How this Italian luxury store became a travel destination – Robb Report

As I sat on the passenger side of a beloved Land Rover Defender and admired a courting pair of pheasants obstructing our path – and providing temporary respite from the bumps and jolts of the Tuscan off-road terrain – I wondered. Said it was quite different from any mall experience I had had before.

Let me explain: this close encounter with local wildlife was brokered by Firenze shopping centerwhich, together with its sister establishment The San Remo shopping center, constitute the Italian points of sale The Mall Luxury Outlets. The nondescript name seems almost ironic, as these shopping spots were designed to be everything a typical, nondescript luxury mall is not, which is perhaps why they attract more affluent travelers than those who don’t. just looking for bargains.

Over an aperitif of local pigato wine at the Sanremo site, which opened in 2019, general manager Giorgio Motta explains that shopping is just one of the ways customers experience The Mall. Its assortment of dozens of boutiques is not to be overlooked: there are several flagship brands owned by The Mall’s parent company, Kering, including Gucci, Balenciaga and Bottega Veneta, in addition to names like Loro Piana, Valentino and Tom Ford. In stores, merchandise from the previous season is sold at a reduced price, but presented with a level of care and service similar to that of any of the brands’ flagship stores.

A view of the coastline of Sanremo, where the Mall’s second outpost is located.

The mall’s luxury outlets

Whether shopping at its Sanremo campus or at the original Florence site opened in 2001, The Mall’s design is an unmistakably Italian response to a retail format typically associated with the suburbs. American. Both venues are built in a sleek, modern style favoring glass, steel and soaring eaves supported by slender columns – the overall effect resembles a consumerist Acropolis. And each is scented with a sweet floral scent created expressly for The Mall (it’s, of course, available for purchase at the Welcome Lounge).

However, care is taken to remind visitors that they are first and foremost in Italy, and more specifically, the corner of the boot of this place. Each is built like an open-air agora with architecture that frames the beauty of the local surroundings: the hillside towns and the Ligurian Sea in the case of Sanremo and the Tuscan hills about a 45-minute drive from the center. city ​​of Florence. Both are home to restaurants operated by local caterers, specializing in cuisine unique to their region. In the case of the on-site restaurant in Sanremo, that meant a lunch of raw tuna in a caper cream sauce, squid ink tagliolini in a mullet stew and a deconstructed lemon tiramisu for dessert.

In the hills of Chianti, where The Mall Firenze organizes private outings.

In the hills of Chianti, where The Mall Firenze organizes private outings.

The mall’s luxury outlets

The restaurant, however, is only open in the afternoons – as Motta tells me, he would rather guests explore the surrounding town for dinner. Shoppers’ desire for something other than shopping is reflected in a curated list of local experiences offered at each location, which is how I ended up following pheasants on the back roads of Tuscany in the first place.

This special experience brought me to Fattoria di Maiano, an organic family farm about six kilometers from Florence, where my guide piloted a Land Rover through olive groves and hills for sweeping views of the city in the distance. Another one took place in Florence itself, where I visited the Renaissance palace headquarters of perfumer Aquaflor Firenze and worked with the staff to create my own scent through their concentrated fragrance lab (we came away with a fresh vetiver base accented with patchouli , peppery citrus and a touch of coffee and musk).

The quaint mall location outside of Florence;  the narrow streets of the carrugi to visit in Sanremo.

The quaint mall location outside of Florence; the cramped carrugi alleys to visit in Sanremo.

The mall’s luxury outlets

The commercial center of Sanremo, on the other hand, put me in touch with a local guide who offered me a four-hour walking and food tour of La Pigna, the medieval district on the hill of Sanremo, where we lunched with fried anchovies and pesto trofie pasta before exploring the cramped caruggi alleys that run through the whole district. Then we visited the town of 2,000 people of Dolceacqua on the French border, to admire the medieval bridge that Monet painted in 1884 and to snack crumb cookies in a wine bar.

Typically, experiences can be booked online through each location’s website or in person through the concierges at the Mall’s hospitality lounges (some outings, such as the La Pigna and Dolceacqua tours, are exclusive to members of his Loyalty program, which customers are free to join). Transportation can also be arranged, although not all experiences take place offsite. At Mall Sanremo, the on-site chef guided me through a Demonstration of traditional pesto making with mortar and pestle it left me with a new respect for Ligurian grandmothers.

If I had the opportunity to visit The Mall again in the future, I might even do a little shopping too.

Joshua B. Speller