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SHOPPING

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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For members

MONEY

EXPLAINED: What is Italy doing to cut the rising cost of living?

Amid soaring inflation and price rises, the Italian government has announced new measures to help families and businesses keep costs down. Here's what you need to know.

EXPLAINED: What is Italy doing to cut the rising cost of living?

Italy approved a much-anticipated aid decree on Thursday, August 4th, bringing a new round of state funding intended to tackle the country’s most critical issues: from the rising cost of living and sky-high inflation to the energy and supply crisis. 

READ ALSO: Fuel tax cut and help with energy bills: Italy approves inflation aid package

The ‘aiuti bis’ aid package, worth around 17 billion euros ($17.4 billion), likely marks the last major act by outgoing prime minister Mario Draghi before an early general election next month.

The funding is seen as badly needed after inflation hit 8 percent in Italy in June – the most severe spike the country has experienced since 1976.

After weeks of speculation about exactly which measures may or may not be included in the decree, we now know it contains everything from an extension to the fuel duty cut to more help with energy bills for those on lower incomes.

Here’s what you need to know about the latest measures intended to keep the cost of living under control.

Extension to fuel duty cut 

The current discount on fuel duties is to be extended again to September 20th, though the value of the discount will drop from 30 to 25 cents. 

The discount was recently extended to August 21st but the government decided to further prolong the incentive in a bid to ease the blow that record fuel prices have dealt to consumers and businesses.

The cut was initially introduced as far back as March when the average prices at the pump for petrol and diesel both exceeded the two-euro mark.

Help with energy bills

Measures introduced in the first half of the year to help lower-income households and vulnerable people pay rising energy bills will be extended under the new decree.

It extends an existing government discount on gas and electricity bills for a further three months, until the end of 2022, as well as reducing system charges.

READ ALSO:

Italy’s tax on the ‘excess profits’ of energy companies has meanwhile been extended to June 2023 after the government reportedly received fewer payments than expected.

Tax cut for employees

Workers earning a gross income of under €35,000 are eligible for a two percent tax saving, amounting to a small monthly ‘pay rise’ until the end of this year.

“Already in the budget law we reduced social contributions by 0.8 percent; for the second half of the year this reduction goes up to 2 percent, as we’re now adding 1.2 percent”, said Economy Minister Daniele Franco at a press conference on Thursday.

As the tax relief lasts until the end of the calendar year for a six-month period, the July deduction will be retroactive.

New aid measures announced on Thursday are hoped to boost Italy’s consumer spending power as the cost of everyday goods rises. Photo by ANDREAS SOLARO / AFP

Those earning €35,000 can expect to save around a further €30 per month (1.2 percent of a monthly salary of €2,692 – most Italian salaries are paid out over 13 rather than 12 months to give employees a tredicesima Christmas bonus).

To find out how this may apply to you, it’s advisable to speak to an accountant or your local Italian tax agency (Agenzie delle entrate) office.

More funding for mental health treatment

The new decree will also enhance the existing ‘psychologist bonus’ (bonus psicologo) by allocating an additional 15 million euros to the measure. This will bring the total amount of funds available for the bonus to 25 million euros. 

The bonus was officially introduced at the end of July to help make mental health services more affordable, amid a pandemic-induced crisis in Italy.

All individuals with an Isee (a calculation of relative household income and wealth) lower than 50,000 euros will be eligible to receive a 600-euro voucher, which they’ll be able to use when seeing professionals listed on Italy’s official register of psychologists.

See more information about claiming the bonus in a separate article here.

Discount on public transport tickets

The government will allocate a total of 101 million euros to funding its ‘transport bonus’ (bonus trasporti); 22 million more than the original amount.

The bonus takes the form of a one-time 60-euro discount to be used on the purchase of monthly or yearly tickets for local transport services.

It will be available from September 2022 to all pensioners, students, and employees with an Isee of up to 35,000 euros.

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