Shopping in Rome: a city of artisans
Italy’s relationship with creativity is famous throughout the world. Over the centuries, the Italians’ skill in making unique artisanal products has permeated all aspects of the country’s manufacturing industry and become its hallmark. Some of Rome’s more popular souvenirs include miniature colosseums and vespas, and football shirts and aprons with Michelangelo’s David on the front. However, Rome has far more to offer than that.
Fashion, food and ornaments remain some of the most popular souvenirs. Allow us to showcase some of Rome’s most special items and the best places to buy them.
Roman gifts: fashion
In a city ranking top in the world fashion stakes, you’ll have the latest trends at your fingertips. When it comes to Italian fashion, words do it no justice.
Some of the top international fashion brands known and loved by experts and enthusiasts alike have their roots in the small Italian workshops of days gone by, where leather and other materials were worked by hand. Gucci, Prada, Fendi, Giorgio Armani and Dolce & Gabbana are hallmarks of quality, and where better to purchase one of these brand names than in the Italian capital.
For a truly high-class shopping experience, head to the area around Piazza di Spagna. Via Condotti and Via Borgognona are the most glamorous streets in all of Rome and the headquarters of most of the great fashion houses.
For a more affordable shopping spree, check out one of the many markets peppering the city. The outdoor Porta Portesse Market in Trastevere sells clothes alongside old furniture, bikes and books. Borghetto Flaminio close to Piazza del Popolo is a more laid-back and local experience but has just as good a selection of quality vintage clothing and accessories to choose from, including bags, wallets, jewellery and more. Both markets are held on Sundays and offer a nice alternative to the usual shopping experience.
Roman crafts and typical souvenirs
The same part of town is home to an extensive art and ornaments trade that’s been on the go forever. Via Margutta is the ancient home of artisans, painters and all manner of artists from Rome. The street is close to Piazza del Popolo and is perhaps most famous for its starring role in the American classic Roman Holiday, not to mention its history as the home of great artists including Fellini and Picasso. You’ll find some of the best art galleries and antique shops in the city as well as gold and silversmiths, artisan cobblers and stonecutters. Among them is Il Marmoraro, a small and positively delightful place specialising in personalised marble inscriptions.
Keep a look out for Pinocchio and the touching Befana dolls which, along with wooden gladiator swords, are just a few of the original souvenirs that you can bring back from Rome. If these take your fancy, head to Bartolucci on Via dei Pastini 96-98, or La città del Sole on Via della Scrofa 65.
Last but not least, Polvore di Tempo at Via del Moro 59 is a haven of extravagant Renaissance-style items such as hourglasses, astrolabes, thermometers and globes, and Cereria di Giorgio on Via de S. Francesco di Sales 85 is a candle merchant with more than a century in the business and is none other than the official supplier of candles to the Vatican.
Roman gastronomy: edible souvenirs
The winning combination of simplicity and flavour in Italian cuisine has conquered people the world over. Rome’s pantry has numerous delights with which to fill your suitcase before heading back home.
Food has become just as big business in the capital as fashion and crafts. Both Testaccio Market and the Mercato Centrale Roma have shops selling artisan produce such as cheese and pasta. Don’t miss the pecorino, parmesan and formaggio in the first, and the traditional dry pasta in the second. In fact, this is exactly what goes into the star dish of the Lazio region: spaghetti cacio e pepe. Ham (or prosciutto), extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar (aceto balsamico di Modena) and ground coffee are some other authentic Italian products on offer.
When it comes to typical drinks, you might want to bring back a bottle of Sambuca, the strong sweet aniseed liqueur originating from Lazio. To enjoy it in true Roman style, add seven coffee beans to your shot (representing the seven hills of Rome).
Souvenirs from the Vatican
Nowhere does religious objects better than Rome and you’ll find plenty of shops throughout the capital and around Piazza San Pietro in Vatican City. Think marble angel figurines, rosaries made from all materials imaginable, cross-themed jewellery, paintings and icons of the Virgin, statues, medallions and much, much more.