What to buy
Shops can be found all over in italy, notably the most artistic cities of florence, rome and venice. in florence, the best place to go for buying art is the oltrarno, where there are numerous ateliers selling replicas of famous paintings or similar things. usually, depending in what city you're in, you get replicas of notable works of art found there, but also, you can find rare art shops, sculpture shops, or funky, modern/old stores in several cities.
Jewellery and accessory
Shops can be found in abundance in italy. there are loads of jewellery and accessory stores which hail from italy. vicenza and valenza are considered the country's jewellery capitals, which are also famous for their silverware and goldware shops. all over italy, notably vicenza, milan, valenza, rome, naples, florence and venice, but also several other cities, you can find hundreds of different jewellery or silverware boutiques. apart from the famous ones, there are some great quirky and funky jewellery stores scattered around the country.
Design and furniture
Is something italy is proudly and justifiably famous for. excellent quality furniture stores can be found all over, but the real place to buy the best deals is milan. milan contains amongst the top design rooms and emporia in the world. for the newest design inventions, attend the fiera di milano in rho, where the latest appliances are exhibited. many italian cities have great antique furniture stores. so, you can choose between cutting-edge, avant-garde furniture, or old world antiques to buy in this country, which are, by average, of good quality.
Is something which venice makes uniquely but which is spread around the whole of the country. in venice is famously the capital of murano not the island, or glassware made in different colours. here, you can get stunning goblets, crystal chandeliers, candlesticks and decorations made in stunning, multi-coloured blown glass, which can be designed in modern, funky arrangements, or the classical old style.
Can be found in bookshops in every small, medium sized or big city. the main book and publishing companies/stores in italy include feltrinelli, giunti, mondadori, hoepli or rizzoli. most big book stores are found in milan, turin and nearby monza, which are the capitals of italy's publishing trade turin was made world book capital in 2006 however cities such as rome and more boast loads of book shops. 99% of the books sold are in italian.
Italy has the euro € as its sole currency along with 24 other countries that use this common European money. These 24 countries are: Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia and Spain official euro members which are all European Union member states as well as Andorra, Kosovo, Monaco, Montenegro, San Marino and the Vatican which use it without having a say in eurozone affairs and without being European Union members. Together, these countries have a population of more than 330 million.
One euro is divided into 100 cents. While each official euro member as well as Monaco, San Marino and Vatican issues its own coins with a unique obverse, the reverse, as well as all bank notes, look the same throughout the eurozone. Every coin is legal tender in any of the eurozone countries.
Be careful as to where to exchange money. Big-branded foreign exchange stalls that you find in train stations and airports, whilst legitimate, may charge a huge commission of approximately 20% on top of the published rates plus a fixed amount of euro. Read the small print first before turning over any foreign currency to the agent. Your USD100 may easily turn into just €50 if you are impulsive. The smaller stalls found in more touristy areas usually offer friendlier rates: you should get something closer to €70 for every USD100 you exchange.
Italy can be quite an expensive country. As everywhere, major cities and central locations have a higher cost of life than suburban and rural places. It is a general rule of thumb that Southern Italy is less expensive than Northern Italy, especially for food; this will, of course, vary by location.
Meals can be had from as cheap as €3 if you are happy with a sandwich, panini or falafel from a street vendor; restaurant bills can be anything from €10 a burger with fries\salad and a soft drink from a pub to €20 a starter, main course and water from a regular restaurant.
Service is always included, either in the display price or a coperto line on the bill; tipping is thus not necessary, but neither is it frowned upon. Tipping taxi drivers is not necessary, but a hotel porter may expect a little something. And unless otherwise stated, prices are inclusive of IVA sales tax same as VAT, which is 21% for most goods, and 10% in restaurants and hotels. On some products, such as books, IVA is 4%. In practice, you can forget about it since it is universally included in the display price. If you're a non-EU resident, you are entitled to at least a partial VAT refund on purchases of goods that will be exported out of the European Union. Shops offering this scheme have a Tax Free sticker outside. Be sure to ask for your tax-free voucher and have your passport and address back home details ready before leaving the store. You need to purchase at least €155 worth of goods inclusive of IVA from a particular merchant during the course of one business day although you can pool together multiple purchases from the same merchant on that day. These goods have to be unused when you pass the customs checkpoint upon leaving the EU.
If you plan to travel through countryside or rural regions you probably should not rely on your credit cards, as in many small towns they're accepted only by a small number of shops and restaurants.
Remember that in Italy even during the winter months it remains very common for shops, offices and banks to close for up to 3 hours during the afternoon often between 12.30 and 15.30. Banks, especially, have short hours with most only being open to the public for about 4 hours in the morning and barely 1 hour in the afternoon.
how to buy
In a small or medium sized shop, it's standard to greet the staff as you enter, not when you approach the counter to pay. A friendly 'Buongiorno' or 'Buonasera' warms the atmosphere. When paying, the staff usually expect you to put coins down on the surface or dish provided, rather than placing money directly into their hands old money-handling etiquette to avoid messy coin droppings, and they will do the same when giving you your change 'il resto'. This is normal practice and is not intended to be rude.
Haggling is very rare and only ever takes place when dealing with hawkers. They will generally ask for an initial price that is much higher than what they are willing to sell for, and going for the asking price is a sure way to get ripped off. Be advised that often times hawkers sell counterfeit merchandise in some cases, very believable counterfeits, and that hoping to buy a Gucci purse for €30 off the street might not be in your best interest.
In all other situations, haggling will get you nowhere.