The summer sale season has begun in Italy, a country where driving is largely anarchical yet periods in which stores can hold sales are highly regulated region by region. There are two officially sanctioned periods each year – summer and winter – during which almost all stores hold a massive clearance sale lasting from a few weeks to two months, making space for the following season’s new arrivals and throwing bargain-hunting Italians into a shopping frenzy.
Photo by Concierge in Umbria via Flickr
There are incredible deals to be found during the sale seasons, especially for those with a bit of patience who can hold out to the final days when stores offer up to 80% off their normal prices in a final push to clear their stock. However, if you are not traveling during these magical weeks, you will probably not stumble upon surprise bargains; shops are only allowed to advertise special offers in very specific cases (going out of business sales, for example).
There is another way to unearth some excellent bargains all year round, however: outlets. Outlet shopping is somewhat new to Italy, and generally involves a bit of detective work. Most outlets are located on the outskirts of cities, either grouped into shopping centers or adjacent to the company’s factory, and cannot be reached on foot or by public transportation. Shopping centers also have food courts or informal restaurants and can take an entire day to explore; factory stores or outlets are anywhere from mid-sized to tiny and can be perused in an hour or two. Though some mid-level brands in Italy have outlet stores, most carry high-end and luxury brands so even if the prices are much lower than boutiques, you may still be surprised. That Prada purse may be 50% off, but half of €5,000 is still €2,500!
Here are a few of the most popular outlet stores and centers in Italy. Happy shopping!
Unique in its central location in Milan, this popular outlet store carries the most recognized luxury labels under one roof: Alberta Ferretti, Armani, Cavalli, Dolce & Gabbana, Emilio Pucci, Gucci, Moschino, Prada and Versace. Competition with famously, ahem, determined Milanese fashionistas to grab the best bargains is tough, and this is not a stop recommended for the faint of heart during the semi-annual sales. More information: https://www.salvagente.com
FOXTOWN FACTORY STORE
The chic Milanese flock to this factory store center located 30 kilometers away, just over the Italian border in Mendrisio, Switzerland. Foxtown has more than 150 mono-brand boutiques, including designer labels like Gucci, Prada, Armani, Dolce&Gabbana, Valentino, Versace, and La Perla, selling items at factory prices (from 30% to 70% less). Prices are in Swiss Francs, and there is Tax-Free Shopping available. More information: https://www.foxtown.com/en/homepage
SERRAVALLE DESIGNER OUTLET
One of the first outlet villages to open in Italy and the largest in Europe, Serravalle is located an hour away from Milan near Alessandria. It is part of a chain of outlet centers including “Barberino” near Florence, “Castel Romano” near Rome, and “Noventa di Piave” near Venice, and has 300 shops carrying mid-level brands like Blumarine, Guess, and Jeckerson. More information: https://www.mcarthurglen.com/it/serravalle-designer-outlet/en/
FRANCIACORTA OUTLET VILLAGE
Also an hour from Milan, Franciacorta Outlet Village has over 150 mono-brand shops selling mid-level brands including Baldinini, Beretta, Borbonese, Braccialini, Pinko, Pollini, and Twin-Set. This is a good choice for those visiting the nearby Franciacorta wineries, and is part of the same group as the popular Valdichiana Outlet Village in Tuscany. More information: https://www.franciacortaoutlet.it/it/home
If you are headed south from Milan to Bologna or beyond, Fidenza Village is a good stop. Part of the Chic Outlet Shopping international chain, this center has 100 boutiques which carry prestigious designer labels, including Valentino and Missoni. More information: https://www.fidenzavillage.com/it/home/
One of the few dedicated factory stores near Milan, the Armani outlet is about 45 minutes outside of the city near Lake Como, and is a good stop for those traveling from Milan to either the lake or Venice. The outlet space is vast and well-stocked with Emporio Armani, Collezione Armani, and Armani Jeans, so if you are interested in doing some serious shopping you will be there for a while. There is no tailoring service, and the staff can be less than helpful. In short, you are on your own, but with patience and luck there are great bargains to be found. Address: Via Provinciale per Bregnano, 13, 22070 Vertemate Con Minoprio CO
Milan is known for its area outlet centers, but Tuscany is famous for its mono-brand factory stores. That said, there are a few exceptions, and one is the excellent The Mall, which has over 100 boutiques featuring luxury brands like Bottega Veneta, Ermenegildo Zegna, Fendi, Armani, Gucci, Pucci, Ferragamo, and Valentino. About half an hour from Florence, this is an easy daytrip from the center and near the three most popular mono-brand factory stores (see below). The shops are small and manageable and the on-site restaurant isn’t bad if you need a break for lunch. More information: https://www.themall.it/en/outlet-italy/homepage.html
One of a chain of outlet villages in Italy, Valdichiana is a good stop for those who are visiting southern Tuscany or northern Umbria and are interested in mid-level brands for fashion and housewares. More information: https://www.valdichianaoutlet.it/it/shop-and-brands
Perhaps the most popular outlet in Italy, the beloved Space Factory Outlet includes all the Prada lines: Prada, Miu Miu, Helmut Lang, Prada Sport, and Church. Located about an hour outside of Florence, Space can be either a dream come true or a total bust depending upon your timing. You may find the store crammed with excellent stock, a variety of sizes, and excellent prices. Or you may get there just minutes after a tour bus has pulled away and find the place virtually picked clean. Address: 52025 Montevarchi, Province of Arezzo (near The Mall, so can be combined in one trip).
About half an hour from Florence, the Fendi factory outlet carries clothing, accessories, and – of course – bags from the Fendi label. Address: Via Pian dell’Isola 66/33, Rignano sull’Arno, Reggello (near The Mall, so can be combined in one trip).
DOLCE & GABBANA
Another popular factory store located near The Mall and Prada, this outlet has two floors of clothing, shoes and accessories from past collections, samples, and seconds. Address: Via S. Maddalena 49, Pian dell’Isola Rignano sull’Arno
Umbria’s most famous designer label is headquartered in the completely restored medieval hilltown of Solomeo outside Perugia, and the small factory outlet there carries their luxury cashmere line for women and men. Address: Piazza Carlo Alberto dalla Chiesa, 6, Solomeo
CASTEL ROMANO DESIGNER OUTLET
About 20 minutes outside of Rome, this outlet village is part of the group which also owns Serravalle outside Milan and includes about 150 boutiques from high-end and luxury labels like Valentino, Moschino, Versace, Roberto Cavalli, Furla, and Patrizia Pepe. There are a number of informal eateries in the shopping center, so you can easily spend a day shopping.
More information: https://www.mcarthurglen.com/it/castel-romano-designer-outlet/en/