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More insider guides for planning a trip to Rome
Shopping in Rome allows you to experience the city’s culture and pick up souvenirs at the same time. There’s plenty of artisan shops to visit, many of which are rooted in centuries of history and tradition; browse for handcrafted leather bags, micro-mosaics, candles and silk-lined suits. The gourmet food shops should be another must on your list – this is Italy after all. Think cured meats, artichoke hearts preserved in olive oil, cheeses and more. Telegraph Travel destination expert Lee Marshall shares his guide to the best shopping Rome has to offer.
This is the closest Rome comes to an Italian and international design superstore. The Arcon showroom has an amazing array of furniture and homeware from iconic design houses including Vitra, Artemide, Flos, and Fontana. You might be tempted by a Zanotta chaise lounge; or, for something a little more portable, a 1960s Formosa wall calendar, designed by the great Enzo Mari. Arcon shows off design ingenuity in every corner of the boutique, from tiny samples to floor-to-ceiling displays. Just down the street at Via di Monte Brianzo 51, sister store Fortuna focuses on the cutting edge of contemporary design.
Contact: 00 39 06 683 3728; arconroma.it
Bottega del Marmoraro
Sandro Fiorentini’s little den in artsy Via Margutta, complete with an open fire, is an institution. Set up by Sandro’s father Enrico, this cave of wonders is dedicated to the working of marble in all its aspects (marmoraro means marble mason in Roman dialect), though these days restoration and the sourcing of antique materials, carvings and sculptures is Fiorentini’s core business. If you’re just looking for an original souvenir, he also does a nice line of small marble plaques with humorous mottos in Latin, Italian and Roman dialect. Hours can be erratic; if it’s closed, hang around or swing by later.
Contact: 00 39 06 320 7660; facebook.com/la-bottega-del-marmoraro
C.U.C.I.N.A is a shrine to the Italian kitchen. It stocks a huge range of cookware, including stainless steel pans and ladles, Alessi and Bialetti coffee makers, rice steamers, wine accessories, pastry-making items and ceramic ovenware. The words behind C.U.C.I.N.A’s clever acronym sums its philosophy – come una cucina ispira nuovi appetite (how a kitchen can inspire new appetites) – and that C.U.C.I.N.A does. Foodie tourists will hone in on Italian niche items such as parmesan knives, spare espresso-maker rings and panna cotta moulds.
Di San Giacomo Sandals
Di San Giacomo has cornered the market on bespoke bejewelled sandals, with two boutiques in Rome (this one is at Via di Tor Millina 10/11, the other is in Trastevere). Owners Veronica Santi and Claudio di San Giacomo split their time between the shops, where their artisan cordwainers make gorgeous, glittering sandals on the spot. There are styles for both men and women, flat and heeled, and the sandals range from chic and simple to the elaborate costume numbers designed by Claudio. Add some extra sparkle with a visit to owner Claudio’s family jewellery store, Nicotra di San Giacomo (Via del Governo Vecchio 128).
Contact: 00 39 06 9684 7938; facebook.com/disangiacomo
This delightful wunderkammer of a shop tucked between the Pantheon and Piazza Navona is a paradise for lovers of the old-fashioned art of setting pen to paper. Specialized in new and vintage fountain and ball-point pens, pencils, and stationary, the storied display cases are also stuffed with leather-bound notebooks and desk sets, antique typewriters, globes of the world, and other delights for the passionate scribe. Founded in 1930 and owned by the same family for three generations, Antica Cartotecnica carries its own brand of custom-made notebooks bound in vintage papers, the perfect one-of-a-kind memento or travel journal.
Master shirtmaker Piero Albertelli was a Roman legend whose made-to-measure shirts were avidly sought after by Luchino Visconti and other smart society dressers. Bespoke brand F.G. (Flanella Grigia) took over in 2006, but happily opted to change nothing. F.G. also has two other bespoke and ready-to-wear shops in central Rome, but this (Piazza del Parlamento 9) is easily the most characterful, with helpful shop assistants who dress the part. Silk-lined suits, delicate cotton shirts and cashmere coats are finely detailed with hand-stitched buttonholes and mother-of-pearl buttons.
Contact: 00 39 06 687 3793; fgroma.com
Castelli Profumerie, with a charm that still conjures up its 1950s heyday, is a historic Roman skin care and beauty boutique. Original mirrored panel displays and wooden counter tops overflow with countless perfumes, lipsticks, shampoos and make-up products, from well-known brands to more recherché items. Their range of shaving soaps and creams make elegant gifts. Should you need one, Castelli also does a good line in toupées, wefts and braids made from real hair.
Contact: 00 39 06 679 0327; profumeriecastelli.com
Opening times: Mon, 11.30m-7.30pm; Tues-Sat, 9.30am-7.30pm
Lelli is a home décor wonderland. Their desirable furnishing fabrics, including hand-painted and screen-printed wallpaper, come courtesy of a who’s who of interior design including Designers Guild, Pierre Frey and Colefax and Fowler. Only Rome residents are likely to entrust Lelli with a complete home makeover, but there’s plenty here for visitors who, for example, want to add a little intrigue to their tables with silver twig cutlery, polka dot tea sets or glass candelabra. Ask nicely, and they’ll let you into their downstairs showroom too, an Aladdin’s Cave of homeware, including colourful cushions and whimsical dinner services.
Contact: 00 39 06 361 4000; lelli1924.com
Baroque-era Palazzo Lancellotti is a fitting setting for Lisa Corti’s wondrous, bohemian-luxe Roman cabinet of curiosities. Bright, sometimes electric-hued home furnishings and sumptuous textiles in floral patterns, checks and stripes are influenced both by traditional patchwork and by her childhood in Eritrea. Prints are hand-stamped in India on cottons, muslin and organza, and hand-drawn designs are featured on plasticized wooden placemats and coaster plates. After losing yourself in the ground floor’s coverlets, caftans, pillows, pareos and place settings, head upstairs and browse Corti’s vintage-inspired placemats and polychrome Giusti pitchers.
The Marini family has been handcrafting bespoke footwear on Via Francesco Crispi for over a century. The tiny shop is crammed with leather chairs and shoe models; it hails from a past era of proud craftsmanship. Displayed on the back wall are the shoe lasts of some of the famous feet shod by Marini, including Marcello Mastroianni, Gregory Peck, Robert De Niro and Anna Magnani. If you fancy joining the club, turn up for two measuring and fitting sessions so that your own personal wooden lasts can be created; these will then be archived for future orders.
Contact: 00 39 06 679 3858; marinicalzature.it
Childhood friends Viviana Violo and Simona De Cubellis scour Italy, Europe and beyond for striking but wearable contemporary jewellery, much of it made from unconventional or recycled materials. Among the designers regularly featured here are Parisian talent Jean-François Mimilla, who uses steel and pearls to create opulent neo-baroque necklaces, and Diana Schimmel’s playful Dos Riberas line, which includes some lovely textile-ball earrings that resemble miniature Calder mobiles. Materie also carries a range of bags and vases.
Ditta G Poggi
Poggi has been selling artists’ supplies since 1825, and there’s still much on the packed shelves of this cavernous shop with which a painter from that era would be very familiar. Natural pigments, elegant boar-bristle brushes and wooden easels of all sizes, plus modern intruders such as acrylic paints and high-precision drawing equipment are available. It’s well worth stepping into this fascinating artists’ curiosity shop for a browse even if all you need is a ballpoint pen. Quiz owner Memmo on paint-mixing methods: he’ll explain how the Renaissance masters did it – and how you can follow suit.
Contact: 00 39 06 679 3674; poggi1825.it
The handcrafted leather products of Italian artisan Saddlers Union, as sported by such luminaries of style as Jacqueline Kennedy and Giovanni Agnelli, have long defined effortless Italian chic. Their travel bags, briefcases and signature bucket bags radiate timeless style. Saddlers also do a more contemporary line of accessories such as clutch purses, iPad cases, cuff bracelets and items for the home. All their products are handcrafted in Italy and can be made to order. Classy international travellers will appreciate the option of having their names or initials engraved on their bag or briefcase.
Rome’s coolest jeans store occupies a former draper’s shop on the ground floor of a lovely Renaissance-era palazzo near Piazza Navona. Time-worn wooden counters and cast-iron columns form an understated setting for the small but perfectly-formed range of printed T-shirts, crisp shirts and other men’s essentials sold here by the Perfetti brothers. SBU (Strategic Business Unit) make their own very desirable jeans (around €200/£180), cut from light Japanese denim, which have a loyal Roman hipster following. There is also a small womenswear collection.
Contact: 00 39 06 6880 2547; sbu.it
With seven floors of luxury brands topped by a panoramic rooftop bar, Rinascente is Rome’s premier department store. Located just a short stroll from the Trevi Fountain, this shop-til-you-drop space occupies a historic palazzo set above the ancient Acqua Vergine aqueduct. Begin your visit with a stop in the lower level café to take in these Roman remains that still carry water to the city’s most famous fountain. Afterwards, browse brands such as Gucci, Prada and Bottega Veneta from the ground floor to the rooftop, where you can stop at one of the many restaurants or the bar to refresh and refuel.
Contact: 00 39 06 6875671; rinascente.it
Society is the Rome flagship store for Limonta, a prestigious, century-old textile company from the Lombardy region that scores much higher than Frette on the interior design cool-ometer. Its collection takes in all-natural linens, embroidered pillowslips, coverlets, throws and other luscious bedding and bath items, including some beautifully fresh cotton seersucker sheets. Society’s colourful canvas bags are perfect for weekend getaways, and make good (though pricey) gifts.
Contact: 00 39 06 683 2480; societylimonta.com
A hushed warren of objet-filled rooms just behind thundering Piazza Venezia. Dispensabile is the lair of three architects whose dedication to the finest of international design shines through a small but inspiring collection of household items. From tableware to coat hooks, bed linen to bookshelves, pot stands to tea pots: everything is simply beautiful, and quite a lot of it is surprisingly affordable. Linen bedsheets in striking natural shades and stylish Alessi coffee pots are particularly good value.
Contact: 00 39 06 98261405; dispensabile.it
Micromosaics – mosaics assembled with tiny glass or enamel tesserae – go back to Ancient Roman times, but it was in the 18th and 19th centuries that the art boomed in Rome, as a perfect source of easily portable souvenirs for those on the Grand Tour. Luigi Faraoni and his fellow worker Silvia Grieco are among only a handful of Roman artisans still working in the field today. The pair make jewellery (watches, rings, pendants, pins), featuring both abstract and figurative motifs, with tiny enamel-like tiles. Of particular note are the gemelli (cufflinks) with Pompeian patterns and ancient Roman scenes.
Contact: 00 39 06 683 2832; romanmicromosaic.it
The Cassio family has been restoring ancient mosaics and creating modern ones for over a hundred years, with paterfamilias Lorenzo Cassio, a former director of the Vatican’s mosaic school, passing down his artistic legacy through three generations. Most work is done for well-to-do private clients and public or religious institutions, but curious guests are welcome to look in on this reign of calm and attentive craftsmanship, and visitors can sign up for workshops in how to cut, glaze and blend colours and mount artwork.
Almost Corner Bookshop
Owner Dermot O’Connell personally curates the selection of fiction, art and photography books, historical tomes, cookbooks and Rome-themed volumes on sale at this compact English-language bookstore in the picturesque heart of Trastevere. He’s a great source of local tips and lore. There are frequent readings and presentations – and they also host a very lively Christmas party. Once the Corner Bookshop, the store changed its name following a move. Note the seven-day opening: if you’re short on reading matter, the Almost Corner is a good destination for a Sunday passeggiata and the friendly staff give great advice.
Contact: 00 39 06 583 6942; facebook.com/AlmostCornerBookshop
Cereria Di Giorgio
If you light a candle in any of Rome’s churches – including St Peter’s – there’s a pretty good chance that it was made by this company, which has been operating out of its Trastevere headquarters since 1908. Still in the hands of the Di Giorgio family, the company now produces a huge range of candles: in beautiful shades for the home, and perfumed for the garden. If you’re suffering from Roman mosquitoes, bear in mind they also do a line of citronella candles, which are perfect natural repellents. Just round the corner is the city’s bucolic and peaceful Botanical Garden.
This wondrous deli-meets-coffee shop is a great place to stop for a cup of excellent coffee at the bar, or to pick up Italian regional delicacies or exotic foreign goods (it’s long been a haven for ex-pats seeking Marmite, yerba mate and other sine qua nons) that are not easy to find elsewhere. There’s a great selection of balsamic vinegars, coffees, jams, pasta, spices… the list is endless. Castroni’s excellent own-brand coffee, which is a great souvenir, now also comes in capsules that will work with most major coffee makers.
Contact: 00 39 06 687 4383; castroni.it
The high-quality, Slow Food-inspired Eataly food, wine and cookware empire opened its Roman outpost in 2012, filling three sprawling floors of a long-abandoned air terminal in the southern suburbs with anything and everything to do with Italian-produced food and drink. In this crisp contemporary setting there are areas selling meat fresh and cured, organic vegetables, cheeses, books, wines, beers from micro-breweries, and kitchen gadgets – all this plus no less than 20 restaurants, wine bars or food stalls, cooking courses, regular tastings and children’s activities. Check online for cooking classes and wine tasting events.
Locals will probably always call this the ‘new market’ (it moved in 2012). Besides a great range of fruit, vegetable, meat and fish stalls, there are stands selling last season’s shoes at knock-down prices, designer household objects (Cocci e Madera, Camera 39), some very good made-while-you-wait street food (Mordi e Vai) and piles of cheap or vintage clothes that are well worth rifling through. Most of the proper shops inside the market are open from around 9am to 2pm. The food stalls generally open between 6am and 7.30am, and run until 1.30pm-2.30pm.
Behind the glass of this old-school deli’s counter lie piles of exquisite cheeses, cured meats of all kinds, artisanal breads, huge tins of salted anchovies, artichoke hearts preserved in olive oil, and more. All of which will mesmerise you until you exit with a bag-load of goodies that you didn’t even know you wanted. Around the corner at Via Alessandro Volta 8, you’ll find the Taverna Volpetti (Mon and Sun, 11.30am-3.30pm; Tues-Sat, 11am-11pm). The kind of gourmet ingredients available in the deli are used in light lunches, cured meat and cheese platters and on pizza here.
Contact: 00 39 06 574 2352; volpetti.com
Opening times: Mon 11am-4pm; Tues-Sat 11am-11pm; Sun 11am-4pm