Retail Therapy

6 Apr
I hate shopping for clothes in Italy. No such thing as “petite” sizes for those of us who are height-challenged, and most stores are tiny boutiques, so it is a drag going in-and-out to find what you might want. There is little in the way of moderately priced clothing: it is either too cheap (and probably flammable) or ridiculously expensive. A 22% VAT doesn’t help. Shopping the bancarelle (outdoor street market stalls) is not something I care to do. Imagine trying on your clothes in a Fototessera booth.
Typical bancarella in Viale Parioli, near our flat. Seasonal clothing, very inexpensive. Probably made by Chinese immigrants in sweat shops in Prato, IT.

Typical bancarella in Viale Parioli, near our flat. Seasonal clothing, very inexpensive. Probably made by Chinese immigrants in sweatshops in Prato, IT.


The fototessera booth, where we go for ID pictures, and where shoppers can slip in to try on clothes. Note the handy location next to overflowing trash bins.

The fototessera booth, where we go for ID pictures, and where shoppers can slip in to try on clothes. Note the handy location next to overflowing trash bins.

With summer approaching, I was really missing the days when we had the ability to shop online in the U.S. (Nordstrom! Amazon! Talbot’s!) and receive our purchases duty-free thanks to the Diplomatic Post Office. Lo and behold, we found out Lands’ End has a U.K. web presence and I was able to order jeans that fit.
If the U.K. decides to leave the EU, this will no longer be possible as we’ll have to pay customs fees, which are very high. <Sniff> I also like U.K. retailer John Lewis. Great stuff at not-bad prices. We also shop (and have for a year now) at Amazon.IT, where eerily our login info, address book, and credit cards ported over from
Online shopping is not nearly as developed as in the U.S., but it’s a start. Now, off to ECCO’s EU site to browse sandals. The warm weather has arrived!

NB: For info on the Chinese garment industry in Prato, see this article from the New York Times

13 Responses to “Retail Therapy”

  1. Chloe Erkenbrecher April 8, 2016 at 08:26 #

    Ahh! Looks as if we have been lucky on the postal service front. Maybe you can try the used clothing ploy or perhaps Italy just taxes everything.


    • gooddayrome April 8, 2016 at 09:01 #

      Funny you should mention…. A couple of years ago we sent a suitcase full of clothes to the U.S. in anticipation of traveling there for a wedding. We shipped the wedding clothes ahead via the USPS in the DPO so we could travel light with carry-ons only. We had to cancel the trip and so we had our son ship the clothes back to us. I told him to put “used clothes” on the customs form which he did, but he thought he’d do us a favor and ship the suitcase via Fedex to our apartment instead of the DPO at the embassy. Luckily his guess at value was low (he said $300) and we “only” had to pay about Euro 100 in duties! No good deed goes unpunished.


  2. Chloe Erkenbrecher April 7, 2016 at 20:43 #

    I never buy clothing in Europe and for the same reason you mentioned. Either too expensive or else cheap and shoddily made. If you find something you like at a particular store or catalogue, have a friend or relative buy it and ship it over through the post office. They never seem to open those boxes and we ship things every year. If you don’t mind and you know the article will fit, have the sender wash it and send it as used clothing. Don’t use Fed Ex or UPS as you always seem to be opened and then charge you with duty. I do buy wool sweaters in Italy, as they are the perfect weight for California. I usually can find them on Cola de Rienzo and I am not sure if I have spelled that correctly.


    • gooddayrome April 8, 2016 at 05:24 #

      That is interesting Chloe! WE have had a different experience. We had our son ship some stuff via USPS at Christmas: DVDs, snacks, ink for our printer which is not available in Europe, one scarf, two small books. All told it was less than $200. Italy levied $100 in duty!

      Yes, Cola di Rienzo is a good shopping destination. My husband, BTW< has had good luck shopping here. Men's options are better in mid-priced clothing.


  3. ckleonard April 7, 2016 at 05:55 #

    Take a look at Sierra Trading Post. They ship overseas. If you take the time and watch you can often find a deal for free shipping. I’ve never seen a disclaimer for overseas shipping but maybe there is.


    • gooddayrome April 7, 2016 at 06:07 #

      Thanks, Carolyn. Shipping is less of a problem than duties. Italy slaps 30%-or-so on everything not made in the EU. They are trying to protect their own products and industry, which has led to the Chinese invasion in Prato.


      • ckleonard April 7, 2016 at 06:11 #

        Yikes! That is steep. Happy shopping in London!


  4. dalluva April 6, 2016 at 20:08 #

    I love, I buy quite a few items that seem to be only available in Italy, and I ship them all to me here in the States. Remarkably their shipping costs are super-low. No duty to pay nor IVA on the way out, so long as it ships directly to me (and it’s kept below $800).

    Happy shopping!


    • gooddayrome April 6, 2016 at 21:19 #

      VAT/IVA exemption is a terrific thing when you are a traveler. We do not qualify. They do have Amazon Prime, though, for I think about 10 Euros a year. A good deal!


  5. Nigel April 6, 2016 at 18:47 #

    Maybe you’d like the Lands’ End outlet near us… And the different John Lewis stores have slightly different personalities, especially the Sloan Square location called Peter Jones, and the Oxford Street flagship…. especially as the Euro is currently so much stronger than the Pound Sterling. Not as strong if the idiots decide to leave the EU, and then Scotland and Wales leave England to be on its own…


    • gooddayrome April 6, 2016 at 21:21 #

      We may have to do some more retail therapy while we are in London later this month! The possible Brexit is frightening on many levels, isn’t it?


  6. Marcia April 6, 2016 at 18:21 #

    It does sound frustrating to shop for clothes like that. And without AMAZON… I would have a tough tough time myself / hate going to stores. Too exhausting 😊


    • gooddayrome April 6, 2016 at 21:22 #

      I know! And my Italian friends love the social nature of going shopping. Ugh! I prefer to try on my purchases at home with the cats.


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