The Lowdown

Designer decadence... For some, no trip to Rome is complete without ringing up a ghastly charge on your credit card at one of the city's designer boutiques. Most newcomers to the world of high fashion come away with accessories only, as most of the actual clothes (a) cost 3,000€ ($3,750), or (b) look ridiculous on anyone who's not a scowling Ukrainian model. But if you do want in on the action, all the usual suspects of the international fashion elite, from Armani to Zegna, keep high-profile boutiques along Via Condotti and the other small streets (Via Bocca di Leone, Via Borgognona, Via Mario de' Fiori, and Via Babuino) between the Spanish Steps and Via del Corso. Fortunately, Z they tend to be less snobby toward browsers and less pushy

5 toward buyers than the same stores in New York or Milan.

E Opposite each other on Via Condotti, polished Prada and glamorous Gucci are great for splurging on shoes and handbags. Hotshot designer Roberto Cavalli, long a fixture in Italian alta moda but only recently risen to international prominence, has a boutique on Via Borgognona; his unabashedly sexy, curve-celebrating styles have made loyal customers of such stars as Jessica Simpson and Beyonce. Colorful zigzags are the signature of Missoni's chic knitwear—pick up a scarf or sweater at their Piazza di Spagna boutique. Alberta Ferretti helped bring the now-ubiquitous boho-chic look into the mainstream with her breezy, ethnic-tinged clothing. Pucker-lipped couturier Valentino has a pretentious, red-carpeted boutique on Via Condotti; another location on Via del Babuino features the lower-priced Valentino Red line. Rome-based Fendi recently opened a magnificent new flagship and showroom at Largo Goldoni (the western end of Via Condotti); while the clothes seldom translate into the real world, the acces-sories—especially 2005's Spy bag and the venerable baguette—are always covet-worthy. The collections at

Dolce & Gabbana can range from punk-rocker chic to goddess couture, but the fit of the clothes, especially trousers, is always great—growing up in Sicily, the duo clearly learned that real women have curves. If you'd rather shop for a lot of labels at the same time, check out the alta moda emporiums Gente, Eleonora, Degli Effetti, and Nuyorica, which carry designers like Marni, Chloe, and Balenciaga that don't have their own Roman store. Of course, most people in Rome can't afford the 300€ ($375) T-shirts on Via Condotti, and fortunately, a huge number of mass retailers are hyper-attuned to the latest trends, dishing up the latest looks at a fraction of the price and quality—see "Molto fashion," below. For secondhand designer goods, see "Lord of the fleas," later in this chapter.

Molto fashion... For obvious reasons, shoppers in Italy set their sights on fashion, and if you're someone who calls jeans and a T-shirt an "outfit," well, step aside. Like their language and their art, Italian fashion is full of flourishes, and the uninitiated will require daring hutzpah and massive quantities of accessories to look the part of the RomanB □ trendster. Tourists not ready to tackle the full-on locaM P look—or who fear being ridiculed for their purchases upon return to the U.S.—can stick to the safe territory of Benetton and Stefanel. These national chains are more or less the Italian versions of Gap and Banana Republic, only hipper (and they don't have their own branded line of home scents). Cheaper still, Sportstaff specializes in stretchy monochromatic separates for work or going out (but not for sport). For that boho-cheap, I-just-

made-a-blazer-out-of-Grandma's-drapes look, check out Ethic. Dresses, sweaters, and skirts in funky fabrics that pill easily are the hot items here. Leaping ahead in quality and price, cutting-edge Pinko may seem pricey, but the

Outlet Bound

You'll need to rent a car or hitchhike to get there, but Rome's Castel Romano Outlets, an attractive outdoor mall about 24km (15 miles) southeast of the center, are well worth the trip. With big guns like Dolce & Gabbana, Frette, La Perla, and Versace all represented, you can make off with factory overruns, seconds, and irregulars from the best labels in fashion, lingerie, and linens for a fraction of what you'd pay at their boutiques near the Spanish Steps.

well-cut pants and even the skimpy tops are built to last. Sole near Campo de' Fiori has a fab selection of sassy clothes, outerwear, and accessories from up-and-coming Italian designers. Should you be invited by a local prince (they do exist) to dinner at the family palazzo, L.E.I., on grimy Via Nazionale, is where you should go to get a dress.

One-stop shopping... Occupying a five-floor palazzo on Via del Corso, La Rinascente is the closest thing Italy has to a classy department store. It's no Saks— heck, it ain't even Blooming-dale's—but despite its dated look, the store actually has some great merchandise, with an especially strong assortment of bags, belts, scarves, hats, and gloves on the ground floor. La Rinascente is also open every night of the week, including Sunday, until 10pm— unheard-of in Italy. Coin, which operates stores near the Vatican and San Giovanni, features great-looking (and well-priced) handbags and other accessories—many produced under the store's own label, Koan—and a forgettable array of Italian, French, and American clothing. The 1999 overhaul of the once-seedy Termini train station saw the introduction of a snazzy subterranean shopping concourse, with clothing chains like Etam and Benetton, as well as a tanning salon—de rigueur, of course, in any mall. In 2003, the 18th-century Galleria Colonna, just

Suggestions for Souvenir Shoppers

Need a gift for someone back home or just something to remember your trip by? Try department stores COIN or La Rinascente for a wide selection of affordable, quality Italian fashion accessories; a less expensive but less wellmade assortment is at the Via Sannio street market. Soccer fans will appreciate the official club merchandise at the A.S. Roma Store, and anyone with a working set of taste buds will enjoy the packaged gourmet food items at haute delis Castroni, Franchi, and Volpetti. (Wine, available everywhere, is a classic souvenir of Italy, but it's bulky and heavy, and you're only allowed to bring two bottles back to the U.S.) Franco Maria Ricci publishes impossibly gorgeous coffee table books on Italian art, architecture, and fashion. Elegant kitchen and tabletop items, both traditional and modern, can be found at Modigliani. For collectors of kitsch, Rome abounds with papal bric-a-brac and miniature plaster Colosseums. Everyday items are the cheapest souvenir of all and can be as much fun as real "gifts'—pay a visit to the nearest supermercato or profume-ria for a packet of mass-market risotto mix or a tube of Italian toothpaste.

off Via del Corso, was opened as a smallish shopping mall and redubbed Galleria Alberto Sordi, for a dearly departed Roman comic actor.

Shoes, glorious shoes... Clothes shopping in Rome, quite frankly, can be beat, but you can't touch the shoes. Sensible styles (like rounded toes and flats) have entered the mix, but women in Rome still love what makes them look sexy, which means pointed toes and stiletto heels. A word to the uninitiated: The cobblestones of Rome are fraught with heel-snaring cracks, and while Italian women can navigate this terrain with painless nonchalance, newcomers with narrow heels will likely teeter unglamorously. (But when you're sitting down—boy, do you look good.) Martina Novelli, a tiny shop near the Vatican, packs in a tantalizing range of cutting-edge styles, from super-sexy heels to comfy moccasins. For that lusty medieval wench look, Cesare Paciotti's women's shoes are expensive and sexy with a capital S, all adorned with the designer's trademark dagger charm. Loco, near Campo de' Fiori, has some of the most outré shoes in the city (for men and women), but look past the Hobbit booties, and there are quite a few wearable couture styles from names like Les Tropeziennes and Ixos. A chic newcomer in the same 'hood, Campo de' Fiori 52 has a small but refined selection of funky yet elegant designs, including Viktor & Rolf and Robert Clerg-erie's Espace line. Also nearby, Posto Italiano is a local's secret weapon for the latest looks in a variety of colors at merciful prices. Via del Corso's Peroni has great shoes from upper-range designers like Giancarlo Paoli and Gianna Meliani as well its own lower-priced house label. Vatican-area Trancanelli has an expertly edited selection of all the best men's and women's styles for every occasion, from sneakers to stilettos. Men's shoes aren't much wilder in Italy than what you'll find back home—just a touch more fashion-forward, and made with better leather. Roman men usually wear sneakers—not the meant-for-athletic-activity kind, but the latest trendy designs from Onitsuka Tiger and Adidas. Every conservative, style-conscious Roman male has a pair of Hogans; these and other Italo-preppy shoes can be found at Davide Cenci or Mario Lucchesi. For easy loafers and men's dress shoes, look no further than Bruno Magli. Affordable knockoffs of all the current looks in footwear are prevalent throughout the city—for the best range of styles for men and women, the national chain Bata is like a higher quality and more stylish Payless Shoe Source (and a bit more expensive: Most pairs are priced 50€-70€/$63-$88).

The well-dressed fellow... Roman men primp and preen just as much as the women do (and they unabashedly look each other up and down, just as the women do), so trade in those Gap jeans already. Pick up classic ties, sober suits, or even something in suede at Brioni, safe in the knowledge that these are the guys behind James Bond's wardrobe in every 007 film. Ermenegildo Zegna—another big-timer on the menswear scene—also has sharp-looking suits, casual shirts and pants, and accessories. When politicians need to dress the part, they stop by Davide Cenci, a popular place for custom-made men's shirts and suits just down the street from the Palazzo Montecitorio (Italy's Chamber of Deputies). Unable to spend time getting measured? You can save time and quite a bit of money at David Saddler, jj an off-the-rack clothier with a large selection of dress

L shirts, casual pants, and belts. For sportier stuff, check out

Prototype, on Via dei Giubbonari, which has trendy, n printed T-shirts and every possible permutation of Con verse high-tops under the sun. Spilled wine on your only pair of khakis and need to replace them in a hurry? Brooks (no relation to the Brothers) should do the trick.

Sassy and sporty... Roman teenagers (and their middle-aged parents who refuse to dress their age) get their retail fix at one of the myriad techno-blaring storefronts on the northern, pedestrianized half of Via del Corso. Aided by its always cheeky window displays, Italian urbanwear behemoth Diesel sells jeans and edgy sportswear with a hightech slant. Onyx specializes in colorful tracksuits and flimsy accessories for brash junior high schoolers who think they're the next Britney Spears. The clothing at Fornarina is made for the under-20 set, but the colorful sandals and pumps can be worn by women, too. Energie has sporty clothing, footwear, and backpacks from popular youth brands like Kappa and Killah. A similar selection, plus some slightly more formal apparel, is at Jam Store, in the new Galleria Alberto Sordi mall. Great for jeans and sassy party clothes with a retro look, Miss Sixty has stores on Via del Corso as well as the quieter Via Cola di Rienzo, near the Vatican. Roman 20- to 50-somethings love to dress as if they're in training for the next America's Cup, and a casual range of nautical-inspired technical-looking gear can be found at Murphy&Nye.

Something about leather... Be it a jacket, a handbag, a belt, or a pair of gloves, there's nothing like coming home from Italy with the smell of tanned cowhide in your suitcase. If you love leather, your first stop should be Bottega Veneta (pronounced "ven-eh-ta"), temple of luxury accessories and home to the buttery soft, signature intrecciato woven leather. Your second stop, since you can't afford anything at Bottega Veneta, should be Furla, where modern and moderately priced handbags and accessories abound. One of the best purchases you can make in Italy, of course, is a hot-looking leather jacket. Fuori Orario, in Traste-vere, has its own line of well-priced bombers, trenches, and motorcycle jackets, in bright colors as well as sensible beige, camel, and black, for men and women. Sermoneta, on Piazza di Spagna, has an astounding selection of reasonably priced women's gloves. Pelletterie (leather shops) abound in Rome, but some are cheesy tourist traps—always be sure to inspect garments and accessories for quality of workmanship.

The 24-Hour Accessory

Sunglasses are worn night and day in Rome, so you'd better get yourself outfitted fast-go big and go bold. Pretty much any boutiquedesigner or budget-oriented-has its own line of shades, but your best source is often the ottica, a ubiquitous shop that sells a wide range of sunglasses, so you can try on multiple looks from different makers at your leisure. (Ottiche also have prescription glasses, contact lenses and solutions, and sometimes camera equipment.) Love those new Dior shades that everyone's wearing but don't want to shell out $200 for 'em? Check out the local street stalls and you'll probably find a much more affordable imitation. So what if the cheap plastic lenses don't protect your peepers from searing UV rays? It's fashion, baby!

Shopping for the bambini... Italy has one of the lowest birth rates in Europe, which means that those little ones who do manage do join the fray are in for some serious spoiling. Città del Sole's magical array of creative toys and construction sets will make you wish you were 8 again, too. At the north end of Piazza Navona is the stuffed-animal and collectibles emporium Al Sogno, wildly popular with children and Dungeons and Dragons geeks alike.

A feast of food markets... Some Romans have been lured away by the convenience of supermarkets—but most citizens still do their grocery shopping in the local alimen-tari (deli), butcher shops, and produce markets. Big vats of Cerignola and other oil-cured olives, sacks of dry herbs, and ripe fruits and vegetables by the crateful are just a few of the finds at Campo de' Fiori, a daily (except Sun) market that's liable to make first-time foodie visitors faint. It's gotten touristy in recent years, and the junk stalls hawking aprons bearing likenesses of Michelangelo's David now almost outnumber the produce stands. Still, everyone, from local chefs to pilgrims, rubs elbows in the Campo, eager to get their hands on some choice artichokes or an etto (just jj short of a V4 lb.) or two of the finest porcini mushrooms.

L The most authentic Roman market in the city is still at

Piazza Testaccio, an indoor bazaar where colorful locals— n but very few tourists—pick up the best Roman produce

(Mon-Sat 6am-2pm) for less than elsewhere. Before you get too carried away at the food markets, remember that fruit and veg will be confiscated by customs if you try to bring it home with you.

Edibles to go... Wine, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, decorative pasta, and other packaged goods are all great things to buy in Italy. Castroni, a Roman alimentari with several branches around the city, is a one-stop shop for Italian coffee, sweets, pasta, and liqueurs. It's also where many expat locals go to get American comfort foods, like Bisquick. The main offerings at gourmet delis Franchi and Volpetti (see the Dining chapter for both) are cheeses and cold cuts, but you can't travel with those; what you can pick up for foodie friends back home are packets of dried funghi porcini or jars of truffled olive pâté. After downing a shot of some of the best espresso in the city, pick up a package of ground coffee or chocolate-covered espresso beans from Bar Sant'Eustachio (see the Dining chapter).

Fine wines... Oenophiles shouldn't miss Trimani. Despite its sleek look, this enoteca was founded in 1821 and is Rome's most venerable wine vendor, with approximately 3,000 vintages in stock from every region in Italy. Smart tourists who discover the Tridente area's road-less-trav-eled—Via Ripetta—will be rewarded with Buccone. Every kind of red and white wine under the Italian sun, including some pricey vintages of Brunello, lines its shelves. Mr. Wine, the favorite enoteca of parliamentarians (it's across the street from Italy's parlamento), stocks an equally large range of both moderately priced and expensive wines. On Piazza Cavour, near Castel Sant'Angelo, Costantini has a fabulous Art Nouveau vine motif wrought-iron storefront and attached tasting room, Il Simposio. Also near the Vatican, friendly Del Frate is the preferred wine seller of the wealthy residents of Prati.

Lords of the fleas... Noisy crowds, some altogether unsavory characters, and plenty of junk are what you'll I encounter at Rome's popular Sunday flea market at Porta Portese, along the river in the southern part of Trastevere.B □ There's a bit of everything here, new and old, live and inani-B P mate—massive bins of clothes, racks of CDs, antique fur-B I niture, Reagan-era used appliances, carnivorous plants, andB ^ goldfish. Early birds (as in, the 7am crowd) stand the best chance of getting their hands on the truly fantastic vintage stuff, which is well hidden among miles of vendors hawking lame approximations of retro bric-a-brac. A warning to those who've been out late Saturday night: Porta Portese is not recommended if you have a hangover. Agoraphobes who'd rather avoid the chaos of Porta Portese can browse the more tranquil stalls of the market at Via Sannio (Mon-Sat), near San Giovanni, where leather jackets, belts, unofficial soccer jerseys, and the latest trendy accessories can be found. A parking garage off the Via Veneto houses the Underground, a monthly market full of the usual schlock, as well as jewelry, flatware, and doorknobs. The Mercato delle Stampe, between the Pantheon and Piazza del Popolo, has a charming selection of antiquarian books (in Italian, English, French, and other languages), back issues of magazines, and art prints. Looking for a vintage Pucci scarf or a classic motorcycle jacket? The Atelier Ritz is a twice-monthly market where rich Romans unload

Work That Deal: The Fine Art of Italian Negotiation

Unless you want to be written off as a sucker foreigner, you'd better learn how to haggle prices at Rome's flea markets and antiques shops. Typical of markets and secondhand outlets worldwide, marked prices for many items here are at least 50% above what the vendor actually expects to receive. Counter with a lower offer or ask for a sconto (discount), and you may just get a deal. If the vendor won't budge on something you know is worth much less, feel free to cock your head forward, smirk, and do the che sono, scemo? (what am I, a fool?) hand gesture: Bring fingers to thumb, palms pointing upward, then wag the hand back and forth (toward you, then away from you-you've seen this in myriad mafia movies). The gesture can be done with one hand, or-for greater efficacy-with both. (If the deal goes sour, turn back and repeat the gesture to the offending vendor as you're walking away, just so it's clear you're not a fool.) Of course, haggling can't be done everywhere. The prices in retail stores are usually fixed (prezzo fisso) and are often indicated as such with handmade signs near the register. At independent boutiques, however, it's reasonable to ask for a small discount if you're paying in cash.

everything from last season's Gucci bags to Valentino suits to Chanel jewelry.

Was this article helpful?

0 0

Post a comment