When in Rome, prepare to spend!
If you are an American heading to Rome for vacation and you plan to shop, prepare to spend. You will not find many deals in this ancient city. The key fashion houses aren’t based here (like they’re in Milan and Paris), and Rome is more of a draw for tourists, so you’ll be able to expect the costs to match those present in high-end stores within the States. And with the weak dollar, you’ll find yourself spending nearly double that amount. When i visited Rome in March, the exchange rate was $1.58 to the almighty euro. Ouch.
While it’d make you are feeling like somewhat of a have-not, it is still fun to walk by the designer shops like Prada, Gucci and Ferragamo along Via dei Condotti near the Spanish Steps, or Via Bocca di Leone, where you will find Fendi, Versace, Valentino, and Moschino. If you retain going past the spendy shops you may run into Via del Corso … and consequently more affordable, trendy shopping like Zara.
Other places of note include Via Nazionale, where you’ll be able to browse a wide range of shops, like Max Mara, that sell reasonably priced merchandise.
I also found some cute shops with reasonable prices near the Pantheon and near the Hotel Eden (which has an incredible view of Rome) in the upper Via Veneto district. You really just must wander the streets in those areas (it’s a small enough area to do so).
If all the couture gazing has you feeling blue, sign up for a tour to one of many local designer outlet malls. Many hotels offer these tours. McArthurGlen Designer Outlet in Castel Romano is a popular outlet, although I did not make it on the market personally. There are 95 shops including Etro, D&G, F.lli Rossetti, Moreschi, Mariella Burani, Calvin Klein, and La Perla-all at discount rates.
Leather goods in Italy
Italy is understood for its leather and you will discover it in abundance virtually everywhere you turn. Glove emporiums line the busy streets and side streets. I did not find any incredibly cheap-between 50-80 euro, which is much more when you factor within the conversion rate but if you’re used to dropping $300-400 on leather gloves in the States, then go for it. You might want to carry off on buying leather goods in Rome, though.
Now if you’re in search of good deals on high-quality leather, head straight to Florence. Hop on a high-speed train and an hour and a half later you may be in leather paradise. I picked up a gorgeous lambskin motorcycle jacket (which are really hot right now) for 80 euros and a calfskin doctor’s bag (aka satchel) for 50 euros. One note of caution, book your train ticket ahead of time and do not, and i repeat don’t, miss your train! If you do, you may end up sitting on the floor in between cars next to the bathroom (I speak from experience).
Taking the metro is a cheap strategy to get around the town. Before you enter the station be certain you’ve gotten change for the ticket machines because there are no change or cash machines. And naturally, keep a close guard in your wallets or purses. I did not have any problems but you never know. In bigger stations like Termini be weary of gypsies who do a great job of distracting you with ademant pleas for spare change. Tell them “no” firmly and hold on to your belongings. They’re professionals at this and you may easily get taken advantage of while digging through your bag for money.
Shopping in Italy
Shops do not always hold consistent hours, especially the smaller boutiques on side streets. So in case you walk by a store and tell yourself you’ll catch it on the way in which back from lunch or sight seeing, my advice isn’t to wait! It’s possible you’ll return to discover a Closed sign on the door. Many shops close during lunch, from 1:30-3:30 or 2-4 pm (don’t you wish we could take two hour lunches?). Should you see the sign, “Chiuso per Ferie” it means the shop is closed for vacation. August is a well-liked time for Romans to leave town to escape the oppressive heat.
If you enter a shop in Italy, try to follow some traditional customs. Say “Buon giorno” (good morning) or “Buona sera” (Good evening). “Quanto costa?” means “How much does it cost?”
In Italy, and in all EU counties that I’m aware of, Americans are entitled to a refund of the “VAT” (Value Added Tax) but it’s essential to spend no less than 155 euro in one store. Many stores will write up the paperwork for you that you just might want to present to Customs before leaving Italy. You will need to show your passport in order for the store clerk to complete the form. At the airport, go to the worldwide Refund Office. Search for stores with signs that say “Europe Tax Free” or “Global Refund” but many stores will know what to do even if it’s not posted within the window.