by Melinda Gallo

All Prada'd out

Today was my first trip to the outlet malls outside of Florence. My brother and his wife are visiting from California and asked me to arrange a trip out there. I searched on the Internet, asked my friends, and in the end we paid a driver to pick us up and take us there. It was 170 Euros for all 6 of us and we could spend however much time we wanted.

I hadn't been out to the Tuscan countryside in quite awhile. I woke up early and walked to their apartment in Piazza della Signoria to meet them. The driver asked where we should go first Prada or the outlet mall. We all said, "Prada."

We drove for at least an hour south of Florence and arrived in the parking lot of a warehouse building that didn't have any signs posted anywhere. There weren't any people outside either, so it was hard to tell what it even was.

There was a number dispenser where our driver told us that we each had to have a number. I thought it was for entering, but it turned out that it was for setting items aside and picking them up to pay later.

I've never bought a Prada purse before. I've been to the Prada store in Florence and no matter how beautiful the bag was, I couldn't see myself spending $500 for it.

But, at the Prada outlet store everything I saw, I wanted. I already knew that the prices were lower, but all the excuses I had before for not buying anything drifted away.

We were not alone in the Prada outlet store. There were many Japanese, British, and German tourists/shoppers. I realized that if I had my eye on a certain purse, I had no time to think about it. I had to lunge for it and put at least one hand on it. If not, it would be swiped from under my nose.

I ended up buying only a few items, while my sister-in-law bought two large shopping bags full of Prada bags to sell to her friends. I've never priced the items before, but supposedly a handbag that we could get for 120 Euros costs about $300 in the US.

After our driver Massimiliano packed all our bags in the trunk, he drove us to the other outlet mall with Gucci, Giorgio Armani, La Perla, Tod's, and many other stores.

This place felt more like outlet malls in the US where they are just shops with the same brand names selling items and not always at a lower price. We walked around for hours picking through what had already been picked over and came up with nothing.

Our six-hour excursion was fun in that we looked around all the shops and bought some great stuff at Prada. If I were to do it again, I'd only go to Prada though: they had the best prices and the best selection.

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