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Why a Timeless Italian Wardrobe Is the Ultimate Souvenir

04 March 2019
by Giada De Laurentiis
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Everything you need to know about shopping for clothes in Italy!

Be honest: How many souvenirs do you really end up using once you get home and that vacation glow has faded? The best kind of souvenir is one you'll use over and over again, something that reminds you of your trip and make you smile every time you see it. Next time you travel to Italy, why not do as Giada does and shop for clothes instead of trinkets? Not only will have an unforgettable experience shopping with the locals and getting to know artisans and designers, you'll also come home with a practical souvenir that will give you years of pleasure.

You don't have to break the bank to become a fashion tourist; do as the Italians do and focus on quality, not quantity. Even one unique piece can transform the rest your wardrobe – a hardworking handbag or silky scarf will give your look some Italian chic in an instant. And when people ask where you got it, you'll have a great story to tell!

Giada wearing a silk scarf

Just like food, different regions of Italy are known for different fashion specialties. You wouldn't go to Naples and not eat pizza, and if you're a style seeker, you shouldn't leave these cities without shopping their unique offerings.

FLORENCE: As the capital of Tuscan cattle country, it makes sense that Florence is a mecca for leather goods of all kinds. Handbags, wallets, and gloves are all gorgeous and extremely high-quality--even the ultra-cheap purses you find at street stalls will stand up to years of use. For a truly luxurious experience, stop in at one of the glove shops by the Ponte Vecchio, where they'll measure your hand to match you with butter-soft gloves in a rainbow of colors that fit like a second skin.

Giada with makeup
MILAN: Anyone who follows high fashion knows Milan is the heart of the couture industry. It's also the place to go for designer shoes at prices you'll never find anywhere else. They're still not cheap, mind you, but shoe hounds know they're an investment piece that will last for years. And if you're a makeup fan, a stop at the Kiko Milano flagship store, known as the MAC of Italy, is an absolute must. (Bonus: The prices are drugstore-cheap to offset that shoe budget!) 

ROME: For the guys, Rome is known for all things tailoring, from custom-fitted shirts to ties and bespoke suits. Take an afternoon to get measured in one of the decades-old sartorias (tailor's shops) around the city; even if you are only in town for a few days, they can ship the finished garment home to you when it's ready.

Giada shopping for sandals

CAPRI: On the island of Capri, bespoke sandals are the local specialty; Giada never leaves the island without a pair or two of their elegant sandals. Browse the workshops of the individual artisans, and when you're ready to buy, they'll take the exact measurements of your foot, then craft a pair of shoes to your specifications. It only takes a few minutes, and the sandals are comfortable, chic, and totally unique.

You may already know that European sizes are different from those in the U.S., but did you know that Italy actually has its own clothes sizing that is different even from the rest of Europe? Before you leave, take a look at an Italian size chart to find the number that corresponds to your size at home (sizes start in the 30s). Depending on the item, you should also be prepared to go up from your usual size; Italian clothes and shoes tend to be cut a bit more narrowly than American brands. Pro tip: Before you leave, google a size chart and save the image on your phone, so you can pull it up in an instant no matter where you are. 

Giada shopping

If you're short on time or are looking for hard-to-find items from the big designers, a department store can be a handy one-stop shop. (Giada, who is a sunglasses junkie, swears the designer options in Italian department stores are impossible to find back home.) But if you've got the time, the most rewarding experience is to spend time in the small, impeccably curated boutiques that showcase the many small-scale local designers that Italy does so well. To get even closer to the source, many artisan workshops have a storefront right there, giving you the incredible opportunity to meet the person who makes your clothes.

And don't overlook the drugstores! Even hole-in-the-wall pharmacies stock an impressive selection of ancient and cutting-edge brands, and you can always discover something fun by asking the store clerk to show you what's new and popular. Skincare, especially, is leaps and bounds better than its American drugstore equivalents, made with high-quality ingredients; pick up any moisturizer that looks interesting and get ready to fall in love.

Via Roma, 19-21r, Florence
For a department store experience, you can't get better than this well-curated destination, which stocks all the coolest designers of men's and womenswear, plus accessories and home goods. 
Cristina Bomba
Via Dell'oca, 39-41, Rome
Both Giada and her mom swear by the polished, timeless styles from this Rome-based designer. Tailoring is Bomba's specialty, so stop here to ogle her perfectly fitted jackets, pants, and skirts.
Kiko Milano
Corso Vittorio Emanuele, 15, Milan
This massively popular brand promises luxury-quality makeup at drugstore prices – and it delivers! Be sure to pick up a tube or three of their cult-favorite ultra-lengthening mascara.

Via Guicciardini 1/R, Florence
This 100-year-old institution is the best of the best of Florence's glove makers. Don't leave without trying a pair made from cinghale, wild boar skin, which feels like unbelievably soft suede.


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