Italy is among the world’s finest playgrounds and this includes the shops. Italian goods, even knock-offs, are outstanding quality and despite their higher prices you can rest assured that you are getting an outstanding deal for your money. Shopping in Italy does have it’s own culture, however, so it is best to start your expedition armed with knowledge about the goods, service and best practices.
You might be used to stores opening early and staying open late, but in Italy, there is a much more relaxed pace to life – including shops. The stores generally open around 9am and then close a bit after noon. They reopen at 3 and stay open until 8 or 9pm. If you plan to take a full day of shopping, you can also plan for a leisurely lunch and a nap in the afternoon. Don’t plan to shop long hours on Monday either as many shops are closed on Monday mornings as well.
Italians aren’t highly offended if you refuse to haggle over prices the way others are, they quite enjoy it if you pay sticker price. However, most items you buy in Italy you can get at a nice discount if you take the time to haggle a bit over prices. Shops or market stands all can offer discounts usually, and don’t use your trump card until the final (or almost final) price has been set. Set a price and then ask what the price would be if you happened to pay cash. You can expect another 10-20% off for cash in hand.
Italian women will rarely enter a store unless they like what the see in the window. Window shopping is serious business in Italy and you can shop for a day without ever setting foot inside a store. Look for windows that truly dazzle as these products are usually of the highest quality. Obvious window displays usually showcase the less expensive goods.
The sales in Italy are standardized by the government. For example, winter sales begin immediately following January 1. Stores caught offering sales outside of this time can be penalized with fines. There are outlet stores for many of the top Italian shops such as Gucci, Armani and Valentino. These stores are scattered throughout the country, but you can find many on the outskirts of Florence. Finally, if you are tempted by the high quality reproductions of designer clothing and bags, don’t indulge. You might pay only 15€ for a fake Gucci bag, but if caught you can be fined up to 5,000€!