Whether or not you’re a hard core shopper back home, shopping tends to be one of the things on most peoples’ to-do lists when they travel – whether it’s to bring trinkets back for friends and family back home or to collect souvenirs to remember your trip. When you’re talking about visiting a country like Italy, shopping while on holiday is exponentially more interesting.
Where to Go Shopping in Italy
Pretty much everywhere you go throughout the country there will be some shopping opportunities – after all, shopping isn’t just a vacation pastime, it’s something the residents need to do, too.
In larger cities you’ll find department stores, boutique shops, and periodic open-air markets. In smaller cities and towns you might not find the big department stores, and not every small town has its own market, but then there’s usually one in a nearby town.
The deals are apt to be infinitely better at the open-air markets and sometimes at the small shops than the department stores, although with the markets you’ll need to bring cash (most vendors don’t accept credit cards).
When to Go Shopping in Italy
Shopping opportunities are available year-round in Italy – even the open-air markets run all winter long – so you’ll be able to hunt around for that perfect souvenir no matter when you visit. There are a couple times of year, however, when it’s particularly fun to go shopping.
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Unlike in some countries where individual shops are able to put merchandise on sale whenever they like, in Italy there are two official six-week-long sales periods every year when all the shops throughout the country offer steep discounts on their wares. The sales are roughly six months apart – one in winter and one in summer – and although the dates vary each year, the winter sales start in early January and the summer sales start in early July.
Some Italians wait to do their shopping for big-ticket items like designer clothes or furniture until the sales season begins, so the beginning of each sales period can be hectic. The deals are excellent, though, so if you’re a good competitive shopper at home you’ll fit right in. Later in each sales period the deals often get better, but the selection gets seriously depleted, so it’s a bit of a trade-off.
What to Buy in Italy
In Florence you can pick up a miniature David and in Venice you can find model gondolas – those tourist-oriented knick-knacks are available anywhere there’s a tourist attraction, and if that’s what you want to go home with you won’t be disappointed at the variety. There are so many other things to bring home from an Italy trip, however, it’s a shame to limit yourself.
Each region usually has something that makes it famous – whether it’s brightly-painted pottery from Deruta or ornately-printed paper from Florence – and finding out what’s made locally can be a great way to not only support local artisans but also bring home something special from your trip. There’s no way to list all of the various products and goods you could shop for in Italy, but there are entire books written on this topic alone that you can refer to:
- Made in Italy: A Shopper’s Guide to Italy’s Best Artisanal Traditions
- The Civilized Shopper’s Guide to Rome
- The Civilized Shopper’s Guide to Florence
- Outlet Shopping in Italy
- Best Places to Do Holiday Shopping in Italy
- Leather Shopping in Florence
- How to Get a VAT Refund in Italy
- Fair Warning: Don’t Buy Fakes in Italy