Travel Diary Part 2 :: The hunt & Unforgettable memories

by wendy

Today is Part 2 (Part 1 here) with a section dedicated to shopping, which I call “The Hunt.”  But before I continue, I greatly appreciate your kind words on my last blog post!  It was a dream come true to be in Italy and thank you so much for letting me share.

    :: Wearable Art ::

During our stay in Florence, we had the absolute pleasure of viewing a great presentation by Peter Pilotto and Christopher De Vos.  The designers created a breathtaking collection full of colors and prints.  It was as though they were toying with the concepts of marrying digital prints with tribal patterns.

At first I thought these were mannequins, but the moment I saw them breathing, I was instantly captivated by the thoughtfulness of the presentation itself.  Clearly both Mr. Pilotto and De Vos are incredibly detail-oriented right down to the exhibition display.  I have not met a designer who doesn’t suffer from the perfectionist syndrome, and I immensely respect their ambition and appreciate their hard work.

:: The Hunt ::

Some people experience runner’s high, I on the other hand experience shopper’s high.  It is the moment when endorphins rush into my body after I successfully complete “the hunt.”  It is not the process of finishing a random transaction and having a shopping bag in hand.  “The hunt” is tracking a wishlist item and at the moment of encounter, the only words that can be uttered are “oh my gosh, oh my gosh.”  That was the moment when I saw this Stella McCartney trench cape.  Admired on Anh for so long, I literally let out a loud gasp when I saw this cape at the outlet in Florence.  Yes, that’s right.  Outlet.  The story begins…

There are three major outlets an hour away by bus from Florence.  The one that we went to is called The Mall.  This particular location is notorious for its grand size Prada outlet.  Two stories of eye candy, this Prada outlet is the mother-load.  Unfortunately, we couldn’t take pictures inside or else this blog post would be full of pictures from the stores.  From what I saw, there was a decent amount of current and plenty of past season items.  The shoes range from $60 – $500.  Clothing items from $50 and up.  Leather bags and accessories were limited, but there was a good amount of nylon options.  Also, they have a great selection of men’s casual and dress shoes.

In addition to Prada, there was Balenciaga, Yves Saint Laurent, Alexander McQueen, Stella McCartney, Gucci, Marni, Valentino, Bally, Burberry and more there.  The discount range from 50% – 80% off (not to mention tax-free).  We were there for about 3 hours and it was not long enough.  Of all the stores, the Prada outlet is the most crowded and longest time spent in the purchase line.  I highly suggest making a game plan if you’re short on time.  Visit the stores that you really want first.  I personally love the Yves Saint Laurent, Stella McCartney, Marni, Burberry, and Balenciaga outlets.  Also, come in with particular wishlist items to help you stay focus and on budget.

Value-Added Tax (VAT) Refunds

This was our experience with VAT refunds.  After you make your purchase(s), the store will issue you VAT papers for all total amounts over 155 euros.  Any total purchase under this amount will not qualify.  From our understanding and what we see on the receipt, the VAT amount is already charged at time of purchase and the refund basically entitles you to get some of that amount back.  At the last airport or connecting flight, you can file for the refund there.  This is the important part – make sure you have all of the items and papers with you.  The customs agent might (not all do) want to see the actual items before they can issue you the stamp needed to continue the refund process.   For example, our last connecting flight was in Munich (however our bags were checked in Florence) so I put the cape and shoes in my carry-on.  When the agent wanted to see them, it was with me and available to show.

Step 1 – Put all of the items that qualify for a VAT refund in your carry-on.
Step 2 – At your last connecting flight/airport, find the Customs Office.  They will ask to see your passport, boarding pass, VAT papers, and purchased items before they will stamp your VAT papers.
Step 3 – Now take the stamped VAT papers, along with your passport and boarding pass to the Global Blue Tax Free office (which is usually around the corner).  They will initiate the refund there.

:: The People ::

Aside from the beautiful locations and excursions, I’m incredibly grateful for the people and new friendships.  I’ve admired all of these bloggers from afar and never had the opportunity to spend quality time with them till this trip.  They are strong, independent, and hard working women.  Beautiful outside and inside, they all have a wicked sense of humor and giving personalities.  It was a true pleasure spending time with them in Florence.  I sincerely hope our paths will cross again soon.

Tina, Jess, Chiara, Andy, Ingrid, Aimee, Zanita, and Sade

Thank you Cami for introducing us to Florence and for your generosity!

Again, thank you so much for letting me share.  I hope the VAT refund part was helpful.  MM and I were running around the airport trying to figure out the system, so we hope to save you some time during your trip =)  More importantly, thank you for your support and encouragement.  Writing the last two blog posts was emotional for me.  Reflecting on new friendships and treasured memories, I feel incredibly blessed.  I’m so grateful that you’re on this journey with me.  As always, thank you so much for reading!

:: Outfit ::

Fashion show outfit :: D&G dress
Group shot :: By Malene Birger dress
Jumping shot ::  J.Crew cheetah dress (old) (similar here & here), Zara flats, Celine bag
With Cami :: Zara white blazer (similar here), Forever 21 leopard top
With Aimee :: See by Chloe denim dress, Chanel crossbody (vintage one here)