I don't know about you, but I'm forever on the hunt for that quintessential thing that you can only find locally—like the conch shells from the beaches of Turks and Caicos or Ladurée macaroons (before the French company decided to sell out and populate the earth). It's that thing you would ask a friend to pick up if you knew they were going. Rare as it is with the internet at our fingertips, it's still fun to make discoveries when we travel.
While in Florence on a T+L Sept cover shoot, I noted a great pair of navy suede ballet flats on an effortlessly chic Italian colleague. Always on the hunt for great travel flats, I became obsessed when she told me how much she paid and had to make a mad dash to the shop before I got on the plane the next morning.
On Via Romana, under scaffolding sits a little grandma shop called, Scarpe B&C (Via Romana, 144R). The window display looked functional but no attempt at beauty. Inside there were no brands or fancy designers names, just the B&C name on the inner soles of the shoes. They had the ballet flats in candy colors, a capped toe version plus much more: two-tone brogues, mumsy Prada flat sandals and patent leather strappy sandals with kitten heels that are the perfect antidote to the towering sandals that have been in fashion way too long. All the shoes are of reasonable heel height. The salesman took out every color suede for me to try which made the decision all the more difficult since I only have so much room in my Brooklyn closet. I petted the smooth fine beige leather sole that curves up with VERO CUOIO stamp and the buttery soft leather upper.
Here is the kicker; the suede ballet flats are 54 Euros! That is $75 at the current exchange of 1.4—a total steal. I bought the forest green suede and the caped toe in black and bone, a bit more at 64 Euros. Fortunately, they tell me they will ship internationally if you call or email.
I hear they have great boots in the fall winter. I have been looking for a perfect riding boot, so let me know you going—and if you could pick me up a pair in size 38.Mimi Lombardo is the fashion director at Travel + Leisure.