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Designer Products Made in Italy

Italy sets the standards for all things stylish, elegant and of top quality. Fashion and clothing, leather, home design, ceramics, jewelry, gold, silver, lace, glassware, crystal, chocolates, food items, art, sculpture, woodworking and even automobiles are all products that Italy takes great pride in being recognized as the best. In the past twenty years the rest of the world has seen an explosion in the popularity of Italian products and lifestyle. Products with "Made in Italy" on the label signify a sense of workmanship and care that products from other countries just can’t match.

One misconception is that most of these items are less expensive in Italy than they are in the U.S. or Canada. The truth is shoppers have to compare prices on a case-by-case basis. Believe it or not many of the label products from Italian designers are just as expensive in Italy as they are in the U.S.

The cost of shipping and taxes from customs can account for as much as 25% of a designer product (Italian stores know that tourists are under the impression that items are less expensive in Italy so they, in turn, raise the prices so that they are about the same, perhaps a few dollars less). The only real savings by foreign consumers, especially from the U.S. and England, is due to the favorable exchange rate. In the end visitors from the U.S. can save about 15% on designer label clothes. The real bargains can be found in their jewelry and leather goods.

Official site for U.S. Customs:  http://www.customs.gov/about/about.htm

Shopping in Italy is an adventure unto itself. Visitors in Italy will generally experience two kinds of shopping. Market shopping, where knowing how to haggle is your best form of payment and shopping at Italy’s luxury stores. You’ll find the largest variety of luxury stores in the biggest cities: Rome, Milan, Florence, Venice, and Naples. These are the places with the most money and tourism. Each city offers a different specialty item that may not be available in another area of Italy.

Boutiques and independent brand name stores are the norm in Italy. Walking from store to store is half of the experience. Unlike the U.S. Italy doesn’t have very many shopping malls or department store chains. There are a few upper scale department stores like "Rinascente", which is the best and classiest. Another store, "Coin", also carries a wide selection of fashionable products. "Upim" and "Standa" are more like Italy’s version of a Kmart, and carry more of an everyday household selection.

Rome, with all of its history and Roman structures has a multitude of stores that specialize in antique items, hand painted art, and sculptures (the down side of top quality Italian workmanship is that when it comes to antiques and hand made specialty items, Italians are masters at making replicas. Be sure to ask for a certificate of authenticity when shopping for antiques). Also be prepared to pay a customs tax on antiques and artwork where entering your country. Reputable shop owners can give you specific details. Items are classified by customs and differ in the amount of tax to be paid on each.

Milan, otherwise referred to as the fashion capital, boasts designer stores from all of the top names in fashion and are generally all within walking distance from each other. Along with the more popular names what you should really look for are the smaller designers. They usually do all of their manufacturing locally if not in house and take a little extra care in the final product as to how it looks on you. Don’t be surprised to see the designers themselves in the store.

Florence is Italy’s jewelry and leather capital. The Ponte Vecchio is lined with one jewelry store after another. Their prices are somewhat inflated because they are in a very famous high traffic area, but they too have a wide selection as well as a favorable exchange rate. People paying in U.S. dollars generally get a better deal compared to stores in the states, although jewelry stores are scattered throughout the city you may find a better deal a little further away from the bridge. Leather stores can be found all over the city. Be sure to inspect the items thoroughly before you purchase them.

Venice is Italy’s glass and lace capital. Glass made on the nearby island of Murano is brought to the main city and sold by individual glass and crystal shops. Murano glass is the most popular in the world and can range from being very plain and reasonably priced to being very exotic and expensive. Lace throughout Venice works on the same principal; it is hand-made on the island of Burano and shipped into the main city. Again the prices range according to style (for a little better price visitors to Venice may want to take a ferry to the islands of Murano or Burano, not only for the products but also to visit the different sites the islands have to offer).

Naples is Italy’s capital in the south in the highly agricultural region of Campania. It controls the commerce of not only its region, but also those surrounding it. The result is that Naples is the center for agricultural trade in all of Italy. Visitors to the area can enjoy gourmet quality foods, pastas, olive oils, wines etc. far less expensive than they would be in the U.S.

Sicily/Amalfi coast, although almost opposite to each other in terms of economics both produce some of Italy’s finest hand painted ceramic pieces. For the most part they can be reasonably priced but keep in mind that it may be easier to allow the merchant to ship the item back through the mail or special delivery service. In which case you may have to wait up to six week for the item. This may still be easier than carrying around a breakable item.

*Shipping items back by mail or delivery service requires items to pass through customs the same as though you would have brought them back yourself. U.S. Customs allows up to $200 on personal items and up to $100 on gift items to pass duty free. As long as there are not multiple packages to the same address shipped on the same day.

For more information:  http://www.customs.gov/travel/travel.htm

Useful Information

Size Conversion Chart

Women’s Clothing Sizes (dresses, coats, skirts)
Italian:  36 38 40 42 44 46 48 50  
U.S.:  4 6 8 10 12 14 16 18  
U.K.:  6 8 10 12 14 16 18 20  

Women's Shoes
Italian:  36 37 38 39 40 41      
U.S.:  5 6 7 8 9 10      
U.K.:  3 4 5 6 7 8      

Men's Shirts
Italian: 36 38 39 41 42 43 44 45 (cm)
U.S.: 14 15 15½ 16 16½ 17 17½ 18 (inches)
U.K.: 14 15 15½ 16 16½ 17 17½ 18 (inches)

Men's Suits
Italian: 42 44 46 48 50 52 54 56 (cm)
U.S.: 32 34 36 38 40 42 44 46 (inches)
U.K.: 32 34 36 38 40 42 44 46 (inches)

Men's Shoes
Italian: 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46  
U.S.: 7 8 10½ 11 11½  
U.K.: 6 7 8 9 10 11 12  


Opening hours - Most shops open from 8:30-9am to 12:30-1pm and 3:30-4pm to 7:30-8pm. Although in the center of large towns and cities, shops usually remain open at lunchtime. In northern Italy, shops often take a shorter midday break and close earlier. Late-night shopping is frequent in seaside resorts. Many tourist resorts have an open-air market once or twice a week.

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