Tag Archives | Shopping

Marble Run: Shopping for Traditional Marbled Products in Italy

Murano Glass ShopIf there is one particular word that can be used to define some of Italy’s major handicrafts, it’s marble. Marble, either as a substance or a style, runs through three different artisan crafts that are famous in Italy: some of the world’s finest marble is found in the hills around the province of Massa-Carrara in Tuscany; marbled paper, which is one of Florence’s distinctive crafts; and marbleized glass, a Venetian specialty, especially on the island of Murano.

This month’s Italy Blogging Roundtable is focused on crafts and I am spotlighting marble or marbled handicrafts that travelers should look out for in Tuscany (including Florence) and Venice.

Carrara Marble

Carrara marble, the same stone that Michelangelo used to carve his famous statues and busts, is renowned throughout the world. Professional and would-be sculptors visit the marble hills in western Tuscany to learn the Italian craft of marble work and you, too, can participate in such classes. The Marble and Art Workshops in Pietrasanta give participants lessons in sculpting, trips to marble studios and foundries, and lessons in mosaic and stone inlays.

Florentine Marbled Paper

One of the most popular souvenirs from Central Italy is Florence’s marbled paper. Artisans have been designing marbled paper since the 17th century, using it largely for bookbinding (another craft) but also for stationary. Alberto Cozzi (Via del Parione 35/r, by Santa Maria Novella) is the most renowned store for purchasing Florentine marbled paper but also where customers can watch artisans restoring book and making marbled papers.

Murano Glass

Watching the Murano glass artisans blow, fire, and shape vases, goblets, figurines, and pendants, among other things, is a time-honored tourist favorite when visiting Venice. Murano glass is defined by its vibrant colors and glass crafters often employ marbling techniques to their wares. The Murano Glass Factory (Castello 4623, Venice) is one place where travelers can watch artisans and pick up glassware and trinkets

Read the posts, leave comments, share them with your friends – and tune in next month for another Italy Blogging Roundtable topic.

Ask the Italy Expert: Outlet Shopping and Rome Pastry Shops

Ask the Expert: Italofile MailbagI get lots of emails from readers asking for Italy travel advice. And while I like to think of myself as the Italy travel resource, I know that there are tons of bloggers, writers, tour operators, travel consultants, and many other Italophiles who have knowledge on specific subjects, like villa rentals, Tuscany antique markets, or wines of the Veneto. Previously, I have just answered readers’ questions as best – and as quickly – as I could. But I started thinking that everyone could benefit from the knowledge I’ve earned as a result of researching some of these inquiries.

So, today I am starting a new feature called “Ask the Italy Expert,” in which I utilize my network of Italy experts to answer your travel questions. I’m really excited about the first installment of this feature because it is all about SHOPPING!

Two readers, Dominika and Niek, recently asked me questions about shopping in Italy. Dominika, who is getting married in Rome, was particularly interested in finding out about factory outlets and pastry shops/cake makers in and around the capital while Niek wanted to know about outlets in the southern Italian regions of Basilicata, Calabria, and Puglia.

As soon as I saw that I had two specific shopping questions, I knew exactly who to ask. Stefania Troiani is the creative founder and owner of Rome Shopping Guide, a private tour company that offers personalized shopping tours of the Eternal City, from food markets to outlets to luxury boutiques. While I have never actually “met” Stefania, I have enjoyed reading her shopping advice on her website and Twitter for quite some time now. Certainly, she specializes in Rome, but I had no doubts of her ability to tell me about other shopping experiences south of the capital. Here are her superb shopping suggestions:

Question 1: Factory Outlets and Cake Makers in Rome
The best factory outlets for designer label handbags and clothes and shoes around Rome are:

Castel Romano Designer Outlet elegantly built around a style reminiscent of Imperial Rome that boasts 110 designer name shops with prices reduced from 30% to 70%. Many shops also offer tax free (from a minimum of 4% up to a maximum 16% of the selling price of the goods purchased). The outlet is located 30mins outside Rome (how to get there).

Another perfect place to find special accessories is the Bulgari outlet that carries all the end of series and unsold items from Bulgari shops. It is possible to find handbags, crocodile purses, ties, house furnishings, scarves, sunglasses, glasses, modern silver and also jewelry for which Bulgari has been famous for over 100 years, all to be discounted 30%. The staff speaks English and Japanese. The outlet is located on Via Aurelia, 1052 only a few miles outside Rome.

When in Rome you can also get some great buys on designer handbags, clothes and shoes and if you are looking for Miu Miu, Cavalli, Chloé, and Burberry you should pop into Outlet Gente conveniently located near the Vatican on Via Cola di Rienzo 246.

Antonella e Fabrizio is a discount store for men and women near Piazza Navona, on Corso Vittorio Emanuele II, 247 selling Armani, D&G and Just Cavalli as well as other popular Italian labels.

Il Discount dell’Alta Moda is a boutique near Piazza del Popolo on Via Gesù e Maria, 16 overstocking at up to 50% off goods by Fendi, Gucci, Sergio Rossi, and Roberto Cavalli.

Pastry shops in Rome are all very good. I know many great good cake makers. My two favorites are the historic Marinari pastry shop in the Trieste neighborhood also well known for its delicious “torta della nonna,” it offers a wide range of desserts from ricotta cakes to Sicilian cannoli.

Another one to recommend to dessert lovers is Antonini on via Sabotino, 19 that offers one of the best selections of pastries in town.

(Those pastry shops sound delicious! Best bet is to shop for shoes at the outlets so you can indulge in the cake without worrying about fitting into designer duds!)

Question 2: Factory Outlets in Basilicata, Calabria, and Puglia
There are not many quality outlets in Basilicata and Calabria, whilst in Puglia there are several places to visit for value conscious travelers.

  • Vestebene Outlet Storeon Piazza Dante Alighieri 85 – Galatina – Lecce
  • Filanto Shoes Outlet – Casarano Industrial Park – Lecce
  • Leather Company Outlet (excellent value and quality) – Via Provinciale Uggiano 44 – Otranto – Lecce
  • Molfetta Fashion District (80 shops) Via dei Portuali, Molfetta- Bari

Great tips for outlets in Puglia, Stefania! If anyone else has tips on outlets in Basilicata or Calabria, let me know.

I really hope that you have enjoyed this new Q&A on Italofile. If you’d like to submit a question or if you are an Italy expert who’d like to offer some advice, contact me. Hopefully, we can collaborate on the next installment of Ask the Italy Expert!

Photo © http://www.flickr.com/photos/ezioman/ / CC BY 2.0

Round-up: Lots on Venice, Shopping in Rome, and Italy Road Trips


Vrooms With a View: Europe’s Most Scenic Drives (includes Val d’Aosta, Piemonte) [The Guardian] Eat Like a Local in Venice, The Venetian Islands Locals Want to Keep to Themselves, Venice Bacari [The Guardian] Global Eye: Venice Carnival [National Geographic Intelligent Travel Blog] Italy’s Sleepy Surprise (Maratea, Basilicata) [Philadelphia Inquirer] Where Puccini Might Shop in Rome [New York Times] For a Real Italian Getaway, Follow the Herd (Abruzzo) [The Guardian] What’s New in Rome and Venice for 2010 and What’s New in Italy, from Museums to Mountain Walks [Rick Steves for the Seattle Times] Moving House? No, We’re Just Off to Italy to Visit the Folks (road tripping in a motor home) [The Guardian] Roadtripping the Sicilian Coast [Matador Network] Caravaggio’s Greatest Hits Draw Big Crowds in Rome [LA Times] Italy Deserves More Than a Long Weekend (fashion-focused editorial) [New York Times] Customs and Etiquette in Italy: 15 Things Every Visitor Should Know [Fodor's Travel Wire] Giro d’Italia Bicycle Race is Making Its Way to Washington, DC, in 2012 [Washington Post]

And, while I don’t often feature articles from the Italy blogs in the round-up, I had to mention these two articles from Alex Roe, the blogger behind the excellent Blog From Italy:
Ballooning Over Tuscany
Floating Self-Catering in Venice

Photo © Carol Fletcher

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