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Shopping in Rome

When in Rome, prepare to spend!

If you’re an American heading to Rome for vacation and you plan to shop, prepare  to spend. You won’t find many deals in this ancient city. The major fashion houses aren’t based here (like they are in Milan and Paris), and Rome is more of a draw for tourists, so you can expect the prices to match those found in high-end stores in the States. And with the weak dollar, you’ll end up spending nearly double that amount. When I visited Rome in March, the exchange rate was $1.58 to the almighty euro. Ouch.

240x240_19b22c09af0a0278b65e9d4885d While it Via_del_corso_2 might make you feel like somewhat of a have-not, it’s 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’ll find Fendi, Versace, Valentino, and Moschino. If you keep going past the spendy shops you’ll run into Via del Corso … and consequently more affordable, trendy shopping like Zara.

Other places of note include Via Nazionale, where you can browse a variety of shops, like Max Mara, that sell reasonably priced merchandise. C_1_2

I also found some cute shops with reasonable prices near the Pantheon and near the Hotel Eden (which has an amazing view of Rome) in the upper Via Veneto district. You really just have to wander the streets in those areas (it’s a small enough area to do so).

If all of the couture gazing has you feeling blue, sign up for a tour to one of the local designer outlet malls. Many hotels offer these tours. McArthurGlen Designer Outlet in Castel Romano is a popular outlet, although I didn’t make it out there 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 known for its leather and you can find it in abundance virtually everywhere you turn. Glove emporiums line the busy streets and side streets. I didn’t find any incredibly cheap—between 50-80 euro, which is a lot more once you factor in 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 hold off on buying leather goods in Rome, though.

Now if you’re looking for good deals on high-quality leather, head straight to Florence. Hop on a high-speed train and an hour and a half later you’ll 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 do not, miss your train! If you do, you could end up sitting on the floor in between cars next to the bathroom (I speak from experience).

Taking the metro is a cheap way to get around the city. Before you enter the station make sure you have change for the ticket machines because there are no change or cash machines. And of course, keep a close guard on your wallets or purses. I didn’t have any problems but you never know. In bigger stations like Termini be weary of gypsies who do a good job of distracting you with ademant pleas for spare change. Tell them “no” firmly and hold on to your belongings. They are professionals at this and you can easily get taken advantage of while digging through your bag for money.

Shopping in Italy

Vianazionale0010sShops don’t always hold consistent hours, especially the smaller boutiques on side streets. So if you walk by a shop and tell yourself you’ll catch it on the way back from lunch or sight seeing, my advice is not to wait! You may return to find 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?). If you see the sign, “Chiuso per Ferie” it means the shop is closed for vacation. August is a popular time for Romans to leave town to escape the oppressive heat.

When 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?”

Tax Refunds

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 you must spend at least 155 euro in one store. Many stores will write up the paperwork for you that you will need to present to Customs before leaving Italy. You must show your passport in order for the store clerk to complete the form. At the airport, go to the Global Refund Office. Look 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 in the window.

Happy shopping!

::Amy Covington for The Divas Dreams

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