The Shopping in Italy


Italy + shopping? Fabulous (if dangerous!) combination.

My mom left Rome with Italian leather on her mind.  She is a bit of a shopper, you see, so Rome’s streets, packed with stores selling purses, shoes, and other goods made from cows’ hides, shone as brightly as streets paved with gold.

Sadly, time didn’t permit her to satisfy her shopping craving while there: our three-day Roman holiday was punctuated, rather, by seeing all the important stuff, like the Colosseum and the Pantheon.  I watched her, covertly, as she cast her eye longingly over the Gucci and Prada handbags stretched out on the pavements, offerings from the scores of  West African vendors working every major piazza in the city centre.


“Don’t bother looking at those, mom,” I told her. “They’re fake and you’ll get in trouble at customs if you try to bring them back to Canada.”  I didn’t know this for certain but the last years have seen a crackdown on tourists handling counterfeit goods.  Instead, I promised her that the better stuff, the authentic stuff –ergo, the shopping for the hardcore — was to be found on the Amalfi coast.

I was right. Two days later we arrived in Sorrento, gateway to stacked, colourful villages along the rugged Italian coastline. The city’s centre has a long, tight alleyway that stretches perpendicular to the sea, home to delicious leather goods.  The magnetic pull was strong.  Our plans to walk down to Sorrento’s port to sit on the beach were dashed as we were swallowed by one store selling handmade leather purses. I vowed to buy nothing and only provide moral support for my mom as she navigated Italian shopping territory.

I think you can guess the end to this story.



I’m now the proud owner of two new bags and a pair of ballet flats I absolutely adore. All leather, all amazing. Shopping in Sorrento is not cheap by any stretch of the imagination but the quality for the price you pay is really quite good. If you’re good at negotiation (which I’m not, especially when I want something badly), you’ll enjoy haggling with the shop owners here and be well-rewarded with discounts if your efforts are successful.

I may be a few hundred bucks poorer but damn if my feet and shoulders aren’t looking like a million bucks.

Do you shop when you travel? Does shopping on your trip help you connect more or better with a destination?



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  • I don’t think it would have been possible to have gone to Italy without buying something! Like you said, the quality is really good so if you think about cost-per-wear, they’re great value for money!

  • Ummm….was the “pitch-black” description necessary tho? What does it add to the story?

    • It’s a physical description of the people and hence the surroundings. Did you find it offensive? Why?

      • I’m not sure offensive is the word (maybe off-putting), but I do find it strange considering the context and the messenger. I will say that I surely didn’t think you meant to be offensive, but the connotative use of “pitch-black” has rarely, if ever been a neutral or positive descriptor in my experience. Secondly, you are talking about people. Not flowers. Not handbags. People. How necessary is a embellished description anyway? It seemed a bit objectifying (to me), especially considering their social position in Italy. This is a delicate issue for travelers who are also (in a way) amateur ethnographers. Anyway, I enjoy this blog and will continue to do so. Cheers!

          • Your questionable English aside, I guess I’m lucky this isn’t your blog lol!

    • Hmm.. Why do you think so? I would really appreciate your feedback. 🙂

  • As a black person yourself who is by no means “light-skinned” it’s sad that you would describe someone else as pitch-black, which is offensive. It was very unnecessary.

    • Wow! Is saying pitch-black bad? Sorry that you find that offensive, it was just a physical description. My skin is very dark (especially when I get a tan in the summer!) and I often describe myself as pitch-black, charcoal, midnight, dusky. I think it’s beautiful, and am actually really shocked that saying someone is very dark triggers such a visceral reaction. I didn’t mean to be offensive in the least — if they were very white I would have said alabaster. 🙂

  • I got some feedback from some other readers and now understand how the “pitch black” description may have been taken the wrong way! It was never my intention to offend but have edited accordingly. As always, I very much appreciate your feedback and certainly take what you guys think on board. 🙂

  • I think it’s a great post. I find it quite telling that no one has bothered to come back to say why they’re so offended. Maybe they don’t even know. Oh well.

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      While I enjoy this blog, I (like most people with full lives) simply don’t have the time to stake out the comments section while hitting the refresh button every 3 minutes =). I hope the response I posted satisfied your um…curiosity? Presuppositions?

  • I think that pitch black comment was highly unnecessary, the description mentioning their nationality was sufficient enough but if you really wished to describe their physical appearance i think there are better terms you could have used.
    Such terms have been used in describing black people in a derogatory manner and to me it equates to using the term “blacky” “darky” etc.
    I am black myself and have heard such terms used before and trust me there was nothing positive in the delivery. I have followed your blog for a while and love it but i gotta say you were out of line on this.

    • Oneika is dark herself, genius. She has every right to use any description she likes on HER BLOG. Not you. Deal with it.

  • I am a compulsive shopper when I travel. Seriously. I have shipped home boxes from Nicaragua, India, Thailand, Norway, Bolivia, Germany, Nepal…you name it. I have the amazing souvenirs and jewellery to show for it, though! When I was in Rome in April I only brought a carry-on, so I couldn’t buy that much…I still managed to purchase a painting on one of the bridges, though!

  • I can’t help it, as soon as I see something colorful or sparkly I have to buy it. I love buying jewellery and home furnishings.

  • I’ve been to Italy twice and haven’t bought any leather yet. I normally practice great restraint with higher priced items, but I love to buy tons of small things. I think packing to go home is often my motivation to not buy larger items.

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  • The way you feel about Italy is the exact same way I felt able Taiwan. Seriously, there’s so much shopping there, they school France on fashion. I shopped so much, I had to open the expandee thingee on my backpack. :/

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