You might be surprised to hear that in Italy, bargains are in the bag on Florentine leather and designer goods—and not just because of a favorable exchange rate. These days, it’s la dolce vita for Florence-bound fashionistas, thanks to an abundance of street markets and upscale outlet malls. Here’s how to get the best deals on fashion on your next Italy trip.
On the streets
Head to the area around Mercato Centrale, where you’ll find a maze of street vendors selling everything from tchotchkes and sweatshirts to leather belts, purses and jackets. While you can find some bargains, you really need to know your fashion—and your real versus synthetic leather—to avoid getting ripped off.
TIP Never pay full price at this market. Vendors will often quote a price twice as high as what they are willing to take. Bargain and if you can’t get your price, be ready to walk away.
At the mall
If you’re looking for the highest of high-end fashion, head to The Mall Outlet, southeast of Florence. Dedicated to primo luxury brands, shops at The Mall sells everything from clothing and shoes to jewelry, cosmetics and sexy lingerie. A 40-minute drive in a luxury double decker bus travels through the Tuscan countryside to this mecca of fashion. About 36 brands—only luxury and mostly Italian—are here, including Roberto Cavalli, Salvatore Ferragamo and La Perla. Non-Italian brands with notable pedigrees, like Tom Ford, Lanvin and Tag Heuer, are in the market, too.
TIP The Gucci Caffè is located within its namesake’s giant store. It’s a good place to enjoy culinary delights in a tres-chic setting.
Out of town
Located 30 miles north of Florence via shuttle bus, Barberino Designer Outlet is more like the standard discount mall often found in North America. Outlet regulars like Adidas, Tommy Hilfilger and Samsonite are all on-site, with a few Italian brands like Furla and Dolce & Gabbana thrown in for good measure. In all, Barberino has about 100 stores to shop.
TIP Visitors from outside the EU can claim back VAT, or value added tax, for single-store purchases above 155 euros.