A shopping trip to Italy not only provides you with the opportunity to choose from the widest range of famous brands and quality assurance, but contrary to popular belief, it also allows you to save money. It just takes a little preparation.
It’s funny on via Manzoni, one of the shopping streets of Milan, to meet an ancient bas-relief depicting fabric merchants – mute evidence that, almost two thousand years before Armani, his fellow countrymen already knew a lot about the art of turning a piece of matter into an elegant piece of clothing.
In a recent study, Italians, trying to determine the prospects of their products in a globalizing market, once again became convinced that the fashion and design sector is still their forte. Two-thirds of the surveyed Japanese, American, German and Russian tourists associate Made in Italy primarily with fashionable clothes, shoes, and accessories. Few people from even a very short tourist or business trip to Italy return home without a new thing, acquiring goods of famous brands if possible.
It is really best to buy such products in Italy. Despite the fact that Moscow has long surpassed all European capitals in terms of the abundance and variety of fashion boutiques, high-quality Italian clothing is still hard to reach. Behind, as it were, an Italian brand, a fake is very often hidden, sometimes very skillful. If the product is really genuine and, moreover, not from collections of three or five years ago, then the cost will be 10–20 or more times higher than that for which a similar item can be bought in Milan or Rome. For people who do not belong to the category of our compatriots, for whom “the price is not an issue”, a targeted trip to Italy for new clothes has quite a tangible meaning. It is enough to take a calculator to make sure: with such a spread in prices for fashionable things, the difference will easily cover the cost of an air ticket and a hotel. It is not surprising that during last year’s summer discounts, shoppers from Russia became the most numerous category of tourists, surpassing the traditional leaders – the Japanese.
From my own experience, I note that it is very difficult, almost impossible for a Russian person who first appeared in Italy to acquire a new thing on the fly. There are very significant differences in the traditions and manner of dressing, as well as the features of trade. In a country where the basis of the economy was and is made up of small and medium-sized enterprises, a type of small shop has traditionally developed, which is privately owned, often family-owned. In such an institution it is impossible to put the entire range of goods on display. Of decisive importance both in finding the right item and in determining its final price is the communication between the seller and the buyer. This somewhat discourages the foreign guest, although there is no insurmountable obstacle here – the euro language is understandable to everyone.
For the Italians themselves, shopping is not just a shopping trip in order to satisfy a specific material need. This is a “going out”, an ideal opportunity to look at others and show yourself. Such a ritual promenade does not tolerate haste (the only exception is the week before Christmas) and is carried out with the air of a dreamy connoisseur of beauty, ready to stand for a long time near each picture, that is, a showcase. The acquisition is not at all a mandatory result of the action, the process itself is much more important.
In addition to the mentioned type of small shops, which require good physical fitness, geographic orientation skills, and, most importantly, time, in every city, of course, there are large department stores. In them you can hide from the summer heat and find a wide range of goods: from fashionable clothes, shoes and accessories to perfumes and home furnishings. The most common chains throughout Italy have Rinascente, Coin, as well as the more economical Upim and Oviesse. During the season of discounts (from mid-January to mid-late February and from July to August), prices for some goods in these stores are reduced by 30-50%. There are also accumulative cards and bonuses that give the right to a discount when buying a certain category of goods (for example, buying an outerwear item, you can get a bonus valid in the underwear department, etc.).
Only five or six years ago (almost later than all in Europe!) Overseas fashion came to Italy, if not to say the mania for outlets and mono-brand stores (in Italian – spacchi). Outlets, real strongholds of shopping, began to grow like mushrooms – mainly in the northern and central regions of the country. The advantage of this type of trade is obvious: dozens and hundreds of outlets are concentrated in a small area, offering mainly items from previous seasons with a 50% discount or more, as well as samples that are unsuitable for sale in stores due to minor defects (invisible to the naked eye).
Spacci that sell the goods of one company are small shops at factories. Trading directly, bypassing distribution networks, allows sellers to reduce prices by 30-50%.
Perhaps the only inconvenience of Italian outlets and spacchi – their remoteness from cities (although what is an hour and a half on the road for a resident of Russia!). A foreign shopping tourist simply needs, firstly, to clearly define his preferences and, secondly, pick up a map and think about the way back and forth. But the game is worth the candle for those who are determined to significantly update their wardrobe.
It makes sense to start a short course in the geography of Italian shopping with the Lombardy region and its capital center – Milan. This city can be safely called the legislator of European, if not world fashion. Fashion shows, held here at least four times a year, become global events, a gathering of leading fashion designers. They all have large ateliers, showrooms and boutiques in this city. They are concentrated in the so-called fashion square: via Montenapoleone – via della Spiga – via Borgospesso – via Sant’Andrea. The most luxurious jewelry and antique shops are also located here.
For more economical shopping, head to corso Buenos Aires or Vittorio Emanuele. The Brera quarter is also becoming increasingly popular, where small ateliers of young Milanese and foreign stylists and designers have settled, offering ultra-modern and exclusive items.
The nearest, but relatively small Fifty Factory Store outlet is based in the town of Meda. Brescia factory outlet and Franciacorta outlet village are located in the province of Brescia. Recently opened outlets in the vicinity of Cremona and Mantua.
Within one and a half to two hours drive from Milan, already on the territory of the Piedmont region, there is the very first of the opened in Italy and the largest Serravalle Scrivia outlet in Europe. Its 170 stores present all the famous Italian and world brands of fashionable clothing and related products.
Although not as elegant as Milan, Turin, with its parallel-perpendicular central streets and hospitable porticos, also has a lot to offer the shopping tourist. On the central via Roma there are boutiques of popular Italian stylists Dolce & Gabbana, Armani, Versace, Fendi, Ferragamo. Via Garibaldi is famous for its menswear boutiques, as is the central square of San Carlo, where the San Carlo Men Store is located. For valuable antiques, you should go to via Maria Vittoria and Principe Amedeo.
In addition to the large complex in Serraval, which has already been discussed, exclusive shopping awaits you in the suburbs of Turin – Settimo Torinese, where the Armani Factory Store is located.
It is difficult for Piedmont to challenge the palm in the field of fashion, but in design and advanced technologies it is a leader. For example, in the province of Novara there are world-famous factories of faucets and avant-garde bathroom accessories, and Verbania, which is already at the very border with Switzerland, is famous for the production of modern kitchen utensils (pots, pressure cookers, frying pans, cutlery, etc.). Almost all factories have retail outlets that sell their goods at prices that are much more attractive than in stores.
The great glory of Venice as a center of European commerce and trade with the East is still reminiscent of the chic fabrics in the windows of boutiques framing Piazza San Marco. Since ancient times, fashion designers went to the city of canals for the best silk and velvet in Europe. This is already a long past, but it left a rich legacy in the form of numerous, albeit small, factories of fashionable clothes and shoes.
After admiring the fantastic-space (in terms of prices) boutiques of Venice, it is worth moving to other places for shopping. In Padua, for example, the Donatello outlet promises good shopping (50% off almost all). Spaccio Brugi is very popular in Verona, selling fashionable clothes for the whole family of past seasons with good discounts. For fashionable sportswear, I recommend heading to the north of Veneto – in the vicinity of the famous ski resort of Cortina d’Ampezzo, there is a Moretto outlet selling with discounts of 50% or more.
In Florence and its environs, even in the early Middle Ages, weaving and leather workshops were located in abundance. It was from the Florentine fashion shows in the first post-war years that the worldwide fame of Italian brands began. It is enough to take a leisurely, Italian-style walk along via Tornabuoni, via de Calzaioli or, say, via della Vigna Nuova to feel how elegant shop windows of local boutiques organically fit into the image of the city. Even the San Lorenzo market does not disfigure one of the central squares of Florence at all, adjacent to the famous Medici palace and family chapels of members of this family with tomb statues by Michelangelo. Don’t let the black sellers scare you: leather jackets, bags, belts, gloves are made by Florentine tanners, not craftsmen from China. For a full guarantee, you can go to a boutique or in search of the workshops themselves (some are located on the streets of the historical center).
An obligatory point of a shopping trip in Florence (as well as just a tourist one) is Ponto Vecchio. Shops are open here from morning until late at night.
You can shop on the bridge regardless of the thickness of your wallet: they offer both inexpensive, but very spectacular jewelry with a low gold content, and chic items with many zeros on the price tags.
The nearest outlet from Florence is half an hour away – The Mall. The road to one of the largest in Italy and very rich in assortment Valdichiana Village outlet will take about an hour.
Quite a few in Tuscany and Spacchi world-famous brands. Prada Outlet settled in Montevarchi, Roberto Cavalli settled in Sesto Fiorentino (50% discount on almost everything).
Bologna, the city that gave its name to the raincoat so popular in our country in the 1960s, is located an hour’s drive from the Adriatic beaches, which were equally popular in Russia (several decades later). The Bologna shopping route includes via Cavour and the gallery of the same name, as well as via Rizzoli, Farini and extremely elegant shops within the medieval walls of Corte Isolani, selling mainly home furnishings. Via Indipendenza is lined with small shops and department stores promising more economical shopping.
The largest out-of-town megastores within a 40-50 minute drive from the center of Bologna are Fidenza Village, Castel Guelfo and Freeport Outlet with a large selection of international brands at good discounts.
The city-state of San Marino is perhaps the most traditional sightseeing and shopping trip for someone who is staying in Rimini or any other place on the Romagnola Riviera. Probably nowhere else in Italy you will see so many Russian-speaking sellers and so many shops selling alcoholic beverages (offshore after all!). San Marino Factory Outlet (with its hundreds of shops of branded clothing, accessories, perfumes) is also very famous among both foreign tourists and the local population. During the sales season, discounts here reach 70%.
The name of Fellini’s painting “Dolce vita” has long been living its own life, becoming synonymous with idleness and love of life. It is enough to walk along the same Roman street from the film – via Veneto, to feel that nothing has changed in half a century.
The most stunning podium in the world is the Spanish Steps on the square of the same name in Rome. Stunning also because you can see where it starts, but it is not clear where it ends – in the square it branches and gets lost in via Condotti, Frattina, del Babuino … Valentino, Armani, Gucci, Dior, Cartier and Bulgari jewelry boutiques are located here. In contrast to Milanese, the local charm is distinguished not by classical austerity, but by a rich fantasy of colors and a certain softness. Rome is dressed in suede and velvet all year round. If in Milan an umbrella is a strictly practical item, then in Rome it is more of an accessory, a cane, which is used to measure a step during a walk.
The area of Plaza España, via del Corso and via Nazionale are the favorite places of the capital’s shopping, which are easy to combine with a visit to the sights of the city center. On the other side of the Tiber, not far from the Vatican, there is another area where half of Rome goes shopping. This is primarily via Cola di Rienzo and via Ottaviano. Here you can find both elegant classic boutiques and shops of popular youth brands.
Fans of antiques and classic home furnishings should take a look at via Marguta, via dei Coronari, as well as wander through the streets in the Campo dei Fiori area. On Sunday, a variety of antique shops unfold at the “flea market” Porta Portese.
Several good outlets are located in Rome itself. For example, popular brands of casual and sportswear are represented in the Factory Outlet Store, in the very center of the city. For women’s clothing of famous Italian brands, you can go to Fashion&Fashion, which provides 50-60% discounts.
The largest outlets in the Lazio region are within 30-40 minutes drive from Rome’s ring road – McArthurGlen in Castel Romano and the Fashion District in Valmontone, while in Pomezia, 20 kilometers south of Rome, there is spaccio Max Mara.