As a New Yorker who predominantly shops at small boutiques and vintage stores, I have to admit: I love a good shopping mall. I love the convenience. I love the people watching. And I love knowing that I’ll leave with at least a few shopping bags in tow.
So when I was given the opportunity to go to Italy and visit The Mall, the world’s only all-luxury outlet, I practically ran home and made room in my shoebox-sized closet.
Then I learned that said mall was located in the rolling hills of Tuscany, 30 minutes outside Florence, and my excitement became tinged with sadness.
You go to Tuscany to drink Chianti and fall in love with an olive oil farmer, not to elbow your way through hordes of tourists in pursuit of last season’s Gucci, right?
But eventually, my thirst for heavily discounted designer goods crowded out all other considerations. And before I knew it, I was in Florence at the exquisite J.K. Place Firenze, waiting to be picked up in a vintage Fiat and whisked out to the mall.
My driver, a toothy-grinned 75-year-old named Giorgio, invited me to pop my head out of the car’s sunroof as we zipped down the winding roads, passing vast expanses of olive groves and lemon trees. High off the clean, fragrant air and the warming sun, I had half the mind to ask Giorgio to pull over on the side of the road and leave me to frolic in the fields.
My sweet reverie was suddenly interrupted when Giorgio pointed to a cluster of modern structures in the distance and excitedly announced, “The Mall!”
We had arrived.
As we pulled up to the entrance, I scanned my surroundings, narrowing in on all the brand-name shopping bags in sight: Chloé, Gucci, Loro Piana, Yves Saint Laurent. I felt my heart rate increase and my palms grow sweaty with excitement. Then my attention turned to the impressive design of the mall, whose freestanding, peaked-roof structures and abundant green space actually complemented the natural setting.
Why didn’t I shop amidst cow pastures more often?
I opened up my wallet and thumbed through my meager savings. With only 300 Euros and a few hours to spend, I likely wouldn’t be able to do much damage. But as someone who can’t resist a challenge, I quickly sprung into go-mode, plotting out all the shops on my hit list.
At Chloé, I eyed a silky-smooth calf-skinned bucket bag marked down 35%. Then I went to Etro and found the ruffled blouse of my dreams for only €125. After that, it was off to Dolce & Gabbana, where I discovered the very Majolica-print poplin midi dress that I had seen on the floors at Bergdorf Goodman a few months earlier, only half off!
But what I really needed was a wallet— and not just any wallet, but one that was classic, spacious, and statement-making all at once. And that is exactly what I found in the form of this buckled Burberry beauty, which was marked down a whopping 40%.
Feeling a surge of self-satisfaction, I stopped for a coffee at the mall's ultra-modern Gucci café. Sitting on the patio with a cappuccino and a buttery croissant in hand, I took in Tuscany's gold-dipped hills and lush valleys blanketed in cypress trees.
Just then, a giant bus rolled up to the front of the mall, unloading a sea of tourists onto the sidewalk.
Sure, it wasn't Italy at its most postcard-perfect, but it still came pretty close to my personal definition of la dolce vita.