Leisure and shopping in Rome Italy.
Shopping in Rome Italy: Below you will find tips & advice straight from the mouth of a recovering shopaholic, my wife Sara, and I use the word "recovering" tentatively...
Do I need to mention that Italian designers are renowned for their exquisite and luxurious designs? Whether it be fashion, knitwear, leather merchandise (especially handbags and shoes), jewellery, ceramics, you name it, tradition and high standards are entrenched.
Rome is not a city of bargains, but it is true that prices and options are better at the source than overseas, plus most times Rome has better value than Milan, Florence and other cities in the North of Italy.
What should you look out for when shopping in Rome Italy?
Well that depends on your tastes, but the big draw cards are:
Leather hand bags by Francesco Biasia,La Gioe di Toscana(young colors and original designs) and then Baggalini has a well priced versatile range of daily bags
for men's Italian dress shoes Dolce & Gabbana have the best selection
with ladies shoes Diego di Lucca, and Pelle Moda
will cater for various styles and budgets
in fine Italian lingerie
La Perla is extremely popular for both quality and price.
men's belts Fossil and Dolce & Gabbana and lady's belts Linea Pelle
jewellery/jewelry: Pendants by Damiani and then bracelets and pendants by Roberto Coin whose designs are young original and easier on the credit card
Men's Haurex watches and lady's Haurex charm watches
Italian glass jewelry by Murano is exquisite and realistically priced
For those one off artifacts and antiquities the little alleys of Campo de Fiori, Piazza Navona, Pantheon and Trevi Fountain area are exciting and usually reveal some unusual and unique items that you would probably not have encountered elsewhere.
Shopping in Rome Italy: Sales (saldi)
The best time for sales in Rome (i saldi) are between the 6th January and 28th February (unofficially until mid March) and then between mid July and mid September. Discounts usually range from 20% to 50%, and increase towards the end of the sales periods. Sometimes good discounts can also be found on the larger Italian sizes (shoes for example); Italians in general are smaller than the Northern Europeans and citizens of the ex-colonies.
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Shopping in Rome Italy: Opening hours and etiquette
General opening hours in Rome are from 9Am to 1Pm and from 3.30Pm to 7:30Pm. However in the center, and especially the popular areas, it's common to find many shops open throughout the day and on Sundays as well.
Some of the smaller shops will be closed the first 2 or 3 weeks in August.
The general rule of thumb is that "la bella figura" (outward appearance) applies. The smarter you dress the better your service will be.
It's common to first try items, as refunds (rimborsi) are very rarely given - perhaps for factory damaged goods. In the case of exchanges (cambi) the item(s) must be returned within 7 days with the sales slip.
VAT Refunds: Remember non-EU citizens can obtain a VAT (IVA in Italy) refund which could be anywhere between 12% and 35 % (on luxury goods), however, if you would like to skip the lengthy bureaucratic process then a good option are shops displaying a "Euro Free Tax" sign. The shop will deduct the IVA then and there and handle the paperwork.
Shopping in Rome Italy: Formal shopping
The most popular areas for formal shopping in Rome Italy would be the combined Piazza di Spagna (Spanish Steps) and Piazza del Popolo zones (see their maps).
Via del Corso, which bisects the 2 areas, and Via Condotti, which runs from the Spanish steps to Via del Corso, are the 2 biggest shopping streets. Via Condotti and the beginning of Via del Corso (Piazza del Popolo end) are also closed to normal traffic.
This is Italian big brand shopping at its best. Do expect to abuse the credit card a little, but hey, cowboys don't cry.
The image on the left shows the entrance to Via dei Condotti (standing with one's back to the Spanish Steps). Some of the biggest names in fashion and design are represented in this street.
Via del Babuino
Within a very short space, in fact less than the length of your credit card bill, you will see brands like Bulgari,Armani, Cartier, Louis Vuitton, Damiani, Prada, Gucci, Valentino, Dior, YvesSaintLaurent and Dolce & Gabbana!
(which runs from the Spanish Steps to Piazza del Popolo) and many of the streets which run off it, are packed with antiquities, art shops and artisan showrooms. This street is ideal for the adventure shopper.
Via Cola di Rienzo (running from Piazza del Popolo across the Tiber (Tevere) river to Piazza Risorgimento) is also an option but perhaps only if you are staying around the Vatican area.
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Shopping in Rome Italy: Unique items.
Antiquities, boutiques, artisan and art shops.
For creative, funky, and adventure packed shopping the Trastevere (probably the best) Campo de Fiori and Piazza Navona and their adjoining side streets offer plenty of rewards and excitement. There is a vast array of art, artisan and antiquity shops displaying everything from old Roman stamp collections, jewellery, priests clothing and knights armour to porcelain figurines, wine and vintage clothing.
The problem is not whether you'll find something interesting but rather how you're eventually going to stop yourself.
It's no secret that the Campo de Fiori area, along with Navona and Trastevere, are my three favorite areas. Your experience here will be of authentic Rome. Large portions of the area are closed to traffic and walking through the cobbled alleyways is exciting and rewarding.
Shopping in Rome Italy: Informal markets.
The most interesting and popular market by far is the one at Piazza di Campo de Fiori (square of Campo de Fiori). It's a very colorful market with respect to both products and people. Here you will catch a glimpse of Italian culture from past generations. Open every morning, it's an excellent example of Romans being very Roman. Many go just to soak up the atmosphere.
Porta Portese, located in Via Portuense (lower Trastevere area) is more rough and ready. Mostly clothing and antiquities are sold, open only Sunday mornings from 7Am until 2Pm. One doesn't go there for the sights, but the sounds and action are worth it.
Via Sannio is situated in the San Giovanni area. It is the road just outside and running parallel to the city wall. There is a busy flea market selling clothes, shoes, hand bags etc. The stalls are mostly covered so they operate throughout the year. The prices are reasonable (certainly better than the center of Rome) and the quality is good. The market is open every day except Sundays from 7Am until 2Pm.
Via Sannio runs off Via Appia Nuova (new Appian way/road). Via Appia Nuova is another commercial hive worth exploring. Here you will find smaller brand names at prices more accommodating than in the center of Rome.
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Shopping in Rome Italy: Outlets
The most popular outlet is the newly built Castel Romano, towards Pomezia (west of Rome towards the coast), it's a great option if you are looking for big Italian brands (the ones you loved in Via del Corso just before your credit card melted) at discount prices. This is extremely popular with the Romans, it's like a little open air shopping village.
The managers are Mc Arthur Glen and if you contact them by mail beforehand they will let you know which stores are/will be running specials. English language link: McArthurGlen.
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