The exquisite leather goods made in Italy are among the world's best, making this European country is a must-visit destination for leather lovers. Italy is fairly overflowing with lush, high-quality leather, from the fashionably chic cities of Florence and Milan to the quaint villages that dot the Italian countryside. Although it's possible to spend a fortune on bags and wallets in Italy, some savvy shopping can help you squeeze the most out of your euros.

Where to Start

Head to Italy's style meccas: Florence, Milan, Rome and Venice. In these large and fashionable cities, you'll find the designer shops that carry the big names in leather, such as Prada, Gucci, Furla and Ferragamo. If name brands aren't your thing, these cities are also home to hundreds of smaller, family-owned leather shops where artisans craft top-notch leather goods without all the fancy logos.

Shop for Bargains

Buy designer leather at bargain prices at Italy's outlet malls. You'll need a car or a driver, as these outlets are located outside Italy's major cities, but the bargains you'll find may make the trip worthwhile. Outside Florence, you'll find discounted brand-name leather, such as Gucci, at The Mall. The Prada outlet called Space, about 30 minutes away from Florence, also offers steep discounts. In Rome, head to the Castel Romano Designer Outlet, which is just 10 minutes from the city. If you're near Milan, the Serravalle Designer Outlet, about 40 minutes away from the city, offers fine leather at about 50 percent off the normal cost.

Head Back to School

Visit Florence's Scuola del Cuoio, the world-renowned leather school inside the Monastery of Santa Croce. This is where the best of the best learn their trade, and although the prices can get a little steep, you're sure to come away with some truly exceptional leather goods. For a personalized souvenir, ask the craftsmen to emboss your selection in elegant gold leaf.

Shop the Markets

Shop for more affordable leather goods in the small shops, outdoor stalls and open-air markets in Italy's major cities. In Florence, visit the San Lorenzo Market and the numerous small shops surrounding the Santa Croce church. such as Venice and Milan. Keep in mind that wherever you find a market, you're also sure to find some small, unassuming leather shops nearby. Take a stroll down a few side streets, and you're bound to happen upon some hidden gems.

Think Outside the City

Pick up one-of-a-kind leather pieces in Italy's smaller towns, such as Orvieto, Pitigliano and San Gimignano. Florence may be the home of Italian leather, but even Italy's smaller villages include artisan shops with high-quality merchandise. These shops are also generally more laid-back than the bustling stores in the larger cities, giving you a chance to chat with the leather makers and learn a little about the history of their goods.

Strike a Bargain

Brush up on your bargaining skills to get fantastic deals on leather goods. Although you probably won't be able to talk a salesperson down in a fancy designer store, bargaining is a necessary skill at smaller shops and markets. Knowing a little Italian can also come in handy when trying to broker a deal, but it's not required, as most of the shopkeepers speak English.

Don't Be Fooled

Learn how to spot inferior leather and knock-off pieces to make sure you don't blow your vacation money on poor-quality goods. If a leather piece has a chemical smell, pass on it. Also, inspect the stitching, grommets, tags and other details to look for shoddy work and imperfections. A good leather piece will be beautifully crafted, down to the smallest details. Finally, check for a "Made in Italy" tag to ensure your leather is the real deal.


Trust the locals. Ask the clerks at your hotel or other Italian acquaintances to recommend good leather shops.