Shopping in Italy

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Florence

One of the hippest and trendiest stores to visit in Florence is the LUISAVIAROMA Main Store located at Via Roma, 19/21r and is open Mondayto Saturday 10:00am-7:30pm and Sunday 11:00am-7:00pm. There is also a LUISAVIAROMA Contemporary Store located at Via Silvio Pellico, 9 which is open from Monday to Saturday 10:30am – 7:30pm and closed Sunday. LUISAVIAROMA has a strong online presence, so if you can’t get to Florence you can still enjoy the beautifully curated selection of clothing, shoes and accessories online.

Old Pharmacy of Santa Maria Novella located on Via della Scala 16 in Florence is one of the oldest pharmacies in the world, founded in the 1200s by Dominican friars. Most people would just walk past this gorgeous museum/working pharmacy due to its unpretentious facade on the street – you have to push past the unassuming glass doors to enter the most incredibly beautiful pharmacy. The decor is anything but ordinary and the smell is incredible. There is an incredible selection of scented soaps, facial, body and hand creams, oils, perfumes, baths salts, digestif liquors and the most famous product – their Rose Tonic.

Outlet Shopping in Florence

The two outlet malls we visited in Florence were The Mall and the Space Factory Outlet.

The Mall is about 30 minutes by car from Florence and is located at Europa 8, 50066 Leccio Reggello (FI) Italia and open from 10am to 7pm daily. The quality and range of merchandise was fantastic and we got some incredible discounts at stores like Alexander McQueen, Balenciaga, Bottega Veneta, Lanvin, Stella McCartney, Tom Ford, Burberry, Dior, Tod’s, Valentino and Saint Laurent. I got lucky and found a beautiful Balenciaga tailored jacket for AU$200 and bought loads of things for my children at Stella McCartney. Landry picked up a suit and some shirts at Valentino and also found a pair of high-top sneakers at Lanvin.

For those who don’t have a car, you can reach The Mall by train from Santa Maria Novella to Rignano sull’Arno (35 minutes), then grab a taxi (additional 5 minutes) or you can get there by public bus. Take the Florence SITA bus from Via Santa Caterina da Siena 17, near the train station. Buses leave at 8:30, 9, 11, 12:35 Mon-Sat. and 3pm Mon-Sun.

The Space Factory Outlet is about 45-50 minutes by car from Florence and is located at Via Levanella Becorpi, S.S 69, 52025 Montevarchi and is open Monday-Friday 10:30am-7:30pm, Saturday 9:30am-7:30pm and Sunday 10:30am-6:30pm. We arrived at about 10am to be greeted by a huge queue of people who had clearly done their research and got in early. Before joining the queue, make sure to grab a ticket from the machines located at the entrance as you will need this ticket when making purchases within Space.

Once you’ve decided on something to purchase, the many sales representatives will then ask for your number and take the item away for you to pick up at the cash register. Once you’re done, just head over to the cash register and present your number so that the representative can retrieve all the items you selected. Don’t forget to bring your passport – if you buy enough you can also claim Duty Free!

Space is cavernous and there is an enormous selection of clothes, accessories (jewellery, belts, sunglasses), bags and shoes for men and women from Prada, Prada Sport, Miu Miu and Church. There is a specific area for each brand and not all of it is on ‘sale’. It’s easy to get caught up in the hysteria of buying discount Prada, so take your time as there is a huge selection to choose from. There are some items that are produced just for the outlet while others are a higher quality so make sure you’re happy with the quality you’re buying. I ended up getting a beautiful pair of Miu Miu silver glitter Mary-Jane heels at about 70% off!

To get there from Florence: By car (50 mins), take the A1 motorway toward Rome and take the exit marked Valdarno; take the 1A to Via Poggilupi/SP11, then a right to Strada Lungo l’Arno/SP59 and then a left to Strada d/Arno/SR69. Turn left onto Via Levanella Becorpi. By train (35 or 55 mins + 5 mins taxi), take the train from Santa Maria Novella or Campo di Marte to Montevarchi, then grab a taxi.

Milan

For those interested in luxury shopping, go and check out the quadrilatero della moda or the ‘quadrilateral of fashion’ a high-class shopping district in the centre of Milan where most of the luxurious stores in the world have a boutique. Streets to visit are Via Monte Napoleone, Via della Spiga, Via Sant’Andrea, Via Manzoni and Corso Venezia.

For those looking for something a little more unique to Milan, check out:

10 Corso Como is a must visit for those who love fashion. Located at 10 Corso Como, it is opened Friday to Tuesday 10.30am to 7pm and Wednesday and Thursday from 1pm to 7:30pm. This luxury boutique is run by gallerist Carla Sozzani, sister to Franca Sozzani the current editor-in-chief of Vogue Italia. A three level boutique, it has a wonderful cafe in an outdoor garden setting and an incredible range of clothes, accessories, shoes, books, art, make-up and home furnishings. Alaia was well represented.

TAD, is a small scale luxury department store and one of the hippest in the fashion district of Milan. Located on Via Statuto 12 M2 Moscova it is opened from Tuesday to Saturday 10.30am-1pm and 3pm-7pm.

Brandy Melville is Italian company that is now very popular in Europe and the US. There is only one size in wide array of fitted off-shoulder tees, to soft angora sweaters and stylish dresses, skirts and tops, shorts and trousers, plus bags and accessories. The prices are super reasonable and great for stylish people on a budget! I visited the boutique in Milan at Via Statuto, 16 which is open from 10:30am to 7:30pm daily.

Madina Milano is a cult Italian make up brand. Pat McGrath one of the most well known make up artists in the fashion industry is a huge fan of their stick concealer. The prices are very reasonable and a good place to visit for small gifts.

Milan, Italy

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We spent our last day in Italy in Milan, where we stayed in the trendy and minimalist Hotel Straf which is located right next to the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, one of the world’s oldest shopping malls and home to some of the oldest restaurants and book stores in Milan as well as luxury boutiques like Prada.

For those interested in luxury shopping, a must visit is the quadrilatero della moda or the ‘quadrilateral of fashion’ a high-class shopping district in the centre of Milan where most of the luxurious stores in the world have a boutique. Streets to visit are Via Monte Napoleone, Via della Spiga, Via Sant’Andrea, Via Manzoni and Corso Venezia.

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The Duomo di Milano, an easy 5-10 minute walk with easy access through the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II.

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Beautiful summer evenings on Corso Como, a bustling nightlife area that overflows with people enjoying late night dinner and drinks with friends.

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We enjoyed a beautiful dinner at Alla Cucina Delle Langhe.

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Room with a View – Castelo Monastero, Tuscany

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We stayed at the Castelo Monastero, in Tuscany about 20 minutes drive from Siena or 1 hour and 20 minutes from Florence which made it ideal as a base for day trips to Siena, Florence and Pisa. Dining options included Contrada, a gourmet dining experience and La Cantina a more relaxed dining experience in the medieval wine cellars of Castel Monastero, with both restaurants’ menus designed by Gordon Ramsay.

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Siena Tuscany, Italy

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We stayed at the Castelo Monastero, in Tuscany about 20 minutes drive from Siena where we enjoyed walking around taking in the sites such as the Duomo of Siena, Il Campo, and the Palazzo Pubblico and enjoying an incredible bistecca and seasonal truffle dishes at Osteria La Taverna di San Giuseppe. The highlight however was the beautiful picturesque Tuscan countryside as you can see from the photos below.

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Pisa, Italy

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On our way to Tuscany, from Portofino we stopped by Pisa so our kids could see the great ‘leaning tower of Pisa’. Other sites to see in the city’s Piazza del Duomo is the Duomo (the Cathedral), the Baptistry and the Campo Santo (the monumental cemetery).

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After a morning spent wandering the sites and museums, we discovered a great little panineria called ‘L’Ostellino‘. It’s a tiny little shop, in a small square about 10 minutes from the Tower of Pisa. There’s not a lot of sitting room, so get your order to go and enjoy a picnic in the many beautiful gardens around Pisa.

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There was a lot to choose from and we ended up with their porchetta panini, platter of local salumi and cheeses and salad – plenty for a family of four!

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Cinque Terre, Italy

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We found it easy to get to Cinque Terre for a day trip from Portofino. After a quick 10 minute bus ride to Santa Margherita Liguria, it was only an hour by train to get to Monterosso. Monterosso is the largest of the five coastal villages collectively known as Cinque Terre. Upon arrival, we enjoyed a scenic walk along the only sand beach in Cinque Terre with its orange and green umbrellas before starting the hike to Vernazza.

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We purchased a family Cinque Terre Card just at the entrance to the hike between Monterosso and Vernazza, which was classified as ‘medium’ level in difficulty. Good shoes are recommended given the terrain can be quite steep and narrow at certain points. Those taking this path will be rewarded with a spectacular panoramic view of Vernazza, which is probably the most ‘iconic’ of the Cinque Terre and is classified as one of the most beautiful villages in Italy.

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The streets were packed with visitors – all enjoying the beautiful town and the fantastic food. We grabbed some supplies from the local deli before it closed for the daily riposo and enjoyed a picnic of freshly sliced salami, ham, mozarella, vine ripened tomatoes and cheese before a refreshing swim with the locals in the harbour.

As we were only visiting for the day, we decided to take a train to Corniglia, which is the only town without access to the sea before moving onto Manarola which was built high on rocks 70 metres above sea level. We found Manarola to be incredibly charming but with no real beach, we especially enjoyed jumping off the many rocks, near the boat ramp.

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After an afternoon rock jumping with the kids, we decided to take a ferry to Riomaggiore and then ferry hopped back to Monterosso. We found the ferry a beautiful and relaxing way to enjoy Cinque Terre with the kids – tickets can be purchased in each town (except for Corniglia) with costs dependent on how far you want to go. The ferry schedule, was pretty flexible.

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Portofino, Italy

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We stayed in Portofino on the Italian Riviera, known for its picturesque harbour and during our stay enjoyed exploring the harbour, admiring the many beautiful boutiques and luxury stores as well as enjoying the restaurants in Portofino. One of the main cultural attractions in Portofino is the Castello Brown, a fortress built in the 16th century with incredible views of Portofino and the Ligurian Sea.

If you have the time, it’s also worth visiting the neighboring resort destinations like Santa Margherita Ligure and Camogli.

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