I’m a fashion fanatic I’ll admit, but sadly I can’t pursue my fashion desires with the reckless abandon that I would like. Bank balances and credit limits stand in the way of me and Miu Miu, Balenciaga, Prada and Gucci.
Well thanks to the outlets in Italy, your fashion dreams are no longer relegated to lustful longing of the pages of Vogue. Before you scoff at the idea of an outlet, let me tell you this is no ordinary outlet scenario. There is not a Gap or Nike factory store in sight. All the heavy hitters of fashion have a presence on the outlet scene in Italy. To name just a few: Prada, Gucci, Dolce and Gabbana, Armani, Burberry, Fendi, YSL, McQueen, McCartney, Marni, La Perla. That’s not even the full list, now that I have your attention let’s figure out how to get there.
Florence serves as the home base for this outlet shopping experience. In between eating glorious Tuscan food and taking in treasured collections of art at the Uffuzi, schedule time to visit the outlets if you are so inclined. If you weren’t inclined before, seeing how well the Italians dress might change your mind. Italians definitely have cornered the market on style and fashion. This may be partly due to readily available quality goods and services from Italy. We have a chance to bring some of that killer Italian style back home with us thanks to the outlets.
There are two outlets within train or bus rides of Florence. Lo Spaccio, or Space, also called “I Pellettieri D’Italia” houses the outlets for Prada and Miu Miu. The ubiquitously named “The Mall” houses a whole host of other designer stores including Gucci.
These are clothes, shoes, and handbags from past seasons, but it is possible to find classic pieces that are worth the investment. Also just because it is an outlet does not mean rock bottom prices. There is a serious discount on the items, but a 50% discount on a $1,000 bag is still $500.
Another outlet caveat is that these outlets can be hit or miss. You may have been unlucky enough to arrive after busloads of other tourists who have wiped the place clean. Or maybe they have just not restocked. Maybe there is nothing in your price range. Whatever, the reason it is always a bit of a gamble. Arriving early will help ensure that you get first dibs on the days goodies. Having a sense of humor helps also, at the very least you will get a nice view of the Tuscan countryside on the way to the outlets.
The way I’ve outlined is the cheapest way of getting to the outlets. That way you have more Euros to spend once you get to the outlets. If you don’t have alot of time and you want to hit all the outlets in one day, the taxi drivers will have posted the price to drive you to the other outlets. It can get a bit pricey, but if you’re short on time it may be worth it. There are also whole tours organized to take you to the outlets but these are also pricey.
Prada Outlet (Lo Spaccio, or Space, or I Pellettieri D’Italia)
Loc. Levanella – Montevarchi
Tel: 055 91901
Monday – Friday 10AM-7PM
The hours are subject to change so you may want to have hotel/hostel staff call for you to double check the times.
Prada Outlet by Train
To get to the Prada (Space) outlet take a train on the Florence-Rome line and get off in Montevarchi. Check out the train schedule posted in the Florence train station. You will have to look closely at all the stops because Montevarchi will not be the final destination posted, it will be a stop on the way to a larger city. For instance in the shedule shown below: Foligno is the final destination, however the train will make a stop in Montevarchi on the way at 13.14 (or 1:14PM). When in doubt of course ask at the information desk. Also make note of the arriving times back to Florence so you know what time to leave the Montevarchi Train station to head back to Florence.
Once you arrive in Montevarchi. There will be many taxi’s waiting outside of the train station. There is a standard printed fare to take you to the Prada outlet. Before you exit the taxi in mad frenzy to get to the outlet, make sure and grab the taxi driver’s business card and tell him what time you would like to be picked up. DO NOT FORGET TO DO THIS! Some taxi drivers will make you pre-pay. The staff at Space will not call you a cab they will merely point to the pay phone outside which may or may not work with your phone card, if you even have a phone card. Unfortunately I made this mistake once and its no fun trying to use the pay phone and scrambling for a taxi.
Rules of the Prada Outlet
The first rule of the Prada outlet is that you do not talk about Prada outlet, just kidding. The only thing you have to do is take a number before entering, there is number dispenser outside the building. In the busy season, you can’t enter the store until your number is called or flashed on a screen. Otherwise you enter the store but you must hold on to your number. If you want to buy anything the salespeople will take your potential purchases to the cashier and they can only be claimed by showing your number. So after you select an item, a salesperson will most likely ask “number?”, show them your number, and then they take your item to the front. The salespeople speak English as well as many other languages so don ‘t worry if you haven’t studied up on your Italian.
I would allow at least an hour minimum to check out the store, of course some people will need more. There is a cafe next to the outlet where you can grab a snack or an espresso if you have time to spare. The train station also has a small shop where you can buy drinks and sandwiches.
What the Prada Outlet carries
There are womens bags, accessories, shoes, and clothing. The bags at Space seem to start at around 250 Euros. There usually is a small selection of the classic, nylon bag that made the Prada brand so famous and these are usually a relatively good deal. There are also small leather goods such as wallets and keychains. Shoes can be a really good deal, on one trip I bought 4 pairs for 30 Euros each-amazing. On subsequent trips there have still been good deals on shoes but none as sweet as the 30 Euro shoes. It helps to know your Italian shoe size if you’ll be trying on shoes as well. They also have a nice selection of men’s clothing and shoes and a few children’s shoes as well. In addition to Prada the Miu Miu and Linea Rossa lines of the brand are also carried, and usually much cheaper. They also have a small selection of Jil Sander and Helmut Lang.
If you will be driving here are the driving directions according to the information given out at the tourist office:
Take the A1 highway towards Rome, exit at Valdamo and follow the direction to Montevarchi and then to Levanelle. Follow signs for “I Pellettieri d’Italia” to the Industrial Park location.
Designers at The Mall
The innocuously named “The Mall” houses outlets for: Gucci, Agnona, Alexander McQueen, Balenciaga, Bottega Veneta, Burberry, Emanuel Ungaro, Emilio Pucci, Ermenegildo Zegna, Fendi, Giorgio Armani, Hogan, I Pinco Pallino, La Perla, Loro Piana, Marni, Salvatroe Ferragamo, Sergio Rossi, Stella McCartney, Tod’s, Valentino, Yohji Yamamoto, Y-3, Yves Satin Laurent. There’s something for everyone here. There is also a sleek little cafe.
Getting to the Mall by SITA Bus
The cheapest and easiest way I’ve found to get to this outlet is by bus. There is a daily bus that leaves from the Florence SITA station and drops you right in front of the mall. The SITA station is at Via S. Caterina da Siena 17, it is near the train station. The price last time I used it was 2.90 Euros one way. The bus does return trips throughout the day. The bus schedule last time I went was as follows, please verify these times at the bus station as they may have changed:
Bus Schedule from Florence to the Mall
Monday to Saturday
Depart Florence: 8:30AM Arrive Mall: 9:35AM
Depart Florence: 12:35PM Arrive Mall: 1:37PM
Depart Florence: 9:00AM Arrive Mall: 9:55AM
Depart Florence: 1:23PM Arrive Mall: 2:15PM
Depart Florence: 3:00PM Arrive Mall: 3:55PM
Bus Schedule from the Mall to Florence
Monday to Saturday
Depart Mall: 11:18AM Arrive Florence: 12:35PM
Depart Mall: 2:23PM Arrive Florence: 3:35PM
Depart Mall: 3:23PM Arrive Florence: 4:25PM
Depart Mall: 6:28PM Arrive Florence: 7:25PM
Depart Mall: 7:23PM Arrive Florence: 8:15PM
Monday to Friday
Depart Mall: 5:10PM Arrive Florence: 6:20PM
Depart Mall: 12:45PM Arrive Florence: 1:40PM
Depart Mall: 7:05PM Arrive Florence: 8:00PM
Getting to the Mall by Train
You can also get there by train. Take the railway line Florence-Rome and get off at Incisa. Walk a short way down the main street and there’s a cafe on the corner where they can arrange for a cab. If you choose this route you can also request that the driver meet you at a certain time to take you back to the train station. There are taxi’s at the mall, but sometimes they are waiting on customers who’ve reserved and aren’t able to pick up customers. Make sure to note at the train station return times to Florence.
If you are taking the bus, your time is determined by the bus schedule which usually allows plenty of time. I think two hours is plenty, but one hour probably won’t be enough time if you want to go to several stores.
Getting to the mall by Shuttle Bus
Tel: 055 8657775 to reserve
Price: $25 per person round trip, 2 person minimum
There is also a shuttle bus service that will pick you up at your hotel (if it’s centrally located) or from any central local points in the city (if requested). A reservation is required and is made by phoning 055 8657775. Bear in mind there is a 2 person minimum required and it will cost $25 each for round trip fare. The shuttle leaves Florence Monday through Sunday at 9:30AM and 2:30PM and picks you up at 1:30PM or 6:30PM, giving you three hours (it takes about an hour to get there).
Take the A1 highway towards Rome, exit at Incisa, stay on the right towards Pontassieve until reaching Leccio. Soon after passing the center of Leccio, The Mall will be on the left.
Getting your Goodies Home
If you hit the jackpot and picked up alot of stuff you may not have room left in your luggage. If this is the case, I usually buy a cheap piece of luggage on the street in Florence or at the San Lorenzo market. You can load your stuff in there for the haul home, but be careful not to overload it because you get what you pay for and the luggage zippers can easily break.