Italy is, for many people, synonymous with fashion. It’s only logical, therefore, to incorporate a bit of shopping into any trip to Italy. But between the often not-so-fantastic exchange rate with the euro and the high price tags of the top Italian designers, coming home with much more than a single fashion purchase can be a challenge if you’re not traveling with a big budget. Most Italians don’t buy brand name clothing at the flagship stores in Milan, however – and you don’t have to, either.
Outlet shopping may seem like it’s not very Italian, but Italians want to look good without spending a fortune – just like the rest of us. Not only that, Italians are great bargain hunters. So following the lead of the locals when it comes to shopping can be a very smart move.
There are a couple of options when it comes to outlet shopping in Italy. In cities like Milan (where women really do spend huge amounts of money on their wardrobes every year and where many of Italy’s big fashion houses are based) there are designer outlets that have, in some cases, last season’s looks from the top designers available at a huge discount. You still might pay €100 for a garment, but when the regular price was once €900 or more that’s a helluva sale.
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The other way to do outlet shopping in Italy is to go to the Italian equivalent of outlet malls – oh, yes, they exist. These are typically not in big cities, and in some cases they’re quite difficult to reach if you don’t have a car. But if you’re bringing an empty suitcase just to fill it up with Italian fashions and you don’t want to pay full price, then perhaps renting a car is worth it.
Your next challenge is to find the designer outlets in Italy – it’s trickier than it sounds.
There are several online resources for finding out where the outlet shops are in Italy. Some of them are in Italian only, some of them require a paid membership to get access to the full list of outlets, some are incomplete or out of date. But maybe that’s part of the thrill of the chase for the true bargain hunter – cobbling together bits of information from various sources to complete a picture of how to reach the various factory outlets in Italy that you want to visit, and bringing home the spoils of your conquests.
Here are some resources I’ve found for Italy outlet shopping – if you know of others, please let me know in the comments below.
Finding Outlets in Italy
- Factory Outlets Italy – This site requires a membership (€24/year at the time of this writing) to access the list of 2200+ outlets in Italy, and appears to be based in Australia. Without paying a membership fee you can see some information for a selection of the outlets, however, broken down by region.
- Italy Factory Outlet – This site requires a one-time payment (€10 at the time of this writing) to get a list of the factory outlets in Italy, including how to reach them and their open hours. They also organize personalized tours of the factory outlets that come with a car and driver, which you can book by the day (€600/day at the time of this writing).
- Outlet Centers Info – This site is all in Italian, but it’s broken down by region and then province, so as long as you know what region and province you’re looking for you should be able to get to the list. From there, knowing Italian will definitely be helpful – although you can click on each outlet’s name to get an address. There’s no information about how to get to each outlet, so you’re on your own with the address, but it’s a start.
- Ciao Darling Factory Outlet Shopping – I have trouble looking at this site for too long without feeling like the guy in the picture is staring at me too much, but the listings provided (a very incomplete list) are decent. The site’s author has compiled information for some of the most popular outlets in Italy, including how to reach them.
- Designer Outlets in Italy – Blogging pal Melanie at Italofile cleverly grabbed a list of fashion outlets that Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera put together on their website (lest the list disappear eventually). Although it’s far from a complete list, and it dates from several years ago, it’s a good reference point since many of these shops don’t move much.
photo by Andrew Milligan Sumo