Vat­i­can’s duty-free shop ri­vals air­ports’

There’s a hitch: It’s open only to Vat­i­can ci­ti­zens and those with Vat­i­can ties.

Austin American-Statesman - - THE SECOND FRONT - By Ni­cole Win­field

VAT­I­CAN CITY — Any­one left on your Christ­mas list just aching for a 65-inch Sam­sung 3D flat-screen tele­vi­sion? Just your luck. The Vat­i­can’s duty-free de­part­ment store has one on sale for $3,840 — a nifty sav­ings over the $5,032 it costs at Italy’s main elec­tron­ics chain Euron­ics.

Or how about some new lug­gage for the hol­i­days? The Vat­i­can shop stocks a va­ri­ety of Sam­sonite Cor­doba Duo carry-ons for $162, a nice mark­down from the $177 on the Sam­sonite web­site. But if a last-minute shop­ping splurge is in or­der, the Vat­i­can can also oblige: Take this leather­bound trav­el­ling trunk from Florence’s “The Bridge” leather-works, with its five draw­ers, plaid in­te­rior, six wooden hangars and shiny brass buck­les.

At $7,773, it comes with a match­ing leather golf club bag, just what ev­ery mon­signor needs un­der his Christ­mas tree.

There’s a lit­tle-known open se­cret in the Vat­i­can gar­dens, a few paces be­hind St. Peter’s Basil­ica and tucked in­side the Vat­i­can’s old train sta­tion: a sprawl­ing, three-story tax-free de­part­ment store that ri­vals any air­port duty free or mil­i­tary PX.

There’s a hitch, how­ever. It’s not open to the pub­lic, only to Vat­i­can ci­ti­zens, em­ploy­ees and their de­pen­dents, diplo­mats ac­cred­ited to the Holy See and (un­of­fi­cially) their lucky friends who, af­ter stock­ing up on hol­i­day must-haves, pro­ceed to the check­out with their Vat­i­can con­nec­tion and the ID card that en­ti­tles them to shop there.

To be sure, Rome is no stranger to tax-free shop­ping.

Em­bassies, nearby mil­i­tary bases and the U.N. food agen­cies all have com­mis­saries for their em­ploy­ees, where im­ports of ev­ery­thing from Amer­i­can ice cream to French wine can be had mi­nus the 21 per­cent sales tax in­cluded in list prices in Italy.

The Vat­i­can has that and more, given that it is its own sov­er­eign state — the world’s small­est — op­er­at­ing in cen­tral Rome. At 110 acres, the Vat­i­can city state is the phys­i­cal home of the Holy See: the pope and gov­ern­ing struc­ture and ad­min­is­tra­tion of the Catholic Church.

The Vat­i­can Mu­se­ums, home of Sis­tine Chapel, are the main profit-mak­ing en­ter­prise of the Vat­i­can city state, bring­ing in more than $120 mil­lion in rev­enue last year alone. But other smaller en­tre­pre­neur­ial en­deav­ors boost the Vat­i­can’s cof­fers as well, in­clud­ing the de­part­ment store, the tax-free gas sta­tion, the stamp and coin col­lect­ing of­fice, the Vat­i­can phar­macy and its su­per­mar­ket.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.