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June 13, 2009

Best leather?

June 13. Day 348.

For four days, I've been doing research. There are a few leather items I've been wanting to buy -- a little something for Mr. A, a few accessories for friends, and one special piece for a friend who's about to celebrate a birthday, graduation, and a promotion.

In Florence over the course of three days, after concluding that the leather sellers at the market by my hotel were way overpriced, I talked to people on the street to find out the best place for such a purchase.

I asked four people and got four answers:

1) Waiter, eyes flashing greedily (ok, not really, but wouldn't it be cool if they did?) "Go to Luca and tell him Antonio sent you. His booth is two streets down, hang a left, first right, halfway down the alley, by the bar, on the right. You can't miss it. Make sure to tell him I sent you. He will make you a special price."
2) Real estate agent: "There's a leather school near Santa Croce where you can probably find better prices."
4) American tourist by the leather school: "The leather school is totally overrated. I spent 250 euros on a bag. I just bought it because I spent nothing in Florence and so I had to buy something. Definitely not the 50 euro artisanal steal. Keep looking."
3) Shopkeeper with an antique bike and nerdy glasses: "San Lorenzo has a good leather market. You could explore that. But all these merchants are going to overcharge. The quality sucks, the patterns are outdated, and you're not going to find a good product for a good price. Be prepared to overpay for something equivalent to what you have in your home country. Florentine leather is a myth."

Over the course of four days, I shopped in one store and about three street stands, all with different prices and willingness to bargain.

I got two wallets for 20 euros instead of 30, by shamelessly flirting. I whacked off 2 euros from a different stand, by claiming the dollar was weak. I tried to bargain down a purse in a store but failed. Still bought it, because it was gorgeous, and something I think the recipient will like.

That was yesterday. I'm writing this all today, since today is the culmination of so many days of leather hunting.

I spent the day in Pisa with La Divina and Il Grillo (aka her boyfriend - more on the pseudonym later), who drove down from Milano last night.

And here, in Pisa, the dilemma of "where to get the best price" suddenly melted away. Because I came across a merchant with products so exquisite that were completely worth every cent. I did try to negotiate, but the woman was firm, confident. People were crowding behind me to grab the things I put down. Clearly, this was the place to shop.

In all, over four days, I saved about 12 euros on a handful of wallets.
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