Friday, October 19, 2007

Factory Outlets in Tuscany

Fashion insiders know that you need to look beyond Via Tornabuoni in Florence and Via Condotti in Rome to find Italy's best shopping. A number of outlet malls hidden in the hills of Tuscany—especially in the Valdarno valley southeast of Florence—promise amazing savings on designer duds. Unlike in U.S. outlet malls, the goods here aren't manufactured specifically for discount sales; they're the real thing, marked down by 50 percent or better. Of course, outlet shopping is always hit-or-miss, but true shoppers know that the hunt is half the fun.
You'll need a car; otherwise arrange a tour through a travel agency that specializes in Tuscany

Prada Factory Outlet

68 Località LevanellaMontevarchi52025Tel: 39 055 91 901
Trust Italy's most exclusive label to make its outlet store, just outside the town of Montevarchi, almost impossible to find, with signage so minimal that it feels like a treasure hunt. To get there, head south from Florence on the A1 Autostrada and take the Val d'Arno exit. Bear right, following the signs for Montevarchi. At the large roundabout, exit to the left, continuing toward Arezzo. Pass through Montevarchi and into Localit√† Levanella. Shortly after the village, you'll see an Agip gas station on your right. Take the left at the flashing light immediately after it, following the signs for the Zona Industriale and "I Pellettieri d'Italia"—the official name of this huge gray and black warehouse with a sawtooth roof. Even when you've found a place to park the car, you're not quite in: First, you have to take a number from the ticket machine, then wait your turn, perhaps over a pricey cappuccino at the Prada bar on the corner, where an electronic number counter keeps you posted on progress. The reward is men's and women's clothing and accessories from both the Prada and Miu Miu labels at a fraction of the usual price (men's suits, for example, can be picked up for a third of what you would pay in London or New York, sometimes less). The outlet is open from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday to Saturday and 2 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on Sunday; smart shoppers know to avoid the weekend crush.

The Mall

8 Via EuropaLeccioReggello50060Tel: 39 055 865
This smart new open-air mall, way out in the boonies about 40 minutes southeast of Florence, features an ever-growing strip of outlets from Italy's top design houses (and others). The Mall now hosts Agnona, Alexander McQueen, Balenciaga, Bottega Veneta, Burberry, Emanuel Ungaro, Ermenegildo Zegna, Fendi, Giorgio Armani, Gucci, Hogan, La Perla, Loro Piana, Pucci, Salvatore Ferragamo, Sergio Rossi, Stella McCartney, Tod's, Valentino, Yohji Yamamoto, and Yves