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Vatican City abuzz for the holidays, with duty-free shoppers

Sure the Pope gets a lot of attention thanks to the annual Christmas services at the Holy See.

But just as important to some is the world's smallest sovereign state's duty-free shopping opportunity.

St Peters Basilica, Vatican, Early Morning via Wikimedia Commons The Vatican's St. Peter's Basilica, courtesy Wikimedia Commons

The Associated Press reports that The Vatican's duty-free department store offers bargains on flat-screen televisions, a variety of Samsonite luggage, custom shoes, luxury watches and a variety of other high-end items.

Got a golfer on your list? Then there's a leather-bound travel trunk from Florence's "The Bridge" leather works that comes with a matching leather golf club bag.

I'm told it's a steal, so to speak, at At €5,900; that's $7,775 U.S.

The Vatican's tax-free shop is authorized by the Lateran Treaty, the 1929 pact that regulates the Vatican's relations with Italy.

But there's one major drawback.

No, I'm not talking about, for North Americans, having to make a transatlantic trip.

The Vatican's duty-free store is not open to the public.

The only shoppers allowed are Vatican citizens, employees and their dependents, as well as diplomats accredited to the Holy See.

The limited customer base also is part of the Lateran Treaty. The restrictions are Italy's way of making sure the whole country, particularly the area around Rome, doesn't abandon its other shopkeepers.

Of course, says the AP, friends have been known to unofficially pop into the store to pick up a few things.

So between now and next Christmas, you might want to make friends with a Vatican resident.

This year, though, you'll just have to be content to hit the U.S. chain stores for last-minute Christmas gifts.

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