Italians have a reputation for dressing beautifully and creating beautiful homes. With the shopping options available to them in Rome alone, it’s little surprise. For the traveler, it’s not only the chance to bring home a great souvenir, but to experience a bit of Italian life. First, there are some things every traveler should know.
Hours to Shop
In Rome, travelers must allow for the mid-day break. The type of store will also determine the hours and days closed, but generally stores open between 9 and 10 am and remain open until 1 pm, when they close until 4 pm. At 4 pm they reopen and stay in business until about 7:30 or 8 pm. Most shops close completely on Sunday, and some on Monday as well. August means a trip to the beach for most Italians, and closed shops are often the result.
Of course, there are exceptions to all of these general rules, particularly in tourist areas. Travelers should be flexible making purchases and generally remember that it’s best to buy when first sighting a desired purchase. Be aware, however, that most Italian stores do not allow returns or exchanges.
Best Time to Shop
If you want to join the Italian “ladies who lunch” crowd, shopping on Tuesday through Friday afternoons is de rigor. Between the Via Condotti, Via Borgognona, and Via Frattina near the Spanish Steps, shoppers will find the name-brand designer boutiques that made Italy synonymous with fashion. For those who like the “see and be seen” vibe, the evening stroll (“passeggiata”) along Via Condotti can put one in mind of a fashion runway.
Beyond the Italian designers of the Via Condotti, there are many other areas of Rome considered to be prime shopping areas, with far more manageable prices. Among those are the following:
Barbering – Mid-priced clothing and accessories, including beautiful Italian shoes can be found along Via del Tritone and Via Veneto. In this neighborhood, many of the newsstands carry English language newspapers and magazines to enjoy at one of the area’s many cafes.
Campo de’ Fiori – Famous for its flower market, this area’s narrow alleys are filled with artisan storefronts and distinctive boutiques. Early morning is the time for the flowers, as well as a lively fruit and vegetable open air market.
Monti – Located near the Colosseum (look for Vias Leonina, Serpenti, and Urbana), this bohemian area is home to art galleries, bookstores, and trendy boutiques.
Repubblica – Adjacent to the Termini Station, this shopping district caters to the cheap and friendly, but also has quality leather and luggage stores.
San Lorenzo – More popular for its clubs and restaurants, this area comes alive after dark, but don’t miss the old Cerere Pasta Factory on Via degli Ausoni, where 16 artists have their studios.
Via del Corso – This is where young Italians come for jeans and other casual clothing. At Piazza Colomina, shoppers can find the Galleria Alberto Sordi, an elegant mall, and Piazza della Fontanella Borghese is an outdoor street market, with permanent stalls.
Department Stores and Shopping Malls
Rome hasn’t many of either. However, two of the best department stores are Rinascente and Coin. It’s worth seeking them out as they offer travelers welcome desks with multilingual help and tax-free refund desks (most typically for purchases greater than 150 Euros). Best of all, they are open on Sundays, when the rest of Rome’s stores are shut tight.
For budget prices, two discount department chains–Oviesse and Upim–fit the bill.
In addition to the upscale Galleria Alberto Sordi shopping mall, the most central shopping mall can be found underground at the Termini railway station. Il Forum Shopping Mall has more than 100 stores, with easy access to all forms of transportation afterward.
Sizes and Sales
Even with European sizing, Italian clothing is not uniform in its sizing, so it is wise to measure, or better yet, try on any purchases. Shoppers in Rome should be cognizant of Italian shopping protocol as well: Few shops will exchange or refund once a sale is made.
“Saldi” (sale) is no doubt, every shopper’s favorite sign, and shoppers in Rome can catch some great bargains. The main sale periods run from January 6 to February and late July to mid-September.
Today’s great shoppers in Rome, so spoiled for choice in goods and venues, might even steal a line from Julius Caesar: “Vini. Vidi. Visa.” (I came, I saw, I charged it.) Well, maybe Caesar said something close, anyway.