and boots—all made of the finest Tuscan leather by Florentine craftsmen (and women)—are what La Pelle, via Guicciardini 11/r, is known for worldwide. Frau Leman (via della Chiesa 21r) uses sustainably sourced Italian leather or upcycled material to combine eco-friendliness with high-quality design. Her work comes in a variety of forms from keychains, wallets, and purses and a wide range of colors. Gift certificates can be requested.

HOME & MORE

We’re all spending a little more time in the house these days, which is the perfect excuse to splurge on new home decor. The place to check out is Armando Poggi, created by the namesake at via Calzaiuoli 103 near the Duomo, now run by grandson Andrea Poggi who personally chooses the merchandise.  Colorful and elegant, Tessitura Toscana Telerie’s printed runner will give your dining table a fresh look just in time for the new year.  Unique yet subtle, a Maman et Sophie hot-air balloon charm necklace will make a sweet present for the jewelry lover in your life.  Or, literally give your loved one your heart this holiday season with the “Love in Bloom” vase, which takes the shape of an anatomically correct heart; each artery is an opening for the stems of a beautiful bouquet.

For handmade and personalized ornaments, check out Atelier des Fleurs. Their recent collection of custom resin ornaments give the perfect, whimsical touch to a Christmas tree; from figures like snowflakes and lamp-shaped baubles that are adorned with gold leaf or dried flowers. For contact and ordering, email Emera at emeraatelier@gmail.com.

SELF-CARE

At Antica Erboristeria San Simone (via Ghibellina 190), a historical pharmacy established in the 1700s, Dr. Fernanda Russo experiments with over 500 types of plants to create natural herbal teas, aromatics, and fragrances. For the gift of Florence to those who can’t physically be here, there is a perfume line based on well-known streets throughout the center, transporting lovers of the city back to their favorite places. From Via Maggio to Via de’ Tornabuoni, the fragrances each have their own notes that pay homage to their histories.   A fragrance lamp can not only brighten a home and give a calming ambience, but clean the air around it too. With a neutral smelling oil made by London-based Ashleigh & Burwood that contains 90% isopropyl alcohol, up to 97% of the bacteria in the air can be neutralized within 10 minutes and leave your home feeling fresh.

A myriad of new products have been created just in time for the holiday season, making  home feel a little more cozy and festive. From candles and incense to herbal teas, there is no shortage of ways to share the holidays. The incense come in various sizes from 100ml to 500ml and scents like Spiced Apple, Orange and Cinnamon, or Christmas Tree. For a special winter treat, try a custom blend of loose-leaf tea made with mixed berries, apple, and cinnamon, to go perfectly with their “tea-for-two” set of glass mugs and matching tea infuser kettle.

TREATS

Adapting to the times, Djària (via de’Serragli 100r) brings the party directly to your home.  What better way to send off 2020 than with a delicious, hand-crafted cocktail? From classics like Negroni and dry Martini, to their own specialties, such as the Djària Special and Django Fashioned, Djària delivers their concoctions in glass bottles with vacuum-sealed garnishes and ice. Orders are taken from 7 – 11 pm, Wednesday to Sunday by calling 055 493 7061.

Leonardo Vestri, third generation member of premier chocolate makers in Tuscany, can be found at his shop on Borgo degli Albizi 11r behind gorgeously boxed artisanal chocolates. His signature holiday specialty is panettone, an Italian Christmas bread which normally contains candied fruit and raisins.  Vestri’s is made with natural starter, and once hot out of the oven behind the shop’s counter and cooled, is hand-glazed according to personal choice: dark or milk chocolate with hazelnuts or almond slivers, milk chocolate studded with pistachios.  (savannah camastro, cathy doherty & rosanna cirigliano)