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Shopping in Italy-is it really a hands off experience?

Meriden, Connecticut
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Shopping in Italy-is it really a hands off experience?

Hello. I am planning a trip to Italy for September. I will be visiting Rome, Florence, Venice, and Milan. I love to shop and am looking forward to buying some nice Italian clothes for myself. However, I have read in several travel books that the sales people follow you around the store, you cannot pick anything up yourself, and to expect company in the dressing room. I read that if you say you want a dress, they will pick one out for you in your size.

Is this really true? I can't take something off a rack and look at it to pick out what I might like to buy? And someone is going to stand in the dressing room with me while I try something on? I dont want someone to pick something out for me, I want to browse myself!

Turin
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1. Re: Shopping in Italy-is it really a hands off experience?

Some things you wrote can be explained with people from US not used to small shops. Shops where they still expect you to say "buongiono, parla Inglese" and then ask "may I?".

But where did you read "expect company in dressing room?". I'm really curious.

St Paul, MN
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2. Re: Shopping in Italy-is it really a hands off experience?

My daughter picks her own clothes out has tried clothes on in Italy in Rome, Florence, and Sorrento without any company in the dressing room.

Turin
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3. Re: Shopping in Italy-is it really a hands off experience?

Oh, of couse at Armani's atelier in Milan there is company in the dressing room. But the room is bigger than my house and Giorgio is always welcome!

United States
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4. Re: Shopping in Italy-is it really a hands off experience?

It's best to ask permission first to see if they want to hand you something or will let you browse. A family member once got asked to stop running his hands all over the cashmere sweaters in a shop.

TAB

Seattle, Washington
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5. Re: Shopping in Italy-is it really a hands off experience?

Just ask "Posso?" while miming what activity you want to engage in, e.g. fondling a cashmere sweater. If they say it's okay, go for it.

Meriden, Connecticut
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6. Re: Shopping in Italy-is it really a hands off experience?

Ha. Ok, well, I wasn't going to fondle any sweaters. I was thinking more of going through items on a rack, moving the hangers to see each thing. Thank you!

Meriden, Connecticut
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7. Re: Shopping in Italy-is it really a hands off experience?

I have a book called "Italian Survival Guide: The language and culture you need to travel with confidence in Italy" by Elizabeth Bingham, PHd. It says, "You are usually not allowed to browse. Rather, the sales person asks what you want in what size. Don't help yourself, looking through stacks of clothing, or you will likely be reprimanded." Now, if I am at a store set up with a table and a bunch of pairs of jeans in different sizes, I am more than happy to let someone get me my size so I don't mess anything up. but if there is a rack, I want to look through what is on it, you know? Maybe I was misinterpreting it.. I guess I was thinking I would say, I want some pants, and some sales person is going to pick me out a pair instead of letting me look at the different styles. That would put me off and make me not want to shop. And I REALLY want to shop in Italy!

QQ2
New York City, New...
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8. Re: Shopping in Italy-is it really a hands off experience?

A lot of shopping in Italy is done in small shops, where I think you are more likely to find this type involvement, which by the way is probably more of a European thing in that kind of shop than a specifically Italian thing. However, I find it difficult to imagine you would be expected to tell someone you want a dress and they would pick one out for you. It would be good if you could just say in Italian you were looking for a dress for a certain type of occasion and would like to browse. I think the behavior described in that book would be more likely to occur in, say, a lingerie shop if you went in to buy a bra and you would say you wanted a particular size and they would pull out some things in your size for you to look at.

There aren't a lot of big department stores in Italy -- the one I have been in the most in multiple cities is Rinascente and there things are I think more like what you are accustomed to -- i.e., more opportunity to browse, although someone will probably offer to help you (which is in a way nice thing, as in the US it is often impossible to find help).As best as I can recall, I have bought mostly small things at Rinascente -- a hat, soap, etc. and selected it myself. Still, if you are going through things on a rack I would be careful to to do it with your hand on the top of the hanger, not by pulling or pushing the garment. If things are in stacks, I would do what someone above suggested and say "posso?" to whoever is closest. I would also learn in Italian the phrases you are most likely to need -- like "do you have this in size--?" "may I try it on?" Also learn what your approximate equivalent Italian sizes in clothing, shoes, etc. are before you leave. Do not expect all the people in the shops to speak fluent English.

There are a lot of clothing outlets in Italy and I have never shopped in them, so don't know exactly what the rules are there. But if you shop there, I would suggest just watching how other people behave.

As far as food is concerned, If you are at a small food stand and want to say buy some some grapes you will tell the vendor about how much you want -- say a half a kilo -- and they will pick it out for you. I suggest taking a good look at things before you decide to buy, but I would not handle it. If the stuff looks okay to you I think you can rely on the vendor to make an ok selection for you (ie, not purposely pick the worst of the lot). I have never had problems buying this way.

Imperia, Italy
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for Italian Riviera
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9. Re: Shopping in Italy-is it really a hands off experience?

The 'rules' vary. In large chain stores, they are indistinguishable from those in the USA. But the smaller the shop, and the more expensive the clothes. the more likely they are to approach what you are asking about.

The ''help' from assistants is however only oppressive in absurdly expensive shops, possibly particularly when they can tell that you cannot afford their clothes! In most places it is genuinely helpful and friendly, you may well be approached, but people are quite happy to let you browse on your own if you want to.

Even in small shops, all sizes of dresses in stock are usually on display - it is smaller items such as lingerie and shoes for which you may well have to ask. And it is vanishingly rare to be accompanied into changing rooms (except, so I believe but have no experience of, in shops catering for multi-millionaires).

Vancouver, Canada
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10. Re: Shopping in Italy-is it really a hands off experience?

You should always greet the storekeeper upon entering. After that there really is no problem looking through the racks to find what you want. indicate your choices and you will be well assisted. In the better shops, the sales staff will actually show you complimentary pieces that make up an outfit. That's the beauty of good boutique shopping. If you spend above a particular amount, don't forget to ask for your Detax forms. And don't let them talk you into charging in your home currency, very bad exchange.