Designer Outlet Shopping – Castel Romano, Rome
Like a viral epidemic, the much anticipated SATC inflicted excitement on women around the world last week, many of whom clamoured to be at the first night’s viewing. The receptionist at our gym hurried everyone out of the changing room before closing time. I asked her if she had a hot date and she said no. She was bursting with excitement as she was going to Sex and the City and didn’t want to be late for the show. Now that she’s seen the show, she can’t wait to see it again, moaning that she doesn’t have any money this week for the movie ticket, let alone the Manolo Blahnik shoes that Carrie’s got every fashion-conscious woman craving for.
Wow, so if you have an addiction for Labels, but don’t quite have the huge salaries that these four trendy New York gals have, where can you go to acquire some of these wonderfully branded goodies. Designer outlets is a good place to start and one such place in Rome is Castel Romano. The place is run by the McArthurGlen Group who have outlets in several countries in Europe. At Castel Romano you will find a range of prestigious labels and quality items at discounts ranging from 30% to 70%, depending on whether they are current or previous season’s stock. Given the price tag of some of these labels, even a 30% discount would only merely make a dent on the full-priced item, so it may be necessary to hunt down those items with at least 50% discount. As mentioned in the previous blog, the tax refund will also help in bringing down the cost of purchase a little further.
There are over 110 boutiques in the mall, some more fabulous than others and certainly some of the labels that Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda were dressed in are available here, e.g. Ferragamo, Gucci, Cavalli, Valentino, Dolce & Gabbana, and the list goes on. By the way, this is not a ladies only domain as there are lots of menswear too. Apart from fashion wear you’ll also find sports wear, homewares and gifts, leather goods and fashion accessories.
Designer outlets are usually located on the outskirts of town where the rents are cheaper and there is more space available. This is the case with the Castel Romano Outlet which is situated on the outskirts of Rome and there’s no easy way to get there on public transport. For this reason, private tour companies have sprung up to capitalize on the gap and create guided shopping tours for tourists. A disappointing aspect of these private tours is the limited hours of shopping and the price is not cheap either, which means erroding into the savings from your discounts.
We decided to find our own way own there and had an interesting experience on our first expedition out to the outlet. From Termini Station, we caught the train for Laurentina (blue line). Laurentina is the end of the line and there is a bus terminus here. There are different bus lines here and we managed to establish that it’s the COTRAL buses that we needed and one that is going in the general direction of Pomezia. The depot employees didn’t speak any English and as long as they didn’t shake their head in the negative, we assumed we were on the right bus. Once on the bus and not speaking any Italian, we tried asking people on the bus if they knew Castel Romano. A couple of the men shrugged, others consulted each other, but generally it appeared that they didn’t seem to have any idea. The discussion reached the hearing of an elderly lady at the front of the bus and straight away she knew what we were after. From the pitch of her voice and her hand gestures, she appeared to be admonishing the men for being ill-informed. Straight away she hit the bell and motioned us to get off the bus and pointed across the road. Yes the big tents of Castel Romano is a prominent landmark along the route so how could these men not know it. Bless this kind signora for being on the bus and hearing our call for help. Later on, I surmised that the men must have thought that, being tourists, we must be looking for a Roman castle! Once we got off the bus, finding the entrance to Castel Romano wasn’t that straight forward either.
Once you’re at the place, it’s quite a pleasant place to spend the day checking out all the shops. There are food outlets there, so there’s no problems with sustenance. We bought some really nice stuff from our trips here, including leather jackets, shoes, etc. For our return trip to Rome, we caught a cab from Castel Romano back to Laurentina. We thought it would be too crazy to try and catch a bus back especially as there’s no bus stops on the road and we didn’t have a clue as to the bus schedule. Things are a bit easier these days and the Outlet office administration has made arrangements with taxi drivers for a fixed fare back to the station. The last time we did the trip it cost us Euro 30, which was much more reasonable than in the earlier days.
So if you’re planning on venturing out there on your own, make sure you write the name and address on a piece of paper to show the bus driver as you’ll not find many people on the outskirts who will be able to help you with directions in English. Perhaps on your first trip out there, it may be a safer option to catch a cab from Laurentina.