I love vintage shopping in Rome—but hate those vintage stores that smell like Grandma’s attic. Enter Blue Goose. This little vintage boutique, which opened at the end of last year in Monti (on Via del Boschetto, of course!), is fabulous, well-priced, and anything but musty.
While tiny, the store has a beautifully-edited collection of vintage women’s clothing, bags, shoes, and jewelry. And most of the items are designer labels. Looking for that classic Louis Vuitton purse? Maybe a Versace jacket? This is the place to come.
(Note: This information was updated in April 2017).
It’s no secret that I adore Monti, the ancient rione a stone’s throw from Rome’s Colosseum and forum. Want to find out why? Pick up the April issue of National Geographic Traveler (that’s the U.S. version of the magazine), where I’ve written about some of the area’s hidden gems and hottest spots—from an ancient basilica to an artisanal gelateria. Here’s a sneak peek, but when the article goes live online, I’ll share it here, so check back. (Update, March 17: You can now read the story about Monti online!).
And stay tuned for news of an article on another fantastic Rome neighborhood, for another great travel magazine, coming soon. (What can I say, I hate to play favorites).
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!
Figuring out the neighborhoods of Rome can be a little confusing. Even though it’s a big city, most tourists spend most of their time in the centro storico — and that’s where most hotels are, too.
But simply looking for accommodation in Rome’s “historic center” isn’t enough. That’s because the center is divided by neighborhoods, some of which feel pretty different from the next.
So you’ll need to know not only that you want to stay in the historic center… but which neighborhood to stay in in the centro storico, too.
What is the centro storico?
If you want to stay in the centro storico, you first need to know… what is the centro storico.
Technically, the centro storico is the area of Rome that’s bordered by the 3rd-century Aurelian walls and by the mura gianicolensi, which include the Vatican walls. There aren’t many good maps online that have the walls clearly delineated. This is one of the best I could find.
The thin, black line running around the entire center is the Aurelian walls. (You can find it by looking at the square marked “Castro Pretorio” in the upper right-hand part of the city). Although the neighborhood and monuments are all ancient Roman, you can get some perspective by looking for the Colosseum (a little ring almost right in the center), Circus Maximus (to the southwest of the Colosseum), and the Tiber.
This area—which includes not only the Colosseum and forum, but the Spanish Steps, Piazza del Popolo, Piazza Navona, Pantheon, and Vatican — is the historic center. And if you’re staying in Rome, this is where you’ll probably want to stay. (Nota bene: There are, of course, many other, perfectly pleasant neighborhoods in Rome outside of the historic center. But I’m sticking to the centro storico here just because it tends to be most conveneint for most people).
Now, for the neighborhoods. (I recommend opening a tab with Google maps and keeping it handy so you can refer back and forth!).
The neighborhood where… everyone stays: the heart of the centro storico
This isn’t technically a neighborhood, but I’m using it as shorthand for the central area that most people think of when they think “Rome”—the triangle with Piazza del Popolo in the north, the Spanish Steps and Trevi Fountain to the east, and the Pantheon and Piazza Navona to the west.
This stunning area is home to cobb where most people want to stay. Of course, it’s also where hotels are the most expensive, where the streets crowd with tourists and shoppers, and where 99% of restaurants are overpriced and mediocre. On the other hand, every corner looks like a postcard. Hey, you win some, you lose some!
The neighborhood where… it feels most big-city: Via Veneto, Piazza Barberini and Repubblica
This northeastern corner of the historic center is home to the winding Via Veneto. The street is famous for its hotels—although most seem, at least to me, to be huge and overpriced. Meanwhile, the rest of the area, especially near the Barberini and Repubblica metro stops, feels like a big city.
For the most part, forget cobblestones and quaint churches. This is where the buildings are tall, the streets wide, and the passersby businesslike.
Termini and the Esquiline
Although some hoteliers diplomatically call this neighborhood “Monti,” anything from Piazza Vittorio Emanuele to Santa Maria Maggiore and northeast to the Termini train station is, more properly, the Esquiline hill. In general, the neighborhood here tends to feel gritty and look grungy. This is where you’ll see immigrants hawking counterfeited purses, homeless people huddling in corners, and garbage littering the street.
It’s also home to many of Rome’s cheapest hotels, hostels and B&Bs.
The area tends to be perfectly safe. Rome is, as a whole, much safer when it comes to muggings and violent crimes than pretty much any city in America, as well as Dublin, London and Paris. But it may not be what you imagined when you first pictured Rome. Also keep in mind that, while it may seem very convenient to stay near the train station, and while that means this area is well-connected by metro and bus, it’s not within easy walking distance of most of the major sights, like the Pantheon and Piazza Navona.
In ancient times, this rione was the red-light district, home to gladiators and prostitutes (Julius Caesar even moved there to show he was “one of the people”). Today, it’s a gorgeous little neighborhood filled with medieval palazzi, cobblestoned streets, and an eclectic mix of traditional trattorie and hip boutiques.
If you want to stay here, look at the area bordered by Via Nazionale (to the west), Santa Maria Maggiore (to the north), the Colle Oppio park (to the east), and the Roman forum and Colosseum (to the south).
Further southwest of Monti is Celio, another rione with a strong history. The couple of blocks right around the Colosseum tend to be touristy and busy during the day, but the rest of this area, which stretches southeast to the Basilica of San Giovanni in Laterano, feels quiet and residential. I lived here for four years, and I still think it’s one of the most underrated areas of the city.
This hill, just south of the Circus Maximus, is home to some of the loveliest streets and homes in Rome. Its small size and exclusivity mean there are few hotels and B&Bs here. It also doesn’t feel like it’s “in the middle” of anything, thanks to its greenery and the fact that it’s at least a 15-minute walk to most of the major sights.
From Piazza Venezia to the Tiber, you’ve got beautiful ancient ruins, the Jewish Ghetto, lively Campo dei Fiori, and my favorite piazza in Rome, Piazza Farnese. This district has the atmosphere (and history) of the area around Piazza Navona and the Pantheon, with half of the people.
Just over the Tiber from Campo dei Fiori and the Ghetto is Trastevere, an atmospheric district that, today, is as likely to be home to American study-abroad students, expats and wealthy Italians as the working-class and bohemian Romans who once lived here. Still, the neighborhood remains charming. There are plenty of corners and tiny streets where life is still lived much as it would have been decades ago.
If you find the center of Rome’s centro storico too confusing and chaotic, consider Prati. This area around the Vatican, just over the river from sights like Piazza Navona and Piazza del Popolo, was laid out in the 19th century, so its grid system and wide boulevards look more continental and, well, organized than the rest of Rome.
The area right around the Vatican museums and St. Peter’s is extremely touristy. But once you get a little farther away, authentic restaurants and the rhythm of daily life in Rome abound. It’s also easier to find cheaper accommodation here.
Just south of the Aventine, the Testaccio quarter is one of the least touristy in Rome — and has some of the best restaurants and bakeries in the city. The ancient area, which gets its name from “Monte Testaccio,” a hill that literally was created because it was a dump for ancient Roman amphorae, can feel more modern and gritty than the center of the city. But it’s perfectly safe, cheaper than the center, and convenient: Thanks to the metro and lots of buses here, you’re just 5 to 15 minutes away from Trastevere, the Colosseum, and the heart of the historic center.
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.
It wasn't until I moved to Rome that I learned something very, very important: The sign of a fresh (read: good) cannolo is that the tube is only filled with that delicious, just-cloying enough ricotta mixture when you order it. Not before.
That's just one of many things that Ciuri Ciuri, the Rome-based Sicilian pastry shop, does right.
You may have had cannoli before, but — unless you've been to Sicily — you probably haven't had cannoli like these. I once met a Sicilian girl living here who swore that Ciuri Ciuri's cannoli were the only ones she would touch between flights home. And, as a confession, I usually find Italian sweets not-quite-sweet-enough. (Hey, I'm American: More is better, baby). That's never a problem with Ciuri Ciuri. (That, combined with the fact that one of their stores is right across the street from me, makes this shop very dangerous indeed).
But no need to stop at a cannolo (with orange slice, pistachios, or chocolate chips, as you prefer). How about something Sicilian and savory, like an arancino? Or something that looks savory but isn't… like this marzipan? (I swear the corn cob tasted like corn. No, I wasn't sure how I felt about that).
Ciuri Ciuri isn't Rome's cheapest pastry shop. A cannolo is (if I recall) €2.50, and those three chunks of marzipan above set me back some €8.
But when it comes to tasting a little slice of heaven, who's counting coins?
Ciuri Ciuri has four Rome locations: Monti (Via Leonina 18/20), Celio (Via Labicana 126/128), Largo Argentina (Largo Teatro Valle 1/2), and Trastevere (Piazza San Cosimato 49b). (Click the link for maps). And, by Rome standards, they're open strangely late — till midnight at all locations but Celio, where they're open till 11pm.
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!
Every once in a while, a girl (or guy) needs a cupcake. These aren’t easy to come by in the Eternal City, a town more known for devil-fighting than devil’s food. Luckily, there’s Sweety Rome.
A bakery and café located in the heart of Monti, Sweety Rome boasts pastries, muffins — and cupcakes. When I saw a red velvet cupcake (shown above), next to a chocolate cupcake, next to a vanilla-with-lemon icing cupcake, at a bakery in Rome, I almost couldn’t contain myself. (I thank Baked & Wired, the frustratingly-tempting and way-better-than-Georgetown-Cupcake place next to my old office building in Washington, D.C., for my not-quite-forgotten cupcake addition).
But displaying a cupcake is one thing. Actually baking one that’s up to a Baked & Wired-lover’s snuff is something else.
Two trips, three muffins and three cupcakes later (gross, I know), this self-appointed expert’s verdict: pretty darn good. No, the cupcakes aren’t the size-of-a-plate monstrosities with two inches of icing that you see back home, and they’re slightly on the dry side. Nor are the muffins as sweet as what I’m used to spoiled by in the U.S. But when you’re craving something sweet and American, either one will do the trick.
Sweety Rome also does pies and cakes that you’re not used to seeing in Italy, like pecan pie, cheesecake, and key lime pie; if you want one for a special occasion, you have to order in advance. Some of the cute designs they can do are in the window — even a cake shaped like a Chanel bag.
And, excitingly, I hear that they do brunch. When I swung by at 9:30am on a recent Saturday, this brunch did not appear to be on quite yet. In fact, they weren’t even open. But I’m game to go back, so stay tuned for an American brunch update.
Sweety Rome, Via Milano 48, in the Monti neighborhood. For more information, click here. For a map, click here.
The Basilica of Santa Prassede stands on the site of St. Prassede's own house where, according to tradition, she put up martyrs including St. Peter. A church was first built here in the 5th century, although an oratory might have existed as early as 150 AD. The ruins of those earlier buildings haven't yet been excavated. Some day…
But in the meantime, you can explore the current church — which was built in the 9th century. And it has frescoes and mosaics from the same period, something that (no matter how much really, really old stuff I see) still blows me away. Check out the glittering mosaics in the Chapel of St. Zeno, right. You can also descend into the crypt, which the famous Cosmati brothers decorated in the 13th century, to see the sarcophagi of Prassede and her equally-saintly sister, Pudenziana. The tombs have relics of the sisters, including a sponge they used to soak up the blood of 3,000 different martyrs.
But the most famous relic in the whole church is the Column of Flagellation. It's pretty safe to say this probably isn't the real deal… but then, that's not really the point with relics, is it?
The Basilica of Santa Prassede is open every day from 7:30am-12pm and 4pm-4:30pm. Don't forget coins to light up the mosaics.