Italy is home to some of the best shopping in the world. With the the elegant shopping streets and artisan boutiques of Rome, Milan, Florence and Venice to the individual craft markets in smallest of country towns, there is something for everyone whether you are counting your euros or splurging on a grand tour.
You will want to keep room in your luggage for packable gifts like gloves, wallets, ties, cashmere scarves, handwoven dishtowels and probably a expertly made pair of strappy handcrafted sandals.
Each region in Italy has a speciality which makes it famous. Some Italian towns offer whole industries unto themselves. The town of Como in northern Italy is known for its silk. If you are looking for ceramics, visit the town of Deruta in Umbria and Grottaglie in Puglia. Want to buy Italian antiques? Head for the town of Arezzo in Tuscany, where a world-famous antiques market is held every month.
Tuscany: Leather goods, hand marbled paper, jewelry
Florence is world famous for leather goods — shoes, jackets, belts, purses. The best places to buy these items are in the street markets or at Scuola del Cuoio, where a consortium of leather artisans sell their creations.
The most prestigious shopping area in Florence is the area between Via Tornabuoni and Via Calzaiouli. Be sure to also stroll down Via Maggio. Keep an eye out for the Jewelers who set up shop along the Ponte Vecchio and don’t miss the wonderful open-air markets, especially the nearby Straw Market (Il Porcellino). San Lorenzo Market is another great place to browse for bargains. If you like lotions and sachets, go to the Santa Maria Novella store.
Rome: High fashion, religious articles from Vatican City, jewelry (Bulgari is based in Rome)
The Tridente area near the Spanish Steps – including the famous, via Condotti and via del Corso – is best for the big designer names. Looking for something more offbeat? Head to the hip Monti neighborhood near the coliseum for cobblestoned streets filled with chic independent boutiques.
Don’t miss a visit to one of the many Negozio Storico (Historic shops) featuring a wide range of shops located in Rome’s historic center. There are two classifications for these special shops.
Historical Shops of Excellence: The business, run by the same family for at least three generations for over 70 years in the same industry sector and in the same area within the perimeter of "historical city".
Historical Activities of Excellence: The business, run by the same family for at least three generations for over 70 years in the same industry sector, although not in the same room, but always within the perimeter of "historical city".
A full list of these historic businesses can be found here.
Milan: High fashion, furniture
Milan, is Italy’s fashion capital and one of the world’s most sought-after destinations for designer shopping.
Head to the most popular shopping area called the Quadrilatero della Moda which includes the very elegant Via Montenapoleone and Corso Venezia. The Corso Vittorio Emanuele II is best for trendy chain store brand name fashion. Do not miss a visit to the dramatic and elegant Galleria Vittorio Emmanuele.
Milan is best known for Fashion Week. Held twice a year in February/March and September/October, this is where the biggest Italian fashion names premier their seasonal lines.
The fashion industry is so important to Italy, it has its own National Chamber of Italian Fashion, the Cama Nazionale di la Moda Italiana. For the English version, click HERE.
Another Fashion event that happens in Rome, Florence and Milan is Vogue magazine’s Fashion Night Out held in September. Stores are open late into the night with fashion shows and cocktail parties spilling into the streets.
Umbria: Cashmere, pottery, handwoven textiles
Venice: Murano glass and artisan carnival masks
Naples: Handcrafted umbrellas, ties, musical instruments, nativity scene figures
Amalfi Coast: Ceramics, handmade paper, leather sandals.
Outside of the big name shops hours can be capricious at best. Smaller boutiques tend to close in the middle of the day opening again in late afternoon. In summer evening hours can be longer and note that many business close for part of the month of August.
Cash is king
Italy is a cash culture. Only in the large stores and big names will you find it easy to use a credit card.
Unlike in North America where markdowns and sales occur throughout the year, sales in Italy are strictly regulated and only happen two times a year. The Sales – Saldi in Italian – happen in July and and January with slightly different starting dates depending on the part of the country. Italians take the sales seriously, lining up before opening for the big names. Discounts can be significant, usually about starting at 30% and increasing as the sales period progresses. Selection is best at the beginning and prices are best at the end.
The price you see is the price you pay. IVA (sales tax) is already added to the price tag. A refund is available to all non-EU residents, if you spend 154.94 in one day per store.
Look for the a "Euro Tax Free" sign on the store window or door. Request a form from the store, you will submit the forms , with your passport number, at the airport where your goods will be inspected and your refund issued.
Feeling the need for some heavy duty shopping in a far away land? The great news is that we have been organizing amazing shopping tours in Italy for years and we are ready to help you organize yours.