Forget Amazon. Step Up Your Holiday Gifting by Embracing Italy’s Retail Renaissance

Sure, opting to online shop your way through December may spare you the chaos of crowds and, likely, save you some cash. But here’s an alternative suggestion: plan a proper shopping trip to visit some of the world’s most remarkable retail hotspots. Taking their cue from today’s best museums — defined as much by their architecture as they are by their artifacts (not to mention their gift shops) — luxury brands have now begun enlisting top-tier designers to envision flagships that blur the line between store and experience-driven spectacle. Conveniently, they’re all clustered in Italy. As the new must-visit destinations on every design addict’s bucket list, they’re a lot more likely to generate feelings of holiday magic than, say, a packed shopping mall is. And even if you’ve already crossed off everyone from your list for the year, well, there’s always Boxing Week.




Fresh from conceiving Apple’s spaceship-esque HQ in San Francisco, architect Norman Foster crossed the Atlantic to create the tech company a retail outpost that balances the futuristic with the historic. Tucked behind a glass-enclosed water fountain, the store’s entrance sits at the base of a sunken amphitheatre clad in beola grigia stone — a trademark of classic Milanese architecture. For those headed to other corners of the globe, equally impressive Foster-designed Apple stores recently opened in Macau and Chicago, too.

What to Buy There: An Apple Watch Series 4, perfect for tracking your steps as you explore the city on foot.




You would think the awards he garnered for Call Me by Your Name would be enough to convince director Luca Guadagnino that his true calling lies in film. Instead, he’s embarked on a side hustle as an interior designer. One of the first real-life environments he’s conjured up is for Australian skincare brand Aesop. Like the richest of movie sets, Guadagnino’s apothecary pairs tricolor travertine floors with sinks carved from an eclectic mismatch of marbles chosen to mimic those found in the nearby San Lorenzo in Lucina church.

What to Buy There: Designer Henry Wilson’s bulbous brass oil diffuser, ready to shift the mood of any scene.




Two years ago, Pritzker-winning architect Rem Koolhaas reworked a 13th-century palazzo to create this grandiose luxury shopping complex. At its heart is a four-storey courtyard of stacked arcades, while contemporary accents like red-trimmed wooden escalators and golden staircases are woven in throughout. The gallery on the top floor is currently hosting a collection of 100,000 used stamps, arranged by artist Elisabetta Di Maggio into a staggering mosaic that speaks to the passage of time.

What to Buy There: The designer watch selection draws from all of our favourite heavy-hitters — Rado, Panerai, and Vacheron Constantin.