If heaven is a place on Earth, it’s tucked away in the Tuscan countryside in the form of an Italian outlet mall. (Two, to be exact.) I’m not kidding. I found a Valentino Small Rockstud Bag (in black!) for 1,100 Euros, which is a little over $1,200, plus a 12 percent VAT refund. Go to Bergdorf Goodman in the U.S. and the tote will cost you $2,400 and a couple hundred in tax. Yes, these Italian outlets are heaven for a bag lover.

Last year, some of you may remember I took a trip to Florence and journeyed about an hour outside of the city to visit two highly sought after designer outlet malls. Make note they are not the only outlet malls in Italy, but they were the closest to where I was staying in Florence, which is why I decided to take a quick trip.

Located amid emerald-colored rolling hills and small, family-owned wineries, Prada Space (which is also where the international headquarters of Prada is located!) and The Mall were hard to miss. Made up of several industrial-looking buildings, the stores were filled with tourists from across the world, from the U.S. and other parts of Europe to Japan, Australia, and South America. Read up on the nitty gritty of each outlet here.

Reflecting back, I was extremely overwhelmed when I visited last year. There was so much to take in. The sheer volume of “stuff” (bags, shoes, clothes, jewelry, small leather goods) was unbelievable, and the prices were absolutely unheard of. However, after I covered the malls last year, some PurseBloggers were (rightfully) concerned with whether or not the products at said malls were up to par quality wise as compared to what you may find in various boutiques. But now, going back a second time, I can without a doubt say Prada Space and the Mall are the real deal.

I can also say I had a game plan going in this time around. I knew exactly what I was looking for (nylon bags at Prada, potentially a Valentino, and a wallet on a chain from Fendi). I managed to score all of that and more for less than the price of a Chanel Flap Bag. While discounts vary from store to store, Prada Space and The Mall range from 20 to 60 percent off retail prices. Plus, don’t forget that most stores offer a Global Blue tax refund, which means you may end up receiving an additional 10 to 20 percent off. You’ll need your passport on-hand to receive the tax refund paperwork.

My biggest success this year was the Valentino. What’s unbelievable is the Small Rockstud Bag I scored is still current collection… so if you’re wondering whether or not the outlets strictly sell “made for outlet” items, I can definitely say that is not the case. Same goes for Prada, Fendi, Balenciaga, Givenchy, and more.

If you find yourself near and able to visit, I’d recommend going during the week. Most of the SAs I chatted with said weekends are quite crowded, making it a little difficult to navigate the stores. (Many of them are quite small.) What’s also fun is bags are not under lock-and-key here. You can freely go up to just about anything and check it out for yourself. No need to get permission from anyone.

I’m also pleased to report that the stock at each of the outlet malls was just as strong this year as it was last year. Even if you do visit on a “crowded” day, you’re sure to walk away with a new handbag (or maybe even a few).

It’s no question you should visit Italy (and specifically, Florence) for the history, culture, and food. But making a quick handbag detour doesn’t hurt, right?

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