When visiting Italy, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed with the massive amounts of merchandise that you feel compelled to buy. Should you splurge for the leather bag? How much wine should you really bring back to the US? After all, who doesn’t want to come back from a trip abroad with gifts for all of your friends and family?
It’s always fun to receive a compliment on something you purchased abroad that inspires a story or memory from your trip. I brought Matt a golf towel from St. Andrew’s in Scotland that has inspired many conversations while playing golf. My mom tells this story about how my grandmother purchased a door in Italy and had it shipped home to the States which I’m sure was a great addition to their home. My mug from the Guinness Storehouse always reminds me of the time that my brother and I were late and had to sweet talk our way onto a charter bus to make our cruise ship in Dublin.
It’s important to know ahead of time what you’re looking for when you’re shopping abroad. You don’t want to waste money on something that you can pick up in the states, and you especially want to make sure that you’re purchasing something unique to your destination (seriously when I was in Italy, I saw wine for sale that was made in San Francisco- imagine bringing that home from your trip without realizing it).
It’s important to know what you’re getting into before you pull out your wallet, which is why I’ve written this guide to help the shop-a-holic in everyone with navigating the shopping scene in Italy.
Florence: Leather goods and shoes
Florence is famous for its leather goods, and this is likely the #1 things that tourists want to purchase when visiting Italy. When looking for leather goods, be sure you are very specific and vigilant when making purchases. There are street vendors and overpriced stores everywhere, and a good deal really may be too good to be true.
It’s important to specify what you are looking for, to ensure that it is 100% authentic leather, that the leather is from Italy, and that the product was manufactured in Italy (you would think that these three things are no-brainers, but do not underestimate the measures that people will go to in order to rip off a tourist).
Check out the San Lorenzo Market, Giorgio 1966, or Pierotucci for a variety of leather shopping options. You can even watch them make the leather goods at Pierotucci!
Rome: Clothing and leather goods
It doesn’t take a fashion expert to know that Rome is one of the fashion capitals of the world. Unlike Milan, Rome’s clothing shopping scene is not limited to the famous designers. Rome has many popular thrift stores, inexpensive boutiques, and of course, the extremely high-end stores. There is no limit to the fashion finds available in Rome!
Like Florence, Rome is also a great place to find leather goods, and we found them to be a bit cheaper at the street vendors. As always, be cautious to be sure you’re buying authentic leather goods.
Amalfi Coast: Limoncello and ceramics
If you’ve ever driven the Amalfi Coast, you’ll understand how Limoncello is such a popular souvenir in this region. The miles and miles of lemon trees growing along the coast. This liquor is produced with the peels of lemons in all towns of the Amalfi Coast, and your trip will be incomplete without visiting a factory.
As you drive through the Amalfi Coast, you’ll see charming little ceramic tiles and dishes, and the geographic location of these towns make them the prime location for the production of ceramics. The limestone and clay in this region and its proximity to volcanoes allow for the production of these gorgeous pieces of art that are sure to complete your home or make a great gift to bring back.
Positano: Sandals and paper goods
Positano is positioned along the Amalfi Coast, and is the perfect place to find some custom made sandals. Just wander into town, and you’ll see hundreds of sandals in various stores. Leather is easy to come by for this region, so you’re sure to get a good deal if you keep a look out.
A little known fact is that Positano is also known for its paper goods, and you can find some great stationary and paper calendars. I cannot resist these beautiful stationary sets, and these make for great gifts for your friends at home!
Venice: Venetian glass and masks
Venetian glass is actually produced in Murano, but is called Venetian glass due to the growth of Venice as a major port city. You can buy all sorts of glass products or jewelry made from glass, and it is nothing less than beautiful. Be sure to look for the “Vetro Murano Artistico” decal to be sure you’re purchasing authentic goods!
As for the masks, you’ll have to be sure to purchase these at authentic mask makers shops. Due to the massive amounts of tourism that Venice receives each year, there are way too many street vendors selling cheap replicas. If you are just looking for a gift, that’s perfectly fine to buy a cheaper replica, but if you are looking for the real deal, be sure to go to the source.
Milan: Clothing from fashion designers’ flagship stores
Anybody interested in fashion knows that Milan is a major city for fashion. Many major designers still have their headquarters in Milan, and a trip to Milan is a great opportunity to purchase clothing directly from the flagship stores. While you can always visit Prada, you should also visit the outlets near the corso Vittorio Emanuele II where the Milanese shop. You’re more likely to blend in and get a great deal in the process.
Naples: Nativity scenes
Many do not know that St. Francis actually created the concept of the nativity scene in Assisi. If you visit Naples during Christmastime, you can see hundreds of nativity scenes, live and inanimate, including the world’s largest nativity scene at the Museo Nazionale di San Martino. If you enjoy decorating your home with nativity scenes during the holidays, this would be a great place to add one to your collection.
Home of Brunello Cucinelli, a world famous cashmere brand, and over 500 other cashmere manufacturers, Umbria has no limit to the number of outlets and shops where you can purchase cashmere. Take a look around and you won’t be surprised why they call Umbria the Cashmere Valley.
Is there anything specific that you’ve found a great deal on in Italy? Have a great purchase that you’re proud of and love? Tell me about it in the comments!
Danielle Farideh Guy
September 25, 2017