How to Shop and Dress Like an Italian

City Travel, Health & Safety, Italy, Packing & Wardrobe, Shopping & Style, Solo Travel, Walking — By on July 9, 2009 at 8:00 am
Earlier this week, Lost Girl Patty Hodapp-currently studying abroad in Florence-shared 8 ways to eat and drink like an Italian and 5 ways to Walk and Ride like one. This week, she offers her tips for striking a deal with Italian vendors (legally), dressing like a local, plus a bonus on surviving advances by wanna be Romeos.

Today’s Lesson: How to Shop and Dress Like an Italian

Florence Open Air1. Head outdoors for bargains In Florence there are a few open-air markets where you can find everything from food to wallets, bags, leather jackets, hats, t-shirts and jewelry. As long as it isn’t an actual store, it’s legal to negotiate prices with street vendors in Florence. Never pay full asking price for an item.

2.. Offer vendors half of what they originally ask. Don’t be afraid to shake your head and walk away when they tell you how much something costs, because nine times out of ten they will chase after you and keep lowering the price till you are satisfied.

3. Sellers prefer cash to credit cards since they’re a huge hassle (and usually charge a small fee per transaction), so when I get them down to a decent price, I’ll offer them a few euros less in cash, which they grudgingly accept-usually.

4. Buying fake designer bags and paintings anywhere is illegal Vendors need a license to sell outside and open air markets are totally legal but if a police officer sees you buying a bag or sunglasses you will be heavily fined. Whenever a police car drives by one the guys selling their items from a tarp on the ground quickly pack up and vanish into the crowd before you can blink twice.

5.Bold Don’t be fooled by imitations Florence is world-renowned for its leather products. Be careful however when you buy leather goods. Unless there is a stamp inside saying something like “Italian Leather Firenze” or “Leather Made in Florence” etc. you’re most likely getting a product made from Chinese leather that’s been imported and sold unsuspecting and ignorant tourists for several times what its really worth.

6. Take a friend to the market If you are a foreign female under 30 years old, especially if you’re American and blonde, DO NOT go shopping for a leather jacket on your own. Salesmen at the leather stores and leather stands are reputably slimy and extremely aggressive. They may be overly complimentary and will repeatedly ask if you have a boyfriend or fiancé (even if you say yes they won’t desist their advances).

Dressing for the Day

1. Bring comfortable walking shoes or sandals After a week of sporting my very cute (but excruciatingly uncomfortable) but flat, support-free gladiator sandals, I purchased the Italian version of Birkenstocks at an outdoor market for 25 Euro (down from 55). So far they have been the best investment I’ve made because Italian streets and piazzas are predominately made from cobblestone or large, flat hard stones that from the surrounding region. Only newer much streets are paved.

cobblestones stilettos2. Skip the spikes Many clubs have a dress code, part of which requires women to wear heels. Do not bring stilettos to Italy. Most likely you will have a walk from your hostel to the clubbing area and stilettos get stuck in between the cobblestones, ruining both your shoes and your poor feet. Instead sport a nice pair of wedges or thicker heels.

3 Throw a scarf or sweater in your bag before leaving for the day. To enter churches you need to have your shoulders and knees covered, and cannot show any cleavage. In summer months it’s hot and people wear shorts and tank tops but you will be denied entrance if you aren’t properly attired. Some churches will give you an embarrassing felt-like, garbage bag-type garment to wear over your clothes if you ask for one or pay for it, but most will just deny you entrance flat out until you are properly attired.

Italian Men

1. Ignore the sweet talk “Ciao, Bella” (“Hello, Beautiful”) is NOT a compliment if it comes from a man less than 70 years old. Most Italian guys will catcall you, whistle, try to talk to you etc. At first I thought it was a compliment, after a while I was offended and annoyed, and now I’m simply immune.

Italian Men2. Keep your eyes to yourself Italian men will try to make eye contact with you on the street and if you do make eye contact for more than two seconds they see that as an invitation and will descend upon you like a pack of wolves. Not kidding. If you want the freedom to look around bring a pair of sunglasses with dark shades so they can’t see your eyes. I wear mine all the time. Otherwise look straight ahead and keep walking no matter what they say.

3. Don’t believe the hype They will also try to get you to stop or get your attention by saying cheesy things like “Miss, you dropped something!” or “Can you fix it? My heart-you are breaking it!” Trust me, you didn’t drop anything and his heart will be fine, until the next cute American girl walks by…

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