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Tuscany's Top 40: The Ultimate Shoppers' Guide


The medieval town of Colle di Val d'Elsa has produced glassware since the 1300's; more than 90 percent of Italy's crystalware is still made here.

• Inside the crystal-blowing workshop at Vilca (53 Via Fratelli Bandiera, Località Gracciano, Colle di Val d'Elsa; 39-0577/929-188; www.vilca.it; weekday mornings only), teams of artisans gracefully transform glowing strands of crystal into twisted chalices, icy vases, and delicate animal figurines. The adjacent factory shop sells items ranging from tall, opaque-and-transparentvases by Scotsman Charles Rennie Mackintosh to chunky-stemmed goblets, all at 50 percent below retail.

• The crystal boutiques in Colle's sandstone-and-cobbled Old Town might be picturesque, but Cristallerie Mezzetti (13 Via Oberdan, Colle di Val d'Elsa; 39-0577/920-395; www.cristalleriemezzetti.com), in the businesslike downtown area, is the only shop that stocks all the local producers, with affordable wine-tasting sets—a glass in a different shape for each type of wine—by Calp, handblown vases by Arnolfo di Cambio, and silk-screened glassware by Egizia.

• Not all of Tuscany's best crystalware comes from Colle. When Tuscan aristocrats break an antique carafe, they commission La Moleria Locchi (10 Via Burchiello, Florence; 39-055/229-8371; www.locchi.com) to make an exact duplicate in crystal or glass, often using machinery that dates back to the 1800's. Visitors to the century-old workshop can choose from a selection of ready-made objects: crystal candelabra; vases engraved with fruit, flowers, or fish.


In Siena's recently restored Fontebranda quarter, Emporio Toscano (65 Via Fontebranda; 39-0577/226-305) carries locally handmade ceramics with blissfully simple, contemporary lines. Deciding what to leave behind is a struggle. Will it be the pyramid-shaped milk jug by Francesca Ciani?The swirling, optical vases by design doyen Ettore Sottsass for Flavia?Or the giant Alice in Wonderland teacups by Ceramiche Toscane?

• Rusty tools, wicker strands, and heaps of just-finished baskets clutter the workroom at Leonardo Luzzi (50 Frazione Viaio, Anghiari; 39-0575/789-266), located in a rural schoolhouse. You'll find woven straw chairs and baskets for everything from mushrooms to dirty laundry. Prices are so low that shopping here should be a crime (from $30).

• A new addition to the Tuscan artisanal scene is Badamè (35 Via Boccaccio, Palazzo Giannozzi; 39-0571/662-440), a tiny store in the medieval village of Certaldo Alto. Young craftsmen from the area create one-of-a-kind wrought-iron lamps and mosaic vases.


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