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Lucky Haul: Italian Prada Outlet Edition

Yep. That's Prada, folks.

It's true what they say: some things in life are worth waiting for. And for a girl who had never been to Italy until just two weeks ago, the mythical Prada outlet that lies an hour outside of Florence certainly qualifies.

I'd heard rumors that the warehouse space had tons of past-season goodies from both Prada and Miu Miu, including everything from shoes to ready-to-wear to hundreds of handbags. But what I wasn't quite prepared for was the business of, well, actually getting there. See, to weed out the crowds—or perhaps just to make things more interesting—Prada doesn't really publicize its Italian outlet, nor does it provide road signs or much in the way of directions for hopeful visitors. Since I was there on a family vacation, my dad decided to rent a car and agreed to try to drive us all there one morning during our time in Florence.

After 60 minutes' worth of navigating out of the twisted, turning labyrinth of cobblestone streets that is Florence (soundtracked by endless honking and yelling), we made our way past multiple deserted fields and several tiny tourist towns. Eventually, we made it to our destination village of Montevarchi—and there, in an unassuming, completely unmarked gray warehouse, was Prada.

As for the inventory, it was even better than I could have hoped for—especially as a girl with size 41 feet, since the dozens of Japanese tourists who were shopping along with me that day (the only other people shopping with me that day) dove for the 37s and 38s in the shoe department. I eventually settled on a pair of perfect patent Miu Miu pumps in pale nude for 100 euros, plus some black bow-topped Prada flats for only about 50 euros more. I also found a gorgeous, timeless duffle-style bag in soft elephant gray in Prada's handbag section—a classic I've carried almost every day since I got back to the States.

For anyone with a trip to Italy on their calendar, a visit to this impressive outlet is a must. But first, few words of advice:

  • Arrive early—as in, the moment the building opens. That's 9:30 am on weekends, 10:30 am on weekdays. Tourists are brought here by the busload, and you're gonna want to get to the good stuff first.
  • Get a numbered ticket from the outside machine before you enter the outlet. Items you select in each department are held for you behind various checkout counters until you're ready to pay, and they won't let you shop at all unless you've gotten a ticket first.
  • Like a bag? Pick it up and hold on to it until you can ask an attendant to put it under your name and number. Nobody likes a hoarder, but once a certain bag on display is sold out, it's gone. And sometimes, it's just the one display piece itself that's up for grabs.
  • This one's a biggie: once you do check out, make sure everything you selected actually makes it into your shopping bag. Since you've likely picked items from various departments (clothing, shoes, etc) they're not always held for you at the same counter, and can get left behind at checkout time. High on retail adrenaline, I stupidly didn't realize that a way-marked-down Prada black dress I'd chosen early in my shopping mission didn't make it out with me at the end of the day (although I wasn't mistakenly charged for it or anything). It'll forever be remembered as the one that got away—not to mention an added incentive for me to make a return visit.

Shop some currently-available, near-identical versions of the goodies I bought in the slideshow.

Space/Prada, 1 Pellettieri d'Italia, Levanella-Montevarchi, Strada Statale 69, Montevarchi
Phone: 011-39-55 865-77-75
Driving directions: From the A1 motorway, exit at Valdarno (exit 25) and then follow signs to Montevarchi. Continue through on the SS69 towards Arezzo. The outlet is about two miles from the centre of town—look for signs that read "Pellettieri d'Italia." Look for the large warehouse complex on your left—it has a silver roof.

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