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  • Ceramics: The town of Faenza, in Emilia-Romagna, has been the center of pottery making, especially majolica, since the Renaissance. Majolica, also known as faience, is a type of hand-painted, glazed, and heavily ornamented earthenware. Of course, you don't have to go to Faenza to buy it, because shops throughout the country carry it. Tuscany and Umbria are also known for their earthenware pottery, carried by shops in Rome and Florence.

  • Fashion: Italian fashion is world-renowned. Pucci and Valentino led the parade, to be followed by Armani, Missoni, Gucci, Versace, and Ferre. Following World War II, Italian design began to compete seriously against the French fashion monopoly. Today Italian designers such as Miuccia Prada are among the arbiters of the world fashion scene. Milan dominates with the largest selection of boutiques, followed by Rome and Florence. Ironically, a lot of "French" fashion is now designed and manufactured in Italy, in spite of what the label says.

  • Glass: Venetian glass, ranging from the delicate to the grotesque, is world-famous. In Venice you'll find literally hundreds of stores peddling Venetian glass in a wide range of prices. Here's the surprise: A great deal of Venetian glass today is no longer manufactured on Murano (an island in the Venetian lagoon) but in the Czech Republic. Many factories outside Italy turn out high-quality glass products that are then shipped to Murano, where a number of so-called glass factories aren't factories at all but storefronts selling this imported "Venetian" glass.

  • Gold: The tradition of shaping jewelry out of gold dates from the time of the Etruscans, and this ancient tradition is going strong today, with artisans still toiling in tiny studios and workshops. Many of the designs are based on ancient Roman originals. Of course, dozens of jewelers don't follow tradition at all but design original and often daring pieces. Many shops will even melt down your old gold jewelry and refashion it into something more modern.

  • Lace: For centuries, Italy has been known for its exquisite and delicate lace, fashioned into everything from women's undergarments to heirloom tablecloths. Florence long ago distinguished itself for the punto Firenze (Florentine stitch) made by cloistered nuns, although this tradition has waned. Venetian lace is even more famous, including some of the finest products in the world, especially tombolo (pillow lace), macramé, and an expensive form of lace known as chiacchierino. Of course, the market is also flooded with cheap machine-made stuff, which a trained eye can quickly spot. Although some pieces, such as a bridal veil, might cost hundreds of euros, you'll often find reasonably priced collars, handkerchiefs, and doilies in Venice and Florence boutiques.

  • Leather: The Italians craft the finest leather in the world. From boots to luggage, from leather clothing to purses (or wallets), Italian cities -- especially Rome, Florence, Venice, and Milan -- abound in leather shops selling quality goods. This is one of Italy's best values, in spite of the substandard work that's now appearing. If you shop carefully, you can find lots of quality handcrafted leather products.

  • Prints & Engravings: Wood engravings, woodcuts, mezzotints, copper engravings -- you name it and you'll find it, especially in Rome and Florence. Of course, you have to be a careful shopper. Some prints are genuine antiques and works of rare art, but others are rushed off the assembly line and into the shops.

  • Religious Objects & Vestments: The religious objects industry in Italy is big and bustling, centered mostly in the Vatican area in Rome. The biggest concentration of shops is near the Church of Santa Maria Sopra Minerva. These shops have it all, from cardinals' birettas and rosaries to religious art and vestments.
  • Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.