Whether for window- or ‘real’ shopping, Rome is a wonderful destination. Italian flair makes everything look special while the sheer range of designer clothes, quality silk and knitwear, homeware, leatherware and jewellery is breathtaking – and there’s plenty that’s affordable too.
For a break from sightseeing, do as the Romans do...and window-shop! The perfect place to start would be the legendary Spanish Steps (Scalinata di Piazza di Spagna). From the foot of the steps, running down to Via del Corso is the famous Via dei Condotti, renowned for its designer names. Bulgari set the trend in 1905, opening its flagship store and attracting the world’s wealthy to buy its beautiful jewellery.
Via dei Condotti and parallel streets Via Borgognona and Via Frattina are usually packed with tourists admiring window displays of the likes of Giorgio Armani, Dolce & Gabbana, Fendi, Gucci, Prada and Valentino. Prices here are high, often sky-high, but it costs absolutely nothing to browse and get a flavor of Italian high fashion..! You might find yourself tempted by the hand-painted trays at gift shop Modigliani, or by a designer kitchen gadget at the wonderful CUCINA on nearby Via delle Carrozze!
Before heading back to the Spanish Steps, walk along Via del Corso, well worth a look for mediumpriced shops and chain stores. You’ll find everything from fashion to sportsgear to luggage, glassware and antiques. Ferrari’s flagshop store offers a whole range of items from clothes to keyrings just around a corner in Via Tomacelli, where there’s also an Armani Jeans outlet. Back at the Spanish Steps, check out Gente on Via del Babuino. Its denim and accessories come at more affordable prices. There’s also Tad, a fascinating ‘lifestyle’ store that sells just about everything.
A Leisurely Lunch
To plan your day keep in mind that most stores open by 9.30 a.m. (some of the smaller ones come to life slightly later), closing at 7 p.m. in winter and 8 p.m. in summer. With the exception of department stores such as COIN that remain open all day, shops close from 1 p.m. to about 3.30 p.m. (sometimes longer).
That gives you plenty of time for some sightseeing or a leisurely lunch stop. Make the most of the weather when it’s fine by sitting at an outside café terrace or buying a slice of pizza or an ice-cream to eat as you relax in one of the city’s many lovely squares.
Shops are closed on Sundays and most remain closed on Monday mornings. Many close for their annual holidays in August.
Simple But Special
In the afternoon, make for the picturesque Campo de’ Fiori area, south of Piazza Navona. Every morning except Sundays from 7 a.m. until 1 p.m. Campo de’ Fiori buzzes with its famous fruit and vegetable market, Rome’s biggest and oldest. Shoppers looking for something different will love the old cobbled streets, named after the craftsmen who used to work here – and some still do. The area is full of life but don’t be deceived by appearances, simple can mean special and you should be able to find much that’s reasonable, whether chic, boho or vintage. This is the place for ethnic decorative ware too and it’s great for gifts. Don’t miss Via dei Giubbonari with its food and tempting boutiques and also Via Giulia, for no other reason than it’s reputed to be the most beautiful street in Rome.
Supper Under the Stars?
Cross the river southwards to Trastevere, a characterful popular area with outdoor markets and piazzas that comes alive at night when locals and tourists eat at long tables under the stars. Via dei Fienaroli is the place for interesting bookshops, and on Via del Moro you’ll find some lovely small shops including one called Fuori Orario (“Out of Hours”), with some beautiful leather jackets. Just outside Trastevere lies Porta Portese, home to a well-known Sunday morning fleamarket – fun to visit but watch your wallet. And haggle of course.
Due north between Vatican City and the river you’ll find Via Cola di Rienzo where there is a modest department store, COIN, that’s excellent for budget accessories and homeware. For something distinctly un-budget also check out Franchi, a famous gourmet deli that also sells irresistible hot takeaways.
An Out-of-Town Experience
For bargains take a bus or metro to one of the large out-of-town shopping centres. Parco Leonardo is one of the biggest (www. parcoleonardo.it) and there you’ll find more than 200 stores, a huge cinema complex, bowling alleys and much more. Here and everywhere else look out for Italian leatherware such as shoes, gloves, belts and bags as they’re usually good quality. Italian lamps, linen, glass- and other homeware are also good buys. And, if you find yourself in Rome in January to mid-February or July to early September, you might be lucky and find some real bargains in the sales.
Before you leave, don’t forget to visit the famous Trevi Fountain (Fontana di Trevi) on Piazza di Trevi, not far from the Spanish Steps. Go at night when it’s magically illuminated, and throw a coin in the water... to ensure you return!