Italy — Shopping and Leisure
Italy is every fashionista’s dream, and Milan is the world’s fashion hub, with its annual catwalks and designer shows now more popular than those in Paris. Fashion in all Italy’s great cities starts at the malls, continues with up-and-coming boutiques and ends in the city markets with bargains galore on clothes, shoes, purses and jewelry. For shopping in general, Milan, Florence and Rome are the hotspots, with untold miles of stores selling everything from food and wine through souvenirs, artwork, ceramics handicrafts, accessories, chic homewares and the latest designs from the Milan collections.
In Rome, the high end boutique area surrounds the Spanish Steps, with flagship stores for Italian designers lining the streets. Via Condotti is another hub for aspirational shopping and haute couture, and the boutiques along Via Sistina, Via Borgognona and Via Frattina hold great clothes at more affordable prices. Regular Romans shop along the Via del Corso, a mile-long street packed with shoe stores, department stores and cool brands such as Benetton and Diesel.
Antiques-lovers should head to the Porta Portese flea market, the largest in Italy, and for bargain fashions, more delicious shoes, and accessories, Via Sannio market is the place to be. Bargain hunting is best in January and July, when the boutiques offer discounts up to 70% off. Year-round deals can be found at the factory outlets in the suburbs south of the EUR district and off the Naples Autostrada to the south of the city. The Valmontone Fashion Outlet offers a shuttle bus from Via Montana 29.
Florence is known for its artisan crafts, leather products and superbly designed gold jewelry, with the Via Tornabuoni area in the Santa Maria Novella district best for high end couture. For homewares, affordable fashions and stylish accessories, head for the streets around the Piazza della Republica. For bargains, Florence has a plethora of street markets with Mercato Centrale the most famous where you’ll find delicious foods, leather goods, ceramics and fashions. For antiques and linens, the Tuesday market at the Parco delle Cascine won’t disappoint.
The haute couture paradise of Milan is a powerhouse of Italian fashion, and it’s all centered in the Quadrilatero d’Oro in the city center. ‘So last season’ means a month ago in regards what’s hot, with upscale catwalk cast-offs and overstocked items packing the outlets, second hand and factory stores. Quality and choice are second to none, and label haters should head for the alternative stores lining Corso di Porta Ticinese and Corso Vercelli.
For a landmark experience in Italy capped with shopping, albeit at high prices, the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is a glorious, glass-roofed arcade dating back to the late 1800’s and home to outlets for Gucci, Prada and other top brands. Milan’s markets are as spectacular as the city, with Fiera di Sinigaglia a favorite for craftwork and the monthly Mercatone del Naviglio Grande specializing in antiques, homewares, jewelry and books.