Q: What is it? A: The almost mythical factory outlet in Montevarchi in the heart of Tuscany.
Click HERE to get the details from my latest visit to Tuscany in June 2011. It’s worth it.
* * * Road directions at the end of this post! * * *
* * UPDATE: Opening hours at the end of this post! * *
You know me. I’m certainly not an outlet guy.
This no-outlet-guy will now tell you about a rather special outlet. It’s never advertised. It’s rarely talked about. It’s a hidden gem that the fashionistas of this world would like to keep to themselves. And it’s a good enough excuse to go to Tuscany more often.
So what is it?
It’s the answer to the question ‘Where will Prada sell off the stuff from last season?’ I have only a vague idea of how much a Prada shirt would cost in a high street boutique, but I’m quite sure that the €65 I paid is a bargain indeed. People keep telling me that I’ve gotten away with 30-70% discounts. If so, that’s not bad at all.
The trick is to find it, as it will never, ever be advertised. It’s located in a very anonymous Prada factory building some 35 minutes away from Arezzo, Tuscany. It even comes with a non-descript name. For sure this is an intentional move. Outlets mix badly with the Prada name, so they decided to call the place ‘Space’. When you’ve arrived at the factory, there will be one small sign on the side of the road and one on the façade. That’s it.
What does it look like?
After finding the building, driving along it, looking at gates monitored by TV-cameras, you enter a fenced area. There you’ll find an entrance with glass doors. It was obviously not designed for forklifts. Inside, there may or may not be a queue, as Prada only allows about 100 shoppers inside at the same time. So you walk in and, ta-daa! It looks very similar to Neiman Marcus!
The not so normal procedure of shopping here.
Smile ladies, a dropout from the Italian football team is handing out little tickets with numbers. Make sure that you hold on to that ticket as that is your PIN. When you find something interesting, you will be asked for you PIN and the merchandise will be taken away (of course you may try it on first). So you think that you and your walled have had enough? What now? You proceed to check-out and the items will be handed over to you. You then have the chance to pick what you actually do want to purchase. And then you pay. The system works surprisingly well. The staff in the store is superb; helpful, multi-lingual, and they know shapes and materials better than the people at Selfridges.
I’m being told that the citizens of Montevarchi are very familiar with the question ‘How to get to the Prada outlet?’ And I’ve also heard that it’s better to ask the man on the street rather than the merchants and shopkeepers of Montevarchi. Rumour is that a few of them are getting pissed; thinking that their business is suffering because of the outlet. The same rumour says that therefore merchants are sending tourists off in the wrong direction. Strange. I wonder if they are all selling Prada?
Bonus info: The Space outlet carries all of Prada’s lines and also some of the labels that the company have already sold. That means that you may find items from Miu Miu, Helmut Lang, Jil Sander, Carshoe and Church, (yes, the shoes), at Space.
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A little extra note: Over the years I’ve been asked a few things over and over again: Wow, do they have a website where you can see what’s in stock? Do they ship? Once again, this is an outlet. At ‘Space’ they sell only stuff that can not be sold elsewhere. Irregular items. Things that for some reason didn’t pass Prada’s ultra-strict quailty control and therefore can’t be sold with a premium pricetag. And no, they can not and will not tell what’s in store and they will never, ever ship anything anywhere. If they did, it would be the same thing as killing their brand and upsetting retailers all over the world.
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Lo Spaccio – SPACE
Via Levanella Becorpi
S.S. 69 – 52025 Montevarchi (AR)
UPDATE: OPENING HOURS
The good people at Prada just sent me an e-mail
with the opening and closing hours of the Levanella outlet:
– Monday through Friday: 10.30 AM – 8 PM (last entrance 7.30 PM)
– Saturday: 9.30 AM – 8 PM (last entrance 7.30 PM)
– Sunday: 10.30 AM – 8 PM (last entrance 7.30 PM)
– Closed on January 1st, Easter, August 15th and December 25th-26th.
– On December 24th and 31st there could be reduced opening hours.
Prada Client Service
The conveniently located Villa Sassolini, 9.5 km away from the outlet and the the Villa Fontelunga, some 51 km away from Levanella, Montevarchi, are both superb places to stay if you’re going to visit the Prada outlet.
Six steps to get to the Prada outlet, GPS or no GPS.
This will be quite long, I’m afraid, but it should get you there. Here we go:
You drive on the A1, the Autostrada del Sole (Milan-Naples). Use viamichelin.com or Google Maps to pinpoint the Valdarno exit (there are good signs). No matter if you come from Firenze in the north or Arezzo in the south – you will get to a roundabout just after exiting the Autostrada. Take the first exit in the roundabout. It’s the Via Poggilupi (SP11).
The Via Poggilupi will soon turn into the Strada Lungo l’Arno (still road number SP11). Turn right. For a brief moment the road will be named Strada della Penna (SP59). Then turn left on the Via dell’Olmo and then right again. Phew! You’re now back on the Strada Lungo l’Arno.
Continue on the Strada Lungo l’Arno (SP11) for quite a while, we’re talking kilometres here. Yes, you’re going parallel with the Autostrada. You’ll pass an industrial area with some shops. Finally the Strada Lungo l’Arno takes you under the Autostrada. Turn right. A sign should say Montevarchi. Pass the river Fiume Arno. It will now change its name to Via Arno and you’re entering the town of Montevarchi.
In the first major intersection (traffic light) you turn right. You’re now on Via Leona (SR69). In no time the Via Leona will change its name to Strada d’Arno (it’s still SR69 though). Continue on this road. It will turn slightly left. Pass underneath the railroad track, (now is when the aerial view below will come in handy…).
When you’ve passed the railroad track it’s time to pay attention! Don’t go too fast. On your right there will probably be a few trees and just next to them you will see a small sign with one word ‘Space’. This is the place where you turn right. Bingo. You’re almost there.
You are now in an industrial area on the Via Levanella Becorpi. Take the first left. You’ll now see the factory building pictured in this post and the sign on the façade saying ‘Space Outlet’. Pass the main gate and follow the road as far as you can (there are a lot of parking spaces here). Park. The entrance is at the farther end. It should now be safe to follow the crowd. You’ve arrived. Unlock your plastic. It’s time to shop.