Florence is home for two worldwide luxury brands, which now each have their own museum: Salvatore Ferragamo and Gucci. The latter has opened at the end of 2011 on a – relatively – quiet corner on the Piazza della Signoria, on the left flank of Palazzo Vecchio. It occupies the 14th century former Palazzo della Mercanzia, which hosted the Florence merchant guilds, and has been soberly converted into three floors of exposition space, a shop, an bookstore, a lounge and a café with a nice terrasse offering moderately priced – for such a place – organic fares.
The ground floor exposition space is free of charge, and some of the most striking pieces are on display there, like one of the ten Cadillacs Seville customised by the brand during the sixties, which, if not exactly an exercise in tasteful restraint, is something to behold. The bookstore is well stoked in art books, the lounge has a lot of such books in free access and two large communal tables with high speed wifi. The place truly comes as a welcome haven after negotiating the constant flow of visitors going from the Duomo to the Uffizzi, and has a smiling, welcoming staff: if you feel ill-at-ease entering the brand’s flagship store a few streets further, this is a good way to get yourself acquainted to it.
On display upstairs are a seemingly endless series of handbags from the 1960s to the early 21st century, a dark dramatic room devoted to Tom Ford’s creations during his 90s reign on the Gucci realm, some red carpet couture from the Frida Giannini era and spotlights on the House’s iconic products like the Flora scarf, created for Princess Grace, the Monogram fabric or the Bamboo bag.
Unlike other houses, Gucci did a pretty bad job at preserving its archives and legacy, so one could be founded in thinking that the collection is a bit flimsy at times. Most prominently missing in one’s opinion is the Tom Ford-designed silly objects from the 90s, like the Gucci Dog collection or his hammock in black monogrammed leather, not to mention leather-clad dumb bells or ice cube trays in shape of the G logo. Maybe later. Judging by the first collections helmed by Alessandro Michele since 2015, the room-to-be sporting his creations will add some spunk to the display.
The museum shop has a capsule collection specifically designed for the place, and clearly overpriced notebooks and shopping bags sporting the brand’s iconic motives, like the Renaissance pattern. You can’t escape Renaissance, it’s Florence after all.