With a history steeped in the arts, Florence, the capital of Italy’s Tuscany region, today provides some the world’s finest fashion goods. Salvatore Ferragamo is a leading style merchant. There are also the twice-annual fashion trade shows, like Pitti Immagine Uomo, which draw international industry leaders to the city in January and June.
“Florence is known for leather and cashmere in the fashion industry, and [most businesspeople] come here for production or buying,” says Stacie Henderson, a global marketing operations manager for Ferragamo.
Tourism is also a major business for this postcard-perfect city of about 400,000. Hotels, shops and businesses “have a more American mentality,” says Henderson, a Kansas City, Missouri native who has lived and worked in Florence for two and half years. “They know what they have to do to attract us.” While African American residents are few, says Henderson, Florence offers a warm welcome to visitors who are drawn by the city’s gracious charm and top-rate shopping and dining.
“Here, more than in Milan or Rome, you find lots of English speakers. They’re a lot more used to diversity here,” explains Henderson, who is fluent in Italian and earned a master’s degree in fashion management at Milan’s SDA Bocconi, one of the country’s top business schools. She offers a glimpse into this stylish city.
AROUND TOWN : FLORENCE
The elegant Hotel Savoy (Piazza della Repubblica 7; 39-055-27-351) “is one of the most chic places for happy hour. … It’s a great place for networking,” says Henderson. “They’re really used to American businesspeople and catering to all of our needs.”
These days, visiting fashionistas favor J.K. Place (Piazza Santa Maria Novella 7; 39-055-264-5181), often frequented by Pitti Immagine Uomo show attendees. “If you’re coming in from Rome or Milan, it’s close to the (train) station.”
With a daring, inventive Tuscan menu, CibrÃ¨o (Via del Verrocchio 8r; 39-055-234-1100) is a favorite of Florentine and foreign epicureans. “When you sit down, a (server) sits down and explains the menu. It’s an experience in itself.”
The cuisine and wine list stand out at the picturesque Cavolo Nero (Via dell’Ardiglione 22r; 39-055-294-744). Henderson swears by the orange-rind-wrapped sea bass. The small, private, candle-lit garden is a special warm weather treat.
“Expect to find great fashion and eclectic music at Slowly CafÃ© (Via Porta Rossa 63r; 39-055-264-5354) during a late-night hang out in this loft-inspired space.
The fabulous Sky Lounge roof terrace at the Continentale (Vicolo dell’Oro 6r; 39-055-272-62) is known for its aperitivi, or before-dinner drinks. “It’s relaxing, and you see all of Florence” from the top floor of this contemporary hotel, also owned by Ferragamo.
Despite the unfavorable U.S. dollar to euro ratio, Florence-area designer outlet stores such as Fendi, Dolce & Gabbana, and outlet malls featuring labels such as Gucci, Giorgio Armani, and Ermenegildo Zegna are very popular with American tourists. “If you catch it at the right time, you’ll find Prada shoes for 35 to 50 euro,” says Henderson. Tour buses and private car services shuttle shoppers from Florence to The Mall (Via Europa 8 in Leccio Reggello; 39-055-865-7775).