My wife and I are traveling to Italy next week. We are going to Venice, Florence, Cinque Terre, and Rome. Do you recommend any cities or specific places to buy gold jewelry? Thanks
I really recommend knowing the price you should be paying, and how to assess quality. There are lots of options for buying, but some places catering to tourists can provide very poor quality purchases. So know what you want and how much you'd pay in the US. When I've bought jewelry in other countries, I go to a regular jeweler in an area where locals shop, rather than a tourist location like Ponte Vecchio. But I can't provide recommendations for the places you mention.
I've bought gold jewelry on Ponte Vecchio and it's comparable to other legitimate shops in price, perhaps a little higher but in the current economy I think it would be competitively priced. Just be sure you are buying from a reputable store and not in a market or on the street. Your hotel may have a recommendation, but there's possibly an incentive for them. I generally find more variety in Florence, but the other cities you name are good choices, too.
Italy's gold industry capitals are Arezzo, just 45 miles southeast of Florence, or Vicenza, one hour west of Venice. If you plan a stop there, that is where you should buy gold. Otherwise Florence would be your next best choice after Arezzo and Vicenza. I have no names to suggest and I'm no expert. There are more gold stores in Florence and Arezzo than women with breast implants in Hollywood. Just walk around and you'll bump into one. There is a gold store every 100 feet in Florence downtown (on the Ponte Vecchio there are nothing but gold stores, end to end, one next to the other on both sides).
I am from Florence with both my parents from Arezzo but I know nothing about gold. However I used to be fond of Western movies and I remember those American pioneers determined the quality of gold by biting it. I don't know it that helps.
Roberto, bump into what??
In Florence you'll bump into gold stores, in Hollywood...into silicon.
How do you know if the gold is real and good quality?
I realize that the question is about Italy, but the question is also about determining authenticity and quality. The USA has stamped karat numbers on genuine gold. The UK uses a hallmarking system where every piece of UK produced gold, silver, or platinum must be assayed by an official assay office which then stamp clear assay marks on each part of each piece. The stamps indicate which assay office, year of assay, and amount of precious metal. I'm not aware of any similar scheme in Europe nor specifically Italy. No assaying system says anything about the skill of the artisan nor the quality of the finished piece.
My local guide in Florence said that the worst place to buy gold was on the Ponte Vecchio. She said there is a single owner for all the stores on the bridge so they are not competitive and the prices are higher than just about anywhere else. Italian gold is 18 karat. Most gold jewelry in the U.S. is 14 karat. That alone makes Italian gold significantly more expensive. Jewelers can tell the difference just by looking, I can't. If you are planning on a serious (aka large) purchase, go to a couple of local jewelers before you leave and get an idea of what prices are. Work up a conversation and ask their opinions. At least you'll be better able to determine if you are getting a bargain, a fair price, or ripped off.