The Ponte Vecchio, Florence, Italy
One of the lovely shops on the Ponte Vecchio
The Ponte Vecchio, (or The Old Bridge) is one of the most famous sites in the world to purchase gold and silver jewelry. Founded hundreds of years ago, this trading post was the centerpiece of Florence, Italy with vendors and customers coming from all over. Italian gold and silver is the finest in the world, and buying a little trinket, (or two) on a trip to Italy is a wonderful remembrance to bring home. It’s something you’ll actually use because let’s face it, what do you do with a tiny Leaning Tower of Pisa after you’re home?
There is plenty of debate as to whether or not you are getting the best deal or if the jewelry is overpriced on the bridge.
This is something you have to decide for yourself. Perhaps you pay a bit more. Maybe it is a bit less. Either way, all of the shops on the bridge are accredited vendors, so you know you have genuine materials. Remember, you’ll also be paying for the experience. Believe me when I tell you that in itself, that makes it worth the price. You’ll remember it forever.
Italian gold is made as 18kt. It will say 750 on it instead. True Italian gold will also have a tiny stamp on it with usually a star and some small letters or numbers. These are the identification numbers of the area in Italy in which the jewelry was made. Each region has its own stamps and numbers. When you are shopping for gold in Italy, look for this marking to insure you are getting Italian gold made in Italy.
When you shop in Italy, is is different than here in the States. As I’ve mentioned before, there are some unspoken rules that are followed. When you are on the Ponte Vecchio, you are truly marked as a tourist. (Or at least as someone with cash or credit cards to spend.) You want to be alert and aware of your surroundings, so your adventure on the bridge is pleasurable.
One thing to know when you are on the bridge is that vendors are everywhere. They aren’t selling jewelry, but they have scarves and wooden Pinocchio dolls and such. They will attempt to distract you, so be prepared and keep walking. Keep your hand on your purse. If you need to, say, “Va Via!” (This means, “Go Away!”) While they won’t suddenly think you’re a native, they will at least know you’ve done your homework and will move on.
Shopping on the bridge, everything is there for your perusal. When you spot something that’s caught your eyes, you knock on the door of the shop. They only allow one party in at a time. The vendor comes out and you can literally point to something in the window, or you can say, “posso?” This means, “Can I?” to have entrance to the shop. They will escort you in and lock the door behind you. For real. Be ready.
They are very gracious and it’s intimate. Once you make the purchase, you will need to give information for customs as there are forms you will need to return when you arrive at the airport heading home. You’ll receive your papers from the vendor and your purchase will be wrapped like the precious trinket that it is, in velvet bags and tissue wrap.
Honestly, the safest place for jewelry is on your person. Wearing a gold chain or a bracelet will not make you a target, and you will be infinitely more secure than if you tuck the bag into your purse. Thieves and pickpockets will be watching to see who comes out of a store with some tiny bag in ribbons. The important thing, again, is to be aware and alert. If you decide to wear the jewelry out of the store, (even if it isn’t for you, remember safety) tell them. They will assist you and they’ll still give you all the lovely wrappings and bags.
They are used to tourists and they are so accommodating and gracious. Every time you look at your beautiful piece of jewelry it will make you smile to know you bought it at the most famous jewelry location on the planet.