in last week's T magazine (2/26/06), the new york times' sporadic style supplement, there's a tiny mention of some outlets that i must visit when i finally make it to italy... just outside florence, marni (my favorite!), mcqueen, balenciaga and stella mccartney all have fabulous stores with discounted prices. oohhh, it hurts! that must be where those ebay sellers get the goods...
here's the copy, in case the article diasappears:
If you thought the Prada outlet outside Florence was the Uffizi Gallery of off-price shopping, call Alitalia: it's time to go to the Mall. The newcomer to Leccio Reggello (a few Autostrada exits closer to Florence than Prada's Montevarchi outlet), the Mall offers a cross section of the best brands produced in the country. Sleek boutiques from Pucci, Gucci, Giorgio Armani, Valentino and others mix with Yohji Yamamoto, Yves Saint Laurent and a triple-whammy shop featuring Alexander McQueen, Stella McCartney and Balenciaga. Best of all is the museum-quality Marni shop, stocking styles all the way back to the turn of the century â in all sizes. Replenish lost fluids at the slickly designed Dot.Com CafÃ©, where a Campari-soda, a pizza bianca with speck and a bowl of tiramisu are just what the shopper ordered. Bag parking available. For more information, go to www.outlet-firenze.com.
LocalitÃ Levanella; Montevarchi; 055 91 901; Mon-Sat 9.30-7, Sun 2-9.
Prada's outlet is the hardest to find but most rewarding as it has far more stock in a greater range of sizes than we found at any of the other factory stores. The huge shop sells shoes, bags, sunglasses and above all lots of clothes by Miu Miu, Helmut Lang and Jil Sander as well as Prada. Get there when it opens as they don't restock during the day and queues form at the entrance from mid-morning. Best buys when we visited included Miu Miu trousers for Â£45, a Prada Sport wool skirt for Â£60 and winter coats by Helmut Lang, Miu Miu and Prada starting at around Â£200.
from that same article, info on getting to the outlets:
Although it is possible to reach the outlets by public transport (taking a train to Montevarchi for Prada or Incisa for The Mall and continuing by taxi), it's much easier to drive there. If the prospect of negotiating Florence's narrow streets fills you with dread, hire a car from Europcar (Via del Gelsomino 11; 055 230 6777), who have an office in the southern suburbs of the city close to where you join the motorway.
For the Prada outlet, head south out of Florence on the A1 motorway and exit at Valdarno. Turn right after the toll onto the SS69 and follow directions for Arezzo and Montevarchi. Drive through the centre of Montevarchi till you reach the suburb of Levanelle, past an AGIP petrol station on the right. Shortly after the petrol station, where an overhead sign indicates the end of Montevarchi, turn left at a traffic light and drive round the back of a large, single-storey grey warehouse with a jagged roof, and you're there.
For The Mall, head south out of Florence on the A1 (as above) but exit earlier at Incisa. After the toll, turn right and head towards Pontassieve. The Mall is indicated all the way.
and here's a funny article about shopping at the prada outlet