Tag - florence

Designer Shopping Outlets in Italy

Escape the crowds in Rome at Castel Romano Credit: Lalupa

Escape the crowds in Rome at Castel Romano Credit: Lalupa

Finding Italy’s Best Retail Villages

Where to find some of the biggest and best outlets offering designer labels for less in Europe’s fashion capital.

Barberino Designer Outlet, Barberino del Mugello, Florence

Just 30km from Florence, this McArthur Glen Designer Outlet has over 100 stores with well-known brands offering between 30% and 70% reductions on clothing, accessories, kitchenware, home furnishings, sportswear, electronics and Lindt chocolate! Brands include Dolce and Gabbana, Pinko, Ralph Lauren, Prada, Marlborough, Diesel and Guess.

There is parking in abundance and a good selection of cafes and restaurants.


From Florence, take the A1towards Bologna and exit at Barberino di Mugello.

From Bologna, take the A1 towards Florence and exit at Barberino di Mugello.

Castel Romano Designer Outlet, Castel Romano, Rome
The Mall and Barbarino are close to Florence Credit: Keith Palmer

The Mall and Barbarino are close to Florence Credit: Keith Palmer

Another McArthur Glen outlet, this one situated just south of the Roman province of Eur. Prestigious labels can be found within the 110 stores here, selling sportswear, lingerie, fashion clothing, household goods and accessories with reductions of up to 70%. Discounted designer lines to be found within this attractive outlet include Calvin Klein, Diesel, Dolce and Gabbana, Ermenegildo Zegna, La Perla, Roberto Cavalli, Salvatore Ferragamo and Valentino.

There is a playground for children, numerous bars and coffee shops in addition to ample, free parking.


From the Rome orbital road, take Exit 26 and
the main road 148 Pontina. Exit at Castel Romano.

Franciacorta Outlet Village, Brescia, Lombardy
The Mall and Barbarino are close to Florence Credit: Keith Palmer

The Mall and Barbarino are close to Florence Credit: Keith Palmer

Open seven days a week, Franciacorta shopping outlet, near Brescia’s famous wine region, has over 160 stores selling well-known brands such as Levis’, Calvin Klein, Rip Curl, Sisley, Boggi and Bose with discounts of up to 70% on retail prices. Sportswear stores include Nike, Adidas and Puma. There is plenty of parking and a number of restaurants/ snack bars in addition to a children’s play area.


From Venice and Milan, take the A4 and exit at Ospitaletto.

Serravalle Designer Outlet, Serravalle Scrivia, Alessandria

With 180 stores, this McArthur Glen outfit is the largest factory outlet in Europe. Situated on the borders of Piedmont, Lombardy and Liguria, Serravalle enjoys the stunning surroundings of Gavi. This extensive and elegant shopping village is within one hour of Milan and Turin and just thirty minutes from the coast. It is also suitably close to the stylish towns of Cinque Terre and Portofino.

Visitors here can find luxury designer brands such as Bulgari, Roberto Cavalli, Salvatore Ferragamo and Dolce and Gabbana with men’s and women’s clothing at discounted prices. For sportswear, amongst other popular brands, there is Adidas, Nike, Puma and Reebok.

A shuttle service runs from Milan and Torino on the first weekend of every month. Return tickets are €20 for adults and €10 for children (5-15 years of age). Children under 5 can travel for free.


Take the A7, Milan-Genoa motorway and exit at Serravalle Scrivia.

The Mall, Leccio, Regello Firenze

Situated a short distance from Florence, The Mall is Florence’s largest shopping outlet and any fashionista’s dream with labels such as Gucci, Prada, Fendi, Valentino, Yves Saint Laurent, Bottego Veneto, Stella McCartney, Balenciaga, Alexander McQueen and La Perla being just some of the designers available here.

Whilst some of the luxury designer clothing and accessories are reduced by up to 60%, The Mall can still be on the expensive side for the average shopper. However, visitors simply window shopping are in for a treat. The Mall enjoys a majestic setting in the Tuscan hills and there is a stylish cafe/ bar to rest weary feet.


From Florence and Milan: Take the A1 towards Roma and exit at Incisa. Follow the road towards Pontassieve and continue through Leccio. The Mall is on the left.

From Rome: Take the A1 towards Firenze and exit at Incisa. Follow the road towards Pontassieve and continue through Leccio. The Mall is on the left.

Vicolungo Outlet, Vicolungo, Novara

Just 30 minutes by car from Milan in the Piedmont region, Vicolungo boasts over 130 stores with 30%-70% discounts on menswear, womenswear, children’s clothing, sportswear, home accessories and beauty products. There is even a return shuttle service that runs from Milan Foro Bonaparte at 10.30am and leaves the Outlet at 4.30pm for €10. Children under 14 can travel for free. Stores include Hilfiger Denim, CK Underwear, Levi, Nike, Puma, Rip Curl and Samsonite.

Within one hour of Lake Maggiore and Lake Orta, the historic city of Novara is also within easy reach of the Vicolungo Outlet.


From Milan, take the A4 and exit at Biandrate/ Vicolungo.

In many cases, the shopping outlets in Italy offer much more than well-known and designer goods at discounted prices. Largely situated in beautiful surroundings, within a stylish setting and offering an impressive selection of restaurants and pasticcerias, the average tourist will invariably leave one of the many shopping villages with far more than they bargained for.

Students Dine in Splendor at Buca Lapi in Florence

buca lapiStory: On my first ‘grand tour’ of Europe, many years ago, two of my school friends and I were in Florence. We decided to have dinner at a small eatery down a steep stone staircase. We had passed it many times on our way from our pension to various museums and churches. Because it was in a cellar, we thought it would be inexpensive. We were definitely on a budget.

As Canadians dine rather early, we arrived at around six o’ clock for dinner. Not a  soul was to be seen. We were , however, shown very politely to a nice table, a table with a lamp and lampshade hanging over it. We sat down in the cellar restaurant, not knowing it was in the cellars of the Palazzo Antinori, the Antinori of world-wide wine fame.

The waiter brought us menus, but even before he did so, I had noticed that the lampshade over our table was scrawled upon and the scrawls looked like signatures. Yes, they were signatures  – of such famous people as Elizabeth Taylor, Rock
Hudson and Frank Sinatra.

I had a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach. Even before looking at the menu, I knew that this was a very expensive restaurant. In fact, Buca Lapi is the oldest restaurant in Florence, dating from 1880. After pointing out this fact to my friends, we had a heart to heart talk and decided it was simply too embarrassing to walk out, especially as bread and rolls had been put upon our table. We decided to order the cheapest thing on the menu. But we were still worried about the cover charge and the tipping procedure.

By then a few other guests had arrived. The restaurant was starting to come alive, rather like a scene from a Fellini film.

We ordered an omelet each, glasses of table water and splurged on a carafon of the least expensive red Tuscan wine. Savoring every mouthful, we managed to eke out our dinner until the place had filled up. A band had started to play. I definitely did not want to leave. After all, not every student can dine at Buca Lapi.

nBy seven p.m., we had finished eating. A trolley of sweets was wheeled in. Always a curious person, I asked to have a look at the desserts. They were so exquisitely beautiful I decided I must try one. But I couldn’t decide which one.

I asked the waiter if I could have  little taste of each dessert. To my overwhelming delight, he granted my request. What I really wanted was to stay and enjoy the atmosphere.

Thinking that if I had a cigarette, smoking one might prolong our evening out. I did not really smoke, but knew there was a package of Italian cigarette in the bottom of my purse. It was rather scrunched and battered but I look out one cigarette. I couldn’t find any matches, so looked up rather desperately.  A well-dressed gentlemen came rushing over to our table and offered to light my cigarette.

After thanking him, he asked where we were from. it turned out we were all from Montreal, my hometown. He was a well-known jeweller and invited us to visit his brother’s watch factory in Switzerland.

Then he confessed that he had been watching the three of us all evening. Apparently, we had kept him amused for hours. When we got up to leave, our waiter told us that our bill has been paid.

Location: Florence – Italy