As a tourist on the Italian ground, the cityscape blended with architectural marvels gave me the love-struck eyes. Amidst the awe of being in a beautiful new country, the retail culture infused in the urban landscape broadened my perception of how a city vouches for its beauty. 4 Italian cities, 4 retail experiences - each distinct from the other. The same shops across different cities render a different emotion for the shopper. The local flavours of the city came through with the cohesive blend of retail shops and the city’s architecture.
Let me begin with Rome. The home of the Pope has an evolved retail scenario and stands culturally justified as the capital of the country. With a historical background, its accents of culturally rich architecture reflect in all facets of the cityscape -- even retail. It blends in the design language of the Roman city. Sitting on the Spanish Steps, the Piazza di Spagna with its line of luxury shops renders the premium feel of the space. A spectacular view of the Via Condotti, the most expensive street of Rome, manifests from the top of the Spanish Steps. The collage of the shops against the backdrop of the city’s architecture is the essence of the beauty. The Fendi store near Via Del Corso is a perfect example of luxury retail woven into culturally inspired architecture. Big ticket brands and local boutiques coexist on the same street. Tatie, a local boutique, and La Rinascente, a huge luxury department store of Italian origin, dwell on the same street and have entirely different VM approaches. The consistent language of the architectural shell is what binds them and predicates their belonging to the city of Rome. Moving on to the land of Dante, a whole new world unfolds which we know as Florence. The Piazza Della Repubblica, one of the many squares in Florence, is what I would like to call a local version of a mall. Clustered restaurants, activities for kids, expansive open space asserting its pride and names like Zara, Hugo Boss, Michael Kors (and the list goes on!) on the periphery, pretty much sum up the nature of the place. The gigantic arch stamps for the historical architecture dictated in the space. An interesting feature to note is the local leather stalls in this Piazza which not only speak of the genesis of Florence but surprisingly co-exist with the luxury atmosphere around as well. The Ponte Vechhio bridge is a sparkling street with gold jewellery shops lined up throughout. Walking that bridge is a different experience in itself, more so from the VM standpoint. The VM seems not so much about aesthetically appealing displays, but to display as much as possible and thereby compete with the neighbour. Such an attitude glares in your face with the sparkle of gold. Considering it is a major tourist place, I guess this approach works in their favour. Next destination: The Mecca of the retail world -- Milan. The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele
is one of the oldest malls in the history of the world. The Galleria was an important move towards the glazed enclosed modern mall’s evolution. The nature of the space is a handshake between the mall architecture ideology and a high street. Two glass-vaulted arcades intersect at an octagon topped with a dome. The rich architecture demands the shops to embody luxury - the definition of Italian retail. The Quadrilatero d’Oro, a quadrangle of luxury streets, is Milan’s claim to fame as a luxury destination with all big names bannered, international and Italian. It would be hard to take one’s eyes off the window displays there. The Versace window and the Zara central display steal the show. The city of waterways Venice is my last destination; a pure tourist haven. The water commute and the bridges are what Venice is popular for and draws people from world over. But once the water taxi parks at the station at St. Marks Square, the walk towards the Rialto bridge reveals the true colours of Venice. The labyrinth of these pedestrian streets is a complex network -- you’ll never be able to take the same route again. These narrow streets house residences, small and big shops and, of course, their famous eateries. The Venetian masks which fame the Carnival of Venice and the Murano glass have shops lined up through these streets. The masks and Murano glass colours in the streets leave indelible impressions on the mind. The Venetian streets with their ordinary look and feel have luxury brands co-existing with the local shops and eateries. Woven into traditional Venetian architecture, these brands do not lose out on their premium feel. Quite classy! The intriguing factor is the surprise element. You never know what you might stumble up on your trail.
Mansi Lavsi, Senior Reporter
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