Hello! I am writing this post wide awake at 4:30am PST so that could only mean that we are back from our wonderful holiday in Rome. There is so much history encompassing the city, so many beautiful churches where you get moments of peace and serenity and a place to worship and pray for those who are religious, such delicious meals (and desserts!) prepared by Italians who take immense pride in their cooking, an abundance of art pieces whether it be paintings, sculptures, or architecture all over the city by renowned artists like Bernini, Michaelangelo, and Caravaggio, and all of that with the kind hospitality of the locals. Thank you beautiful Roma for an experience that I've only been able to dream of!
On one of our last days of the trip, Shane and I took a stroll down Via Condotti since he wanted to pick up some goodies for his family and since we were already there I had to pick up a souvenir or two as well right? I have always heard that luxury brands are "cheaper" in Europe but I should have done more research on how big of a difference it actually is. Here are my findings on shopping in Rome/Italy and personal tips for the VAT refund you get when you leave the country:
- Depending on the item you get, Gucci is not much cheaper in Italy compared to US. We saved an average of $70 (+state sale's tax)/item after the VAT refund. Is that worth the extra space in your luggage? That is up to you.
- Celine on the other hand is indeed cheaper in Europe and in addition they offer a bigger VAT refund which means the price is brought down even more. I can spare lots of room in my luggage if it means saving a couple hundred dollars and sometimes up to five =O.
- This one is important and what one of the SAs failed to tell me though I do blame myself for not looking into this fully or even asking when I was there. Europe enforces a NO REFUND policy. You may exchange the item but absolutely no refund. This is how I ended up with a purse I never intended to get on this trip...
- I've brought up VAT a lot and that stands for Value-Added Tax which as one can guess by the name, is tax that has been added to the item's price already. If you are a non-EU member, you are entitled to claim back some (note that you don't get all of that back and that is because there is a processing fee that you have to pay) of that tax and the percentage depends on the store you are shopping at. Gucci is about 12.25% and Celine is about 13%.
- To some the VAT refund may be a hassle and one could forgo it if they consider it a small amount but the VAT refund on designer purses really add up so I made Shane go through the process of getting it with me. I tried to streamline the process because it is really a consumer-oriented and the store only does the first step. First at the store, the store asks to see your passport so that they can record information from it onto a special receipt that you present to customs at the airport of your last European destination. You have to take that customs receipt that they [customs] stamp along with your original receipt and the unused purchases to the customs office at the airport. For FCO the customs office is before the security line so don't go through security just yet or you will have to do it again or lose your VAT. After you get the stamp, look for the booths of the refund service (also before security and directly across from customs at FCO) the store works with and show them your receipt. You have the option of getting immediate cash (for a fee), a credit to your CC, or a check in the mail. They will take your receipt with the customs stamp and give you a receipt itemizing your VAT refund. Then you go on your way across security and wait for the refund if you opted for a check/credit to your CC. I recommend going to the airport 3 hours before departure instead of the required 2 hours because you never know how long the line will be at customs or the booths.
Phew. That was like my check-in luggage, way overweight, but I hope you found it useful. I am always happy to share more details if you wish, just comment, tweet, or email me and I will respond as soon as possible :).
Salvatore Ferragamo 'Ginny' crossbody flap (love this color in saffiano and this bright beauty in patent)
I hope you had a lovely weekend. Thank you again for the recommendations of places to eat and sights to see while in Rome, they were great recommendations but I am not surprised as they came from amazing people. Thank you, thank you, thank you!