on the hunt: the vintage shops of florence


illustration by diana peterkoski

Peppered throughout the winding streets of Florence lies stores filled with used, upcycled and vintage wares from one of Europe’s premier fashion capitals. Within these shops, a fashion lover’s oasis exists in the form of unique, lightly-used pieces that come with their own story and past life. 


If you are one of the many fashion lovers who is embarking upon Florence, whether you are a fashion major or just interested in exploring what the vintage selection is like while studying and living in the city of Florence this semester, these local vintage stores may be worth the trip for your next clothing or souvenir shopping spree. 


Vintage lover and junior fashion merchandising major and jewelry making minor Libby Costello is currently studying in Florence and beginning to get to know the shopping scene well.


“I pretty much only shop vintage just because it’s like the cheapest, sustainable way to be sustainable,” Costello said. “Sustainable brands can be expensive. I mean, obviously you can go thrifting in an unsustainable way if you go too much, but thrifting is just like the cheaper and easier way for me.”


Though no matter how much we may all love splurging on a new designer or thrift find, European vintage can also get pricey quickly due to the recent trend of vintage and thrift shopping. For this reason, this Florentine vintage guide features three stores ranging from low to mid to expensive designer finds. So no matter your budget, you can find the right vintage for your style and your wallet. 


Humana Vintage – Via delle Belle Donne, 4/6R

Humana Vintage is a small, but jam-packed store full of trendy vintage with Goodwill-esque prices ranging anywhere from five to 50 euros. Although Humana isn’t exclusive to Florence, it is still a vintage store currently only available in major Italian cities. 


Florence’s Humana can be found tucked into a side street between stores like Gucci and Balenciaga on a narrow road filled with antique stores, ceramic shops and cafes. 


When you first walk into the store, you’re affronted with racks of items conveniently organized into shirts, pants, sweaters, bags and shoes. The clothes are loosely color-coordinated with each rack holding one to two color ranges and lining both the walls and middle of the store. The pieces range from pajamas to business casual and are from more obscure, unknown brands or mid-range designers. 


Upstairs you’ll find the “men’s” section, but all of the clothes are worth looking at and trying on regardless of your gender identity. Especially considering the men’s section is primarily made up of graphics, sweatshirts, sweaters and a limited pant selection.


With its continuous sales, reward program and welcoming atmosphere, Humana is a more budget-friendly introduction to the Florence vintage scene.


Melrose Vintage – Largo Fratelli Alinari, 8 

Melrose Vintage is what a mid-range to higher-end vintage store looks like in Florence. With two locations, a smaller store close to Palazzo Vecchio where Kent State Florence is housed and a bigger one close to the Santa Maria Novella train station, you are left with endless opportunities to explore the depths of the highly decorated store.


Melrose evokes the sense of awe that is depicted in movies and social media when romanticizing scenes of  vintage shopping. Although you still may need to hunt for the items you want, everything seems more curated and specific to what trendy vintage shoppers usually go for. With walls filled with Levi’s, racks of leather jackets and sweaters galore, you don’t need to try too hard to find something you’ll fall in love with.


Some of the items definitely lean more towards the expensive or “designer” side of vintage clothing, so you just have to be more mindful of what you’re buying and if the price is reasonable for it. Even if you aren’t looking to spend a ton of money on new clothes, Melrose is just as fun to experience or to simply window shop. Wherever you look there is something interesting to be discovered, whether it be the mannequins dressed in fun outfits or the printed postcards available for sale. 


Desii Vintage – Via dei  Continue, 17 

If the name didn’t already imply the vintage store’s main area of expertise, the storefront definitely will. When you pass Desii while wandering the streets of Florence, you will see designer handbags and other products neatly displayed in the window.


If you are looking to find mainly designer vintage at a good price (expect to pay in the hundreds), Desii might be just the place to start your hunt. The curated selection includes shoes, handbags, scarves and clothes of high-end and designer brands. 


Although the prices are reflective of the brands they sell, they still give a great bargain on lightly used or simply resold items from designers like Burberry, Celine and Gucci. 

Vintage shopping is meant to be a fun, somewhat more affordable and sustainable way of expressing your love of fashion. Going out and hunting for the perfect, unique piece feels more like an adventure rather than just an everyday shopping trip. However vintage can quickly become expensive, and Florence is no exception to that. 


“Compared to American prices of thrifting,  it’s kind of a more obviously curated, resale shop instead of a thrift store,” Costello said. “But then, of course they are still vintage shops so you just expect it to be expensive because it’s in such good condition.”


Regardless of whether you’re looking to spend big or just window shop, knowing what you’re buying can definitely be helpful when spending a little more on an item.


“I think most people that are going into vintage shopping already know what it’s worth, whether it’s name brand or not,” Costello said. “Like they know that it’s vintage and they’re going for that. Not that they need to know it, but I just feel like usually the majority of people that are going to vintage shops do.”


Being in Florence can bring on the unexpected dread of finding the perfect souvenir or gift during your time here. So if you have the money and are wanting to invest, vintage can ensure you find a usable, ethical and unique item that comes with its own Florentine charm. 

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