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What you need to know about sales shopping in Italy

Italy's shops are only allowed to hold two big sales a year - and the next one is coming up. Here's what you need to know.

What you need to know about sales shopping in Italy
Italy's summer sales begin in early July each year. Photo by ANDREAS SOLARO / AFP

By law, shops in Italy are allowed only two big sales a year – one in winter, one in summer. But what they lack in frequency they make up for in size. 

READ ALSO: What changes about life in Italy in July 2022

Discounts are deep and sales last for several months: the summer sale kicks off in early July and in many parts of Italy, you’ll still find them going well into September.

When do the summer sales start?

Here’s when the 2022 sales officially begin and end in each Italian region:

  • Abruzzo: July 2nd-August 31st
  • Basilicata: July 2nd-September 1st
  • Calabria: July 2nd-September 2nd
  • Campania: July 2nd-August 31st
  • Emilia-Romagna: July 2nd-September 30th
  • Friuli-Venezia Giulia: July 2nd-August 31st
  • Lazio: July 2nd-August 13th
  • Liguria: July 2nd-August 16th
  • Lombardy: July 2nd-August 30th
  • Marche: July 2nd-September 1st
  • Molise: July 2nd-August 31st
  • Piedmont: July 2nd-August 27th
  • Puglia: July 2nd-September 15th
  • Sardinia: July 2nd-September 3rd
  • Sicily: July 2nd-September 15th
  • Trentino-Alto Adige/South Tyrol: July 2nd-August 8th
  • Tuscany: July 2nd-August 31st
  • Umbria: July 2nd-August 31st
  • Valle d’Aosta: July 2nd-September 30th
  • Veneto: July 2nd-August 31st

Note that some large retail chains in recent years have begun to advertise sales outside of these periods – but discounts in these cases will be reserved for shoppers who are part of a loyalty or membership scheme.

When’s the best time to go?

That depends on your priorities: shops are likely to be packed on the opening Sunday, so anyone who doesn’t do well in crowds is advised to wait at least a few days – ideally until mid-week.

Cuts will continue as the sale goes on, so die-hard bargain hunters will find the cheapest prices at the end. But of course the earlier you go, the bigger the selection you’ll find.

What’s on sale?

Anything and everything. But the main attraction is seasonal products like clothing, which shops have an incentive to get rid of quickly.

Italian law states that the items on sale must come only from the season just gone, rather than things that have been sitting on the shelves for months (though the rule is hard to enforce).

When it comes to fashion, that means you’ll find chiefly stock from autumn-winter collections on sale.

Photo: Marco Bertorello/AFP

How much can you expect to get off?

It varies from shop to shop, but discounts typically start at around 20-30 percent and can rise to as much as 70 percent.

By law shops must mark the reduced price and the original price so you can tell how much of a bargain you’re really getting.

Are there any sales scams to watch out for?

Consumer rights groups advise customers to be wary of discounts of 70 percent and more: they can be a sign that either the item was overpriced to begin with, or is old inventory from a previous year.

Shops are also supposed to display discounted items separately from non-reduced stock to avoid confusion, but check labels carefully just in case.

Anything that’s labelled as reduced must be sold at the new price: you can report the seller to the police if they attempt to give you less than the advertised discount.

Some sellers have also been known to claim that you can only pay for a sale item with cash: not true. Any shop that usually takes cards is obliged to do so during the sales, too. And however you pay, make sure you get a receipt.

Photo: Andreas Solaro/AFP

What’s the returns policy?

Sales or no, by law shops in Italy are only obliged to take back items that have a defect, such as a broken zip or open seam. Even then there’s no guarantee you’ll get your money back: shops can offer to repair or substitute the item, or give you only a partial refund depending on how bad the fault is.

Anything else is at the seller’s discretion. And while many shops usually allow you to change your mind, during the sales period they may scrap their usual returns policy.

Check each shop’s terms and conditions before you buy, and make sure you try clothes on.

The rules are different, though, if it’s impossible to try before you buy – i.e. if you’re shopping online. In that case customers are entitled to at least 14 days in which to return the item and request a full refund, no questions asked.

Eco-friendlier ways to shop

The best thing you can do for the planet is not buy more stuff. But if you can’t resist updating your wardrobe, a better way to go shopping is to buy used from flea markets (mercati delle pulci), secondhand shops (mercatini or negozi di articoli usati) or charity shops like Humana. (And unless you have a hefty budget, it’s also your best shot at picking up some of Italy’s famed luxury brands.)

If your new acquisitions force you to clear out your cupboards, dispose of your used clothing responsibly by donating it to Humana or another charity that will use or resell it. Even old clothes that are no longer fit to wear can be recycled into useful textiles: drop them off in the donation bins on the street in Rome and other cities, or at a chain such as OVS or H&M. 

Photo: Gabriel Bouys/AFP

Useful vocabulary

i saldi – sales

in saldo – on sale

scontato (del X percent) – discounted (by X percent)

un affare – a bargain

centro commerciale – mall

grande magazzino – department store

abbigliamento donna/uomo – womenswear/menswear

i camerini – changing rooms

“Quanto costa?” – “How much is it?”

“Posso provarlo?” – “Can I try this on?”

“La merce in saldo si può cambiare?” – “Will you exchange sale items?”

“Mi fa lo scontrino, per favore?” – “Can I have the receipt, please?”

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Can British people in Italy claim the UK’s winter fuel payment?

In the UK, there are various benefits available to help eligible people through the cold winter months – one of which is the winter fuel payment. But can Britons living in Italy really claim this benefit to cover the cost of heating their Italian homes?

Can British people in Italy claim the UK’s winter fuel payment?

Average winter temperatures vary across Italy, but those who move here after only experiencing scorching summers are often surprised to discover just how cold the country can get.

Even the hardiest of arrivals from colder climes will no doubt have to switch on the radiators or fire up the woodburner between November and February – despite the surging costs.

READ ALSO: Not just gas: How the cost of heating has soared in Italy

As the cost of living crisis bites, some UK nationals who reside in Italy may wonder if they could still be eligible for winter fuel financial support from the UK.

What is the UK’s winter fuel payment?

The UK’s winter fuel payment is a tax-free payment to help older people with heating costs during the cold winter months.

Those eligible must have been born before September 26th 1956, according to the UK government’s website.

How much people receive depends on their age and whether anyone else in the household is also eligible, but the amount is usually between £250 and £600.

I’m a UK national living in Italy. Can I claim the winter fuel payment?

Yes, if you meet the following criteria according to the British government’s website:

“If you do not live in the UK, you’re only eligible for the Winter Fuel Payment if:

  • you moved to an eligible country before 1 January 2021
  • you were born before 26 September 1956
  • you have a genuine and sufficient link to the UK – this can include having lived or worked in the UK, and having family in the UK”

Unlike Spain and France, which the British government has deemed to be too warm on average, Italy is on the list of eligible countries along with Austria, Germany, Sweden, and others.

Find out how to claim the fuel payment on the UK government’s website here.

According to the UK government, during winter the average temperature is between 2 and 7 degrees Celsius in the UK.

READ ALSO: At what time of day is electricity cheapest in Italy?

The Italian government divides the country into six ‘climate zones’ which determine when and for how long residents should have their heating switched on each winter.

According to the government’s classification, the coldest parts of the country are the northern provinces of Cuneo, Trento, and Belluno, where no heating restrictions apply.