Italy is behind some of the world's most coveted fashion, design, crafts and culinary products, making shopping here richly rewarding. Different crafts or items are often associated with a particular city, town or area. For instance, Murano (Venice) is famed for its glassware, Como for its silk, Florence for its handmade leathergoods and the Amalfi Coast for colourful majolica ceramics. Beware of cheaper foreign imitations; they are not only inauthentic, but also pose a threat to Italy's rich artisan traditions.

Sales

Ever wondered how every Italian seems to own a stash of fine merino wool Prada knitwear, a Ferragamo bag and a whole host of designer footwear and eyewear? How do they afford it?

What you lack, but what every style-conscious Italian knows, is exactly when and where to shop for bargains. Time your trip right and pick up designer fashion for a snip of the usual price at the annual sales (saldi) in January and July. Discounts start at 30% and increase to 50% as the sale goes on, but get there early if you don't want to be left with the oversized, ill-fitting, odd-coloured items that have been rejected by the rest of the shopping fraternity. At other times of the year score at the big city flea markets or head for the discount outlets in Lombardy and Piedmont.