The Italian Almanac

a bag by Prada

Italian News - August 20

A Dutch couple on vacation in Venice no doubt thought they were getting a great deal when they picked up what appeared to be a stylish Prada handbag from a street vendor for $36. That was before they were slapped with a $4,058 fine last week as part of an Italy-wide crackdown on the sellers - and buyers - of counterfeit goods.

"They ended up paying more than the original handbag would have cost," says a spokeswoman at Venice city hall. And they're not alone. Dozens, if not hundreds, of Italians and foreign tourists have faced stiff fines for purchasing fake sunglasses, handbags, belts and compact discs since a tough anti-counterfeiting law began in May.

Under the law - one of the toughest in the world according to local media - $4,058 is the minimum fine for buyers of false products. They can pay up to $12,174 while vendors of knockoffs face jail time. Italy hopes the measures will dent a multibillion-euro trade in phony goods that has taken its toll on home-grown luxury labels like Prada, Gucci and Dolce & Gabbana.

Multilingual flyers warning potential buyers of illegal copies of the risks are posted around Venice while authorities have urged tour companies to spread the word.