However. I’ve made a big stinktheme out of supporting Rome’s artisans and independent stores. As I’ve explored the non-chain-store side of Rome shopping, I’ve found some pretty great shops. And more and more readers have been requesting for me to share some of my finds with them.
So: I’ll be doing so more frequently. Starting with this outfit, which I bought just last week.
The dress is handmade, fairtrade, and made from organic cotton. (I wish the pictures could show just how soft and comfortable the material is!). I found it at Altromercato, the fairtrade store near Piazza del Popolo, on Via di Ripetta 262; the store was under renovations for a while, but just reopened.
(By the way, as well as clothing and jewelry, Altromercato sells toiletries and even food. I walked out not only with this dress, but with an armful of organic pasta and sauce from the anti-Mafia organization Libera Terra).
The shoes, which are handmade, suede, and super comfortable, are from Barrila Boutique, another store near Piazza del Popolo. The store is located at Via di Babuino 34.
And, no, I couldn’t decide between the blue and the pink, so—especially because I can never find shoes I like—I scooped up both pairs.
Just in time for the first day of fall: a workshop near the Spanish Steps that makes leather jackets. (And fur coats!). (Update, December 2016: Agostino’s store moved in November 2016. He’s now at Via dei Maroniti 13, near the Trevi Fountain—and only slightly further from the Spanish Steps. The store’s name is now Crisafulli Leather Fashion).
I discovered the Sistina 26 Crisafulli leather workshop a couple of months ago, and the owner, Agostino—a friendly Sicilian with a passion for all things artigianale—was more than happy to give me a tour. He and his wife, Elisa, not only run the shop, but design all of the jackets. And, as is always one of the best things about getting something handmade, they’re happy to alter the designs to suit anyone’s particular preference. And yes, they’re happy to ship abroad.
The cozy workshop in the back was everything an artisan’s workshop should be, included cluttered and humming with a current creation.
The store in the front has a number of jackets already made, in every color and type of leather imaginable, for both men and women. The styles range from classic to funky to, well, frankly outrageous. (Please see: green-and-yellow jacket, below).
Here are just a few of the leather jackets Agostino showed me:
And if fur’s your preference, they’ve got that too.
So if you’re thinking of splashing out this fall on a leather jacket that’ll last for years, check out Crisafulli. Because the only thing better than a leather jacket from Italy… is a handmade jacket made just for you.
I’m always on the lookout for vintage stores in Rome, and it’s no secret I’m kind of obsessed with Via del Boschetto for shopping. So imagine my excitement to come across King Size Vintage, a brand-spanking-new (it opened just a few days ago) addition to the street.
King Size Vintage already had a location in the gritty students’ quarter of San Lorenzo. But now that it’s moved to Monti, I’ll be paying it many more visits. Especially because the shop itself is beautifully done. The space is large, at least for stores in Rome’s centro storico, and the owners have resisted the vintage-store temptation of completely cramming it with items. Result? Browsing is fun. And anything but overwhelming.
(Note: This information was updated in April 2017).
Especially when a little exploration yields details like these:
(Closeups of some lovely vintage swimsuits)
(Drawers full of wallets and belts)
(Leopard-print Fendi blouse, €65)
(The rack of women’s blouses and dresses)
(Beautiful detail on a €25 purse)
Bonus: This is one of the better-priced vintage stores I’ve seen in Rome. Even the high-end designer items are more than fairly priced.
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t scoop up a couple of items while doing, um, “research.”
If you liked this post, you’ll love The Revealed Rome Handbook: Tips and Tricks for Exploring the Eternal City, available for purchase on Amazon or through my site here! I’m also free for one-on-one consulting sessions to help plan your Italy trip.
You don't need to head to Murano for handcrafted glass in Italy. When in Rome, just make your way to Monti—and to Anna Preziosi's studio.
Anna's tiny workshop, located a 10-minute walk from the Roman forum, is filled with gorgeous glass plates, vases, decorative baubles, and more. It's become my go-to to find the perfect, elegant gift from Italy.
And yes, all of the glass is handmade right there in the studio… by the lovely Anna herself.
Anna Preziosi, the glassmaker behind Silice
Especially given the quality of the glass and the fact that it's handmade, the prices are excellent. For as little as €15, you can scoop up an ashtray or small dish, while you're looking at €75 and up for a large, decorative plate.
Have I mentioned that the pieces are gorgeous?
Studio Silice is located at Via Urbana 27, in the heart of Monti. While you're there, don't forget to check out the other great shops and artisanal stores on Via del Boschetto!
This summer, I decided I needed two new pieces: a comfortable dress that I could wear as easily to the beach as to dinner. And a new wallet, since my old one was falling apart.
Instead of turning to a chain or department store, as I did in the past, I headed to two of my favorite Rome artisans. Each one handcrafted me exactly what I wanted… within just a couple of days. And the prices were reasonable—especially considering how much you'd usually pay to be personally involved in a piece's design.
Now that's what a shopping bag should look like…
First: the wallet. For those who've followed my artisanal shopping adventure in Rome, it might come as no surprise that I headed straight to Armando Rioda.
I chatted with my buddy Vinicio Reggi, one of the owners, as we figured out what kind of wallet I wanted. He handed me several they'd already made to help me figure out size and style; when we had the basics figured out, he started sketching on a piece of paper. "You could have an extra pocket here, if you want," he said, drawing, "and the credit cards here. How many slots for them would you want?".
When we had the design figured out, it was time to choose the leather. He pulled out one bolt after another—camel, dark blue, red, black. I said I wanted dark brown, and for that, he had the perfect choice: a dark brown leather that was stamped to look like alligator skin.
When we'd finished designing my ideal wallet, he said it would be ready in just a couple of days. At the end of the week, I went to get it… and couldn't have been happier with the result.
(The other leather options I had)
(Nice extra touch: the silver wheel)
(Going artisanal means attention to detail: the interior is lined with nubuck leather)
(With Vinicio and his work of art: my new wallet!)
As usual, the store was sparse: just a few dresses and shirts hung on the rack. But the patterns change frequently here, and this time, I saw exactly the design I wanted. When I tried it on, it fit perfectly. (If it didn't, one of the two seamstress-designers who runs Le Nou assured me they could alter it to my measurements—at no extra cost).
The only problem was the color, a light green that didn't exactly complement my olive skin. So, instead, I was directed to a few bolts of cloth, and told to pick whichever one I wanted. I went with navy blue.
(Bolts of pretty cloth at Le Nou)
I left my name and phone number, and the girls told me they'd text as soon as the dress was ready. Less than 24 hours later, I received a message. The dress was finished. Simple and classic, it was exactly what I'd wanted. The cost? €35.
One of Le Nou's designers-dressmakers with the result
I told you: You've gotta love Rome's artisans.
The details from outfit photo, at top: Handcrafted wallet from Armando Rioda, €200. Handmade dress from Le Nou, €35. Handmade suede espadrilles from Barrila Boutique, €59. The process of being involved in the design of a piece you're buying, and of supporting Rome's artisans? Priceless.
That's because I think there's a big misconception about ferragosto: Primarily, that it's only a couple of weeks long, and that it starts on Aug. 15. In reality? Every business owner (and family) decides when to take their holiday, and for how long. So I've seen closures ranging from mid-July to early August, from early August to early September, or for just a couple of days in mid-August. (The popular restaurant shown above, Checchino dal 1887, is closed from Aug. 5 to Sep. 3, for example).
How much you'll be affected by ferragosto also depends, very much, on the neighborhood you're in. The area right around the Spanish Steps and Piazza Navona continues to hum with activity. But center's more "authentic" quarters, particularly Monti, Testaccio, and Trastevere, are starting to feel like ghost towns. And since those tend to be where the city's best restaurants and most interesting shops are located, that's a challenge for travelers.
So if you have to come to Rome in August (or early September), be prepared to have a plan of attack.
Did your Vatican visit leave you drooling over the marble sculptures, inlaid tables, and elaborate mosaics? Guess what—on Via Margutta, you can get your hands on your very own versions.
Since 1994, Maurizio Grossi has had an art-gallery-cum-store here, just up the street from the Spanish Steps. Pieces in the collection range from elegant marble vases to miniature obelisks; there are also reproductions of ancient statues, bookends, lamps, inlaid marble tables, and, yes, mosaics. Everything is made here in Italy, and the mosaics are created using ancient techniques.
(Gorgeous marble vase)
(One of many reproductions of ancient Roman busts)
(Statue reproductions, marble obelisks and inlaid tables, oh my!)
But I'm not going to lie. The fruits were what really got me. I had to actually put my hands in my pockets to keep from grabbing something to bite into. (Luckily for my dentist, I was able to keep it together).
(How luscious do those cherries look?)
(A marble fruit basket)
(Don't eat the fruit!)
Prices, of course, reflect the fact that the pieces are solid marble and handmade. But they could be worse: a marble apple is €20, the reproduction of a Roman bust €220.
Want to check it out? Maurizio Grossi is located at Via Margutta 109; it's open from 10am-1pm and 3:30pm-7:30pm. Call +39 0636001935 for more information.
Back in March, I swore off buying clothing at chain stores for an entire year. I thought it'd be tough to do. Especially since, like so many other people, my go-to stores when I needed a little wardrobe update were big brands like Zara.
And yes. Buying only vintage or handmade clothing and accessories in Rome has been challenging.
But it's also been a lot of fun.
Since some of you have commented or even emailed asking me how the search is going, I wanted to share with you just some of my loot from this spring. These are five of my favorite secondhand finds in Rome this month. Stay tuned for an upcoming post on my favorite handmade items I've found!
(Scarf from Porta Portese, €1, and sunglasses from Pifebo Vintage, €20)
(Vintage leather purse from Porta Portese, €5)
(1970s dress from the Via Sannio market, €10)
(Set of three bracelets from Fabio Piccione in Monti, €10)
(1970s dress from Pulp, €35, with vintage belt, €12)
Add another Rome artisan to my list of favorites: Marina Graziana, the artist behind Picta Porcellane.
Located in a small workshop around the corner from Campo dei Fiori, Marina handpaints porcelain cups, bowls, saucers, vases, and more. Her designs range from classic and elegant to fun and whimsical. And the prices—starting at about €15 euros for a small saucer or ashtray—aren't bad.
But I'll let the pictures do the talking.
(Too cute—and as you can see, the mid-sized plate is €20)
(I'm loving these fun & girly vases)
(And this striped dish collection—which also comes in green, yellow, red…)
(Just in case you thought everything in the store was pink)
(Marina with her many creations)
Picta Porcellane is open from Monday to Saturday, from 10am to 7:30pm. It's located at Via dei Cappellari 11, right off Campo dei Fiori.