If you love fashion, you probably already love Italy. Several Italian cities sit alongside London and Paris in the ranks of Europe's top fashion meccas. Many famous international fashion brands originated in Italy, and new up and coming designers are being discovered every day. If you are in the mood to do some serious shopping (and to drop a lot of cash), head to Milan, Florence or Rome. If you just want the chance to see some serious fashion up close, Italy has got you covered too.
While Italians have dressed well for centuries, the country's high-fashion industry is a product of the post-World War II economic revival that led to the creation of many design houses that are still popular today. In the 1950's and 60's, Florence was the fashion headquarters of Italy, in the 70's and 80's, Milan took over. Today Rome, Milan and Florence are all major fashion cities, home to dozens of design houses.
The famous Italian fashion houses are numerous and legendary. While most of these fashion brands can be purchased anywhere in the world, they are based in Italy and many fans appreciate the chance to visit a flagship store, or to attend fashion week events. Some of the most famous include Gucci, Dolce & Gabbana, Giorgio Armani, Miu Miu, Versace, Roberto Cavalli, Salvatore Ferragamo, Prada, Pucci and Valentino.
Milan, New York and Paris have a close sibling rivalry for fashion capital of the world, but Milan may have an edge on the other two. Most famous Italian fashion designers and well-known labels are based here, even if they were initially founded elsewhere. This is the place to find serious high fashion, with serious high price tags.
The city's most popular shopping areas include the quadrilatero della moda, which features most of the important world fashion houses and is one of the most expensive shopping areas in the world. Other places to shop include Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II and Corso Buenos Aires. The Brera District is where you can find more bohemian independent boutiques.
Those looking to stretch their budgets can hop on a bus or tour to the designer outlets that sit on the city outskirts.
Milan fashion week is one of the biggest fashion events in the world. It is held twice a year, in September/October and February/March, and features many showings from major fashion houses like Prada, Ferragamo, Gucci and Versace.
Although not as well established as Milan, Rome is also considered one of Europe's major fashion centers. Many famous fashion brands were founded here including Bulgari, Fendi, Valentino and Brioni.
Most major labels have shops in Rome, many found along Via dei Condotti near the Spanish Steps. Rome is also a great place to check out independent boutiques and indie designers along the mile-long Via del Corso. The Porta Portese flea market can be a hidden treasure trove for unique antique jewelry.
Florence also has its fair share of homegrown design houses including Salvatore Ferragamo, Stefano Ricci and Emilio Pucci.
In Florence, shoe lovers can visit the Museo Salvatore Ferragamo, a museum dedicated to the works of the great designer with exhibits showcasing the history of shoe-making in Italy as well as rotating exhibits highlighting other Italian fashion trends. Nearby is the compact Museo Gucci, featuring handbags and famous red carpet Gucci gowns worn by celebrities, along with an attached fashion bookshop.
One word of warning to those looking to save a few Euros. It can be tempting to circumvent paying high designer prices by purchasing a knockoff designer bag on the street. There are certainly plenty of shady salesmen who will happily oblige. However, be aware that it is illegal to buy or possess fake handbags in Italy, a law that is heavily enforced. Fines can be as high as 10,000 euros, so the knockoff may not be such a great deal in the end.
Which fashion city in Italy interests you the most?
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Stephanie Yoder is a girl who can't sit still! Since graduating college in 2007 she has either been traveling or planning to travel. She's lived on four continents and visited everywhere from the Great Wall of China to the Great Barrier Reef. She now writes and travels full time, blogging about her adventures on Why Wait To See The World? (formerly Twenty-Something Travel). Follow Stephanie on Twitter or visit her on Facebook.
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