Bargain Hunting

SAN REMO, Italy — I don’t know if it’s because she once worked at Vogue, or if she simply possesses a Jewish-mother-knows-everything trait, but my mum always suggests the best places to shop. 20 years of experience have taught me to trust her advice, and so I confidently lead my dubious friend past the designer labels and expensive leather in San Remo, towards a little shop that seems to specialize in buckets and spades.

Straw carrier bags line the outdoor stalls, along with 10 Euro rucksacks emblazoned with Tinkerbelle and other Disney characters. Yet in the dingy back room, with space for the till and little else, stand two immaculately dressed Italian women laden with lavish shopping bags. My friend and I patiently peruse the straw baskets, waiting for the women to leave so that we may enter the room.

Admission is eventually granted, and amid the hanging plastic carrier bags and dim lighting, the shop owner unhooks a large basket from the ceiling. She proceeds to reveal two Chanel clutches and a Hermes bag. San Remo buildings are simple in style, but something suggests that this shop is more than just an unpretentious guise. The owner pulls more and more high-end designer bags out of the cheaper merchandise, each item indistinguishable from genuine upmarket products. She claims that most of the bags are simply very good quality fakes, but admits that a couple may have “fallen off a truck”

My friend and I do not buy, but we nevertheless leave smug with satisfaction. As we walk past the chic businessmen and their stylish wives, we bask in our new revelation, having solved the eternally perplexing question of why Italians are always so well dressed.

Olivia M. Goldhill ’11, a Crimson editorial writer, is a government concentrator in Kirkland House.