Tips and Tricks
All About Shopping in the Como Lake
Here is what you can expect when going about shopping in the this beautiful region of northern Italy. We will share with you many different specialties of the region and give you some handy tips.
Some people feel most relaxed on their holidays while shopping. If you belong to one these people, Lake Como shops can offer you incredible fulfillment. You can get everything and anything in the larger towns such as Como, Bellagio and Menaggio, but the smaller towns can also offer you unique arts & crafts that you wouldn’t be able to get elsewhere.
Shoes are plentiful, especially in Bellagio and Menaggio where you can find a shoe shop on every corner. They are in fact very stylish and tend to be of excellent quality. What we liked the most, is that each of the Lake Como shops we visited were packed with so many selections to choose from.
Sometimes are head whirled in trying to make a decision and we just ended up buying several pairs…while asking the owner for a discount. Hey, there’s no harm in trying…just say the word ‘sconto’ and they’ll understand what you mean.
You are bound to find some highly unique styles that you would never find in Italian shops back home. You’ll find fantastic shoes for work, play, business or whatever life throws at you. The majority of shoes are dress shoes, however, and tailor towards those that like the ‘successful and classy’ look and feel.
When trying out shoes, always remember comfort is the most important factor as you’ll be needing them to do more shopping! Many of the shoes you will buy in this Italy lake combine fashion and function perfectly, as they are made of genuine leather and the base is cushioned and comfortable.
There is a huge variety of other leather items you can buy in Lake Como. Many of the trendier brands such as Prada and Gucci are going to be expensive, but you know that you will be getting the latest fashions right out of Milan. Always look around to see if there aren’t any other items you may be interested in, as owners are happy to give discounts for buying more items.
You can start planning for the winter months by getting a nice pair of gloves or even a new coat. Also, very popular are the inexpensive belts and wallets which make incredible gifts for your folks back home…there’s just something exciting about having a nice, leather wallet that has the "Made in Italy" sticker in it.
Como produces 3,200 tons of silk, this amounts to over one billion EUR per year! In fact, if China didn’t come into the picture, they would have a complete world-wide monopoly.
Since competition from China has now become an issue, Como has decided to focus more on quality rather than quantity and you’ll see how shops overflow with many different varieties of high-quality silk products.
Prepare your eyes for a real feast when you see just how many different shapes, forms and styles silk can produce. You can buy beautiful gifts for your friends back home such as silk clothing, scarves, handkerchiefs, ties, upholstery, decorator fabrics and shawls, to name a few.
There is even a silk museum in Como which provides guided tours to the region’s rich history of silk production:
Museo Didattico della Seta Via Valleggio 3, Ph./Fax: 031-303180. Open Tues-Friday from 9:00-12:00/15:00-18:00, Saturdays by appointment only.
Italians take great pride in their clothing and just as is the case in nearby Milan, they love to dress to impress. You can find some amazing boutiques with designer-line clothing at competitive prices. Sometimes the best stores are in hidden locations, like just around a corner or in places where tourists are least present.
While going about your Lake Como shopping experience, you will find a large selection of casual wear as well as formal wear from top brands such as Marc O’Polo, Tommy Hilfiger, Timberland and Bertoni to name a few.
Many times the street fairs hold brand name items at great discount prices as stores with overstock get rid of inventory. The nice thing about this scenario is that you can always try to get an even better deal than the price displayed. Remember the magic word: "Sconto?" Just beware of fakes, particularly when dealing with handbags, as some North Africans try to fool the unwary traveler.
In Bellagio, one of our favorite activities is window shopping, as the opportunities for it are enormous. You will discover a large selection of handmade goods such as candles, wooden statues and porcelain figurines.
Although some local artists have their own studio from which you can browse and buy their works, many other artists feature their exhibitions every once in a while in local churches where you can get beautiful hand-painted artifacts or water-colour images for amazing rates.
After that ‘love at first sight’ feeling, we ended up buying a few original Giuseppe Armani figurines. Just remember that if you are from overseas and spend over a certain amount, remember to ask for a VAT (value-added tax) refund receipt so that the VAT is refunded to you when you return to your country. The process is very simple, you simply bring the form into one of the VAT offices at the airport upon departing.
Lake Como shopping would be incomplete without a mention of the wonderful food shops scattered around the entire lake. Virtually every single town on the Como lake has Alimentari stores which sell a great variety of home-made pastas either ready or pre-packaged which you can take with you. Many of them also sell a wide selection of regional honey, olive oil, pesto, sun-dried tomatoes, and dried mushrooms.
The idea of take-out meals is not entirely absent here, but also not really part of the culture. Italians generally prefer eating out in the company of friends and family in nice restaurants with nice settings – a meal means several hours spent in interesting conversation! In fact, take-out accounts for less than 2 percent of sales.
But that doesn’t mean you can’t get take-out meals altogether. Many of the bars will sell you a freshly-made, toasted panini sandwich to go, or the most common take-out food of all time – gelato. Surprisingly, many of the clerks will understand you when you say the words "Take out."
If you have a car, you can save a bundle of money on food by going to one of the large supermaket chains such as Iperal. You’ll see their exact locations advertised on the many billboards as you drive on the main road in Lake Como. These stores sometimes have discount cards which you get for free by becoming a member, saving you even more money but if you smile to the clerk, then often times they will swipe their own card anyway.
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