Rome has no end of farmers' markets. But for one of its best, you have to head to the covered food market at Circus Maximus, held every Saturday and Sunday. Bonus: It's great for gifts for friends and family back home, too.
Run by Campagna Amica, the market offers only local produce. Even at my neighborhood's fruit and vegetable stand, I can buy apples from New Zealand. Not here. Instead, all the farmers who sell their products at Campagna Amica have to adhere to the "0 km" rule — as in, they're all from Lazio. Not quite 0 km, sure, but way better than the 1,600 km that your average piece of produce takes to get from its harvest to your kitchen. And, of course, that means that the produce you buy is all fresh and seasonal — something that, in turn, helps the environment, economy, and local culture.
Plus, of course, the market's just plain fun. With everything from super-fresh ricotta to jars of delicacies (like a porcini mushroom and black truffle sauce that set me back €7, but was worth every penny), it's a great taste — literally — of all of the foods that Rome and Lazio have to offer. And there are plenty of good gift options to bring back home, from olive oil to biscotti to traditional sauces and dips.
The Circo Massimo market is located at Via San Teodoro 74. It runs every Saturday and Sunday from 10:30am-7pm.
Want to find out about Rome's other hidden gems? Check out The Revealed Rome Handbook: Tips and Tricks for Exploring the Eternal City, available for purchase on Amazon, below, or through my site here!
For a city that’s as vintage as it gets, vintage clothing stores can be a little few and far between. But it’s hard enough digging through musty leather belts and stretched-out sweaters in search of that perfect military jacket without having to also dig around to find the place you can even dig through to begin with. (With me?)
So, vintage-clothing lovers, women and men, here’s a list to make it simple.
Just remember that, in Rome, vintage doesn’t necessarily mean cheap, at least when compared to the High Street chains. Most of the shops below have dresses that range from €40 to €60, purses from €30 and up. Still, hunting for a bargain—or, at least, for that blouse that nobody else will possibly have—is all part of the fun.
Dresses at Twice, a vintage shop in Trastevere
Twice. Trastevere. This is one of my favorites (above): A cute, neat shop with all of the vintage clothes and none of that musty smell. Clothes, shoes and accessories are for men and women, most dating from the 1960s to 1980s. I even found a vintage Chanel purse here in pristine condition; at only €250, I had to ask the shopkeeper if it was real. She assured me it was. I was even sadder to leave it behind. Pretty crazily for a Rome store, Twice also has shopping online (well, sort of: you scroll through the pictures of items and, if you want to buy one, clicking lets you send an email. So far, it’s just of purses). Still, whoa. Via di San Francesco a Ripa 105/A. 0631 050610.
Blue Goose (new!). Monti. A well-edited collection of vintage women’s clothes, bags, shoes, and jewelry, many of them designer, at good prices. Cute little boutique and a lovely owner, too. Opened in fall 2012. (Read more about Blue Goose). Via del Boschetto, 4. +39 0648906738.
Blue Goose, a new vintage store in Monti
King Size Vintage (new!). Monti. This store’s original location is in San Lorenzo, but this new outpost, opened in fall 2012, is even more convenient for travelers in the center. The collection includes both men’s and women’s shoes, bags, and clothing. There’s definitely an element of treasure-hunting here, but it’s nice that the collection, though big, is displayed in a nice, organized way. (Read more about King Size Vintage). Via del Boschetto, 94.
Cinzia’s. Piazza Navona. Run by the owner, Cinzia, for more than 20 years, the store has a big collection of jackets, dresses, purses and more at reasonable prices (one friend got a gorgeous lizard-skin-like purse for €40). Tourists, students and locals all wander in and out, trying to find the best deals. Via del Governo Vecchio 45. 0668 32945.
That other store by Cinzia’s. Piazza Navona. Nobody ever remembers the name of this secondhand shop on Via del Governo Vecchio, but luckily, it’s so easy to find, you don’t have to. A bit larger than Cinzia’s, it’s also more crammed, with shelves overflowing with leather purses and boots. The prices are comparable, and so are the goods. Via del Governo Vecchio 35.
Bohemienne. Campo dei Fiori. Almost literally closet-sized, this small store feels more like a boudoir (well, if a boudoir were packed with men’s tweed jackets and musty hats along with lovely sandals and blouses) than a shop. Prices are slightly on the higher end. Via dei Capellari 96. 0668 804011.
God Save the Look. Monti. Another favorite (above): The collection here is highly-edited, without the heaps of stuff that characterize some of the other shops, but that means you’re all the more likely to walk out with the goods and still not feel overwhelmed. I fell in love here with a salmon-colored 1950s or 60s cocktail dress with a sequined bodice (€65) and a diaphonous white button-up dress from the 1940s (€60). The style here is more classy and trendy than funky and costume-y. Via Panisperna 227A. 0648 25211.
Pifebo Vintage Shop. Monti. It’s hard to avoid this store if you’re walking around Monti. It has that funky-grandma’s-closet feel, with everything from cowboy boots to sequined blazers hanging up. And it smells a little musty, but the prices are moderate and the selection pretty eclectic, so we’ll forgive them for it. Via dei Serpenti 141. 0689 015204.
Pulp. Monti. Another one of the well-edited stores, this is a vintage store with a trendy, almost punk-rocker streak. The prices are cheap, and the designs are hot. Via del Boschetto 140. 0648 5511.
Shopping lovers, which stores did I miss?
Want to know more of Rome’s vintage shopping secrets (among other hidden gems)? Check out The Revealed Rome Handbook: Tips and Tricks for Exploring the Eternal City, now available for purchase on Amazon, below, or through my site here!
It's that time of year again — saldi time. But for diehard shoppers, the winter also brought something else exciting: Italy's Zara flagship store.
Not just any Zara store, this Zara, the biggest in the world outside of those in Barcelona and Athens, commands five separate levels. It's in the Palazzo Bocconi, a gorgeous structure built smack on Via del Corso in the 1880s. And it's (relatively) eco-friendly, using 30 percent less energy and 70 percent less water than comparably-sized stores.
All of that makes 189 Via del Corso a pretty sweet stop for any Zara lover. But, as much as my jaw dropped, just a little bit, to see a store this slick and this big in little old Rome, it also made me a little sad. Let's be honest: There had to be some transformation that went along with putting a multinational chain in a 120-year-old palazzo. Preservationists' tears might be mitigated by the fact that, before, the palazzo was home to La Rinascente — the department store — but still. Yet another chain isn't exactly helping Rome's struggling artisans.
Ah, well. If you're going to go — to Zara or any other Rome shop (including local artisans!) — go now. The saldi end on February 15.
Like everything else, Christmas in Rome may not be quite what you expect. You won't see a Santa Claus on every corner or hear Christmas carols in every shop, and the city's Christmas markets are lacking compared to those in northern Europe. But Christmas spirit is alive and well in Rome — you just have to know where to seek it out.
And so, I give you: Twelve ways to get into the Christmas spirit in Rome. (Try humming along while reading. Believe me, it helps).
1. On the first day of Christmas, Rome gave to me… one Santa house. Over the next month, Rome's Auditorium transforms into a holiday extravaganza, with 40 Christmas trees, visits with Santa, a Christmas market, and an ice-skating rink. A full calendar of events includes a gospel festival from Dec. 19 to 26. The Christmas festival runs until Jan. 9; the Auditorium, located near Stadio Flaminio, is easily accessible by bus (the 910, 217 and "M" both go there from Termini) or the number 2 tram from the Flaminio metro stop. For more information, click here.
2. Two ice skates. Slipping and sliding Skating underneath the iconic silhouette of Rome's Castel Sant'Angelo, the ancient-mausoleum-turned-castle-of-the-pope, is a holiday tradition. Click here for more information on the Castel Sant'Angelo rink. Other skating rinks in Rome include those at Re di Roma, Tor di Quinto, and Villa Gordiani.
3. Three…thousand Christmas cribs. Along with its dozens of other museums, Rome even has one devoted to presepi. Featuring more than 3,000 scenes from all over the world, the museum — which is closed in the summer — is open every afternoon from Dec. 24 to Jan. 6, as well as during other limited hours throughout the winter. It's located under the church of Santi Quirico e Giulitta, nearby the Colosseum. For more information, call 06 679 6146.
4. Four (bites of) panettone. Rome's food traditions are incredibly seasonal — and if you want to taste some of the city's best cookies and cakes, Christmas is the right time to come. Try panettone, a traditional Christmas cake (although it tastes more like sweet bread) filled with candied fruits. Other sweets to taste include panforte (a much heavier, denser Christmas cake that's akin to fruitcake) and torrone (chocolate bars filled with nuts or nougat).
6. Six silks a-saving Sudan. It's a Christmas market with a twist: The goods include everything from Nepalese hats to Cambodian silks to Italian panettone, and the proceeds go raise money for the Pediatric Centre in Nyala, Sudan. The Emergency Christmas Market takes place this year at Palazzo Velli on Piazza Sant'Egidio 10, in Trastevere, until Dec. 23.
8. Eight (thousand) toys a-hanging. The goods at Rome's main Christmas market at Piazza Navona aren't anything to write home about — they're mostly mass-produced toys, decorations, and candies. Still, there's something about seeing Piazza Navona all done up for Christmas, and seeing so many Italian families out and about and in the holiday mood, that's worth making a stop. There's also a carousel for little ones.
9. Nine Lessons and Carols. To celebrate the 4th Sunday in Advent, St. Andrews' Presbyterian Church of Scotland is having its Service of Nine Lessons and Carols — followed by, the website says, "mince pies and mulled wine in the manse." Yum! (And, a "manse" sounds pretty cool). The Nine Lessons and Carols service, in English, is at 11 am on Sunday, Dec. 19.
10. Ten(-squared) cribs a-…cribbing. Now in its 35th year, Rome's "100 Presepi" exhibit of Christmas cribs — including both traditional cribs and the more creative, made out of every material from ostrich eggs to tea bags. The exhibit also has a crib-building workshop for children called "Nativity as a Game" (reservations required). The exhibit runs until Jan. 6 and is located at Piazza del Popolo's Sala del Bramanta. For more information, click here.
11. Eleven pipers piping. It's the time of year when sheepskin-clad bagpipers and flutists from Abruzzo and Calabria come to Rome, playing traditional Christmas songs in the streets. They're performing for free, so if the sheepskin didn't give it away, you'll be able to tell the difference between them and Rome's usual hordes of buskers! Look out for them around the Spanish Steps, Piazza Navona, and St. Peter's.
12. 12-and-unders singing. This (English) service will retell the Christmas story through activities and carols. It's at the All Saints Rome Church at 5pm on Dec. 24.
If you’ve booked your trip to Rome over Christmas, a couple of things normally happen. First, there’s elation. And then there’s an, “Oh no. What’s open on Christmas in Rome? Is anything open on Christmas in Rome?”
There’s reason to wonder. Many Romans do leave the city for their family homes over the holidays. Even so, there are still plenty of people left in this city of 3 million. Here’s what is open on Christmas in Rome… and what won’t be. (New Year’s, too). (For more tips and tricks, don’t miss my ultimate guide to Christmas in Rome!).
Will sites and museums be open during Christmas in Rome?
While some museums and sites will remain open even on Christmas Day and New Year’s, most of the biggies will be shut. The forum, Colosseum and Palatine will be closed Dec. 25 and Jan. 1, for example, but open every other day as usual, including Dec. 24.
The Vatican’s a tougher one: The Vatican museums and Sistine Chapel are closed on Dec. 8, Dec. 25, Dec. 26, and Jan. 1. They’re also closed every Sunday in December and January, as usual, except for the last Sunday of each month, when they are open and free.
Will the bus and metro be running over Christmas in Rome?
Yes. Often, the city even has an expanded service on Christmas Eve until the early afternoon. Service tends to end at about 9pm that night, though, and cabs are in very short supply, so if you need to be somewhere, give yourself lots of time to get there. On Christmas Eve, walking will probably be your best bet, so dress warmly!
Will restaurants be open on Christmas and New Year’s?
Most restaurants will be open every day except for Dec. 24, Dec. 25, and Jan. 1. Some others might close on Dec. 8, Dec. 31 and Jan. 6.
But many places will also be open on even those holidays themselves, including both classic Italian favorites and the kosher restaurants in the Ghetto. Just remember to book in advance.
Throughout December and January, yes. However, most shops will close early on Christmas Eve and will not be open on Christmas Day. Other days some might be closed or have shorter hours include Dec. 8, Dec. 26, and Jan. 1.
Finding this helpful? Then 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 and now updated for 2020!
If you want the saldi, you’ll have to wait — usually, these after-Christmas sales kick off throughout Lazio on the third Saturday of January.
And what about churches?
Ah, churches! They will, of course, be open on Christmas; many will offer mass at the same time they’d usually have their Sunday service. If you’re interested in attending mass, check with the church in advance. Otherwise, you’re fine to visit most churches as usual, being, of course, particularly respectful and refraining from taking flash photographs if a service is going on. And don’t forget to check out the church’s presepio (Nativity scene) — a particularly Italian handicraft (see below) that is only on display this time of year.
If you've been wondering why more stores and restaurants seem to be closed than they should be in Rome, it's because ferragosto is nearly here.
Ferrogosto — the period when Italians go on vacation, officially starting August 15 — is rooted in ancient tradition. In 18 B.C., Emperor Augustus, Rome's first emperor, instituted the feriae Augusti, or Augustan holidays. Adding to summertime festivals already celebrated, like the Consualia on August 23, the holidays celebrated the end of major agricultural work. Horse races were held; work set aside.
Two thousand years later, the holiday's origins may have dissipated — but the tradition itself continues, under the only slightly-different name of ferragosto. Italians leave the cities and flock to the seaside, taking two, three, even four weeks off work. The result for those of us left in Rome, and for tourists? Seeing door after closed door on local shops, restaurants, and drycleaner's, all with the sign "chiusa per ferie."
Even with the best English-Italian dictionary, some Italian words baffle. Like tabaccaio. "Tobacco shop," sure. But what else is going on in there — and why does everyone seem to think it's so useful?
First, make sure you have the pronunciation right: "ch" is hard in Italian, so it's tah-back-ee or tah-back-aye-oh, not tab-atch-ee. (One poor tourist confessed to me the other day, "Oh no! I've been saying 'tab-atch-ee' for years of coming to Italy!")
Second, a tabaccaio is not just a tobacco shop. Yes, you can get cigarettes there — but you can get a bottle of water, gum, and likely postcards, batteries and international calling cards, too.
Most usefully, it's where you can get tickets for public transport. At the counter, just ask for "un biglietto per l'autobus" or "due/tre/etc. biglietti" (the ticket works for the bus, tram and metro); it's €1 per ticket. You'll also see Italians using the tabaccaio to pay their electric or phone bills and to "top up" their pay-as-you-go phones.
When you're looking for a tabacchaio, just scan your street for the telltale blue sign with a white T. Just remember that many tabacchi, especially outside of the tourist centers,close during lunchtime and around 6 or 7 at night.
It might just be the best event in Rome, at least in the summer: On every night until September 1, the Tiber River’s banks come alive. More than a kilometer of stalls line the river—each one a shop or cafe, restaurant or bar.
If you’re a shopping, or strolling-and-people-watching, kind of person, the possibilities are endless. On my last walk through the festival, called Lungo il Tevere Roma, I perused jewelry, bought fistfuls of dried figs and kiwis, sipped a mojito in a swanky bar, and even watched one of the last World Cup games.
Compared to Rome’s other culinary options, I wouldn’t recommend having a full meal at the festival. But for a walk, a drink or a snack, it’s a nice, breezy change from the rest of Rome. And despite the crowds of Romans there, the prices are pretty similar to what you’d get elsewhere in the city.
For those of you in Rome who don’t live under a rock, you’ve probably noticed that the saldi — or sales — have arrived. And for those visiting, you might be wondering what all of the excitement, and the overcrowded stores, are about.
Unlike in, say, the U.S., Rome’s stores don’t have to tend small sales year-round. Instead, they have big, city-wide sales twice a year: post-Christmas, and July.
The first few days of the saldi can be crazy. The already-overworked-and-underpaid salespeople (seriously: I went into a popular shoe store the other day where there were 10 shoppers and just 1 worker, who had to get the shoes, make the sales and ring everything up by herself) are even more frantic. The line to try clothes on at Zara, always long, gets longer. The wait to get the attention of a salesgirl at Sisley, usually tough, becomes all but impossible.
But, but, but. The sales DO tend to be pretty good (often up to 50 percent off). And if you can’t bear to brave the crowds right away, don’t fear: The saldi will go on for another 5 or 6 weeks. They’ll keep cutting prices, too. Just remember that with a bunch of discerning Italians having come in before you, the good stuff will probably be gone.