A well-guarded address that fashionable Roman women share with only their best visiting friends, this shop in the Piazza di Spagna is a shoe fetishist’s fantasy. The shoes and sandals change each season but all are beautifully made with a classic elegance and flair.
A recent addition to the Monti neighborhood, this store offers a variety of European designers. B’s all-black inventory (in winter) includes not only clothes but accessories like jet beads; in the warmer months, the inventory extends to white as well.
Since 1980, when Cristina Bomba opened her boutique, she has provided a distinctly Italian take on comfortable, expressive clothing. In addition to selling beautiful blouses, dresses, evening wear and accessories like silk purses, there is also an on-site tailor to make custom pieces and do alterations. Bomba also sells Luisa Cevese and Ramich bags, shoes by Repetto and hats from Nafi’ de Luca.
Sano, a Sicilian-born craftsman, uses old-fashioned tools and techniques to create handmade leather bags with a surreal twist: his traditional-looking men’s satchels have what appears to be a giant bite out of them and purses are playfully crafted in the shape of fish or fortune cookies. Another popular design has red lips planted like a kiss on its front.
At Dal Co, you can design your own footwear, choose from the shop’s collection or select a design from its archives. Each pair of shoes is custom-made and delivered within weeks. Run by Silvia Dal Co, granddaughter of the founder, the company has catered to women who take pride in their footwear, including style icons like Audrey Hepburn and Mariella Agnelli, for years.
The Cenci family has been dressing the most fashionable Italians for more than eighty years. The third generation of couturiers runs the business now, which has outposts in Milan and New York, but this is the flagship, where you’ll find the largest selection of their clothes as well as brands like Burberry and Ralph Lauren. Custom pieces can also be ordered.
Ditta Annibale Gammarelli
City Secrets is a series of innovative guidebooks whose contributors, from art historians and professors to novelists and architects, choose their personal “city secrets” to share. Read a Q&A with founding editor Robert Kahn. The following is a pick from City Secrets: Rome by Robert J. W. Cro, who trained as an art historian and archaeologist and is now an ordained minister.
Unlike the large tourist emporia near the Vatican, the shops along via dei Cestari cater primarily to the clergy themselves. After hours of admiring the great monuments of Christian Rome, I often found it relaxing to come here and observe its personal side. The young nuns window-shopping (so like their secular sisters on the Corso) offer an excellent reminder of the very human individuals who helped build this great religious capital. For those seeking more tangible rewards, the stores here offer decidedly unusual souvenirs. A favorite amongst savvy (if strapped) shoppers are the distinctively colored cardinal’s socks at Ditta Annibale Gammarelli in via Santa Chiara.
The two-level shop sells the wares of little-known designers from Italy, Germany and Japan in a lovely space with whitewashed wood floors and brick archways.
Located in the very authentic area around Via Monserrato and a few steps from the crowded Campo de Fiori and the Piazza Navona, sits this atelier, specializing in jewelry that combines the precious with semi-precious in innovative, exciting and glamorous ways.
Just as Romans have their preferred gelato spots, so do they tend to pick a leathermaker and stick to his wares. True Trussardi families wouldn’t order anywhere else, and neither would Polidori loyalists. Every piece is made to order with the finest hides and hand-stitching.
Cristina Tardito’s flagship boutique shows her ready-to-wear line, plus accessories like her Boudoir bag and wonderful swimsuits, which are a staple with the Forte dei Marmi crowd.
This is the top swimsuit shop in the city—a must for anyone in Rome on their way to Capri, Amalfi or anyplace along the Mediterranean where bare glamour is appreciated.
City Secrets is a series of innovative guidebooks whose contributors, from art historians and professors to novelists and architects, choose their personal “city secrets” to share. Read a Q&A with founding editor Robert Kahn. The following is a pick from City Secrets: Rome by Sarah Arvio, a poet who teaches poetry at Princeton University.
Mada is a tiny shoe shop with two loveseats and two or three shopgirls that ask you, as a matter of course, “che colore cerca, signora? Numero?” (What color shoes are you looking for? What size?) There are shoes scattered on shelves and side tables, but these are a small sampling of the mind-stretching assortment of shoes that simultaneously look nothing and something like the shoe you are imagining. When you say red or gray or green or blue or black or pink or violet or silver or navy or gold, the girl slips down a staircase through a tiny hatch in the floor and then pops up with a tall stack of boxes that precedes her head through the hatch. Once I asked for gold, and in each of my boxes was a pair of gold shoes: one pointed flats, one with square heels; one pair with one ornate bow each, one pair a kind of roughed-up, crumpled, stretchable ballet slipper; one pair of lattice sandals; one pair of glittery sneakers.
In one of Rome’s oldest neighborhoods is the custom shirtmaker Mimmo Siviglia. For almost half a century, Siviglia has been making bespoke shirts for men and women out of the finest Italian cloth. His small shop has brightly painted yellow walls and shelves lined with bolts of fabric—from pastel-colored Egyptian cotton to twill and flannel. You will have to have two fittings and must order a minimum of a half dozen shirts, but once they have your form down (assuming it stays the same), you can order and he will ship anywhere in the world.
Per Non Dormire
It’s clear from the sexy lingerie sold here that Per Non Dormire, which translates to “not for sleeping,” lives up to its name. By appointment only.
This eco-concept store is the brainchild of designer Ilaria Venturini Fendi whose Carmina Campus project produces accessories, furniture and design pieces all made from recycled, re-used and re-fashioned materials. The whimsical collection includes laptop sleeves made from airplane seats, purses embellished with mirrors saved from the inside of cars, and bags made with vintage fabrics and non-recyclable fabrics from end-of-line stocks from major Italian fashion houses.
Each piece is crafted by highly trained artisans. The designer has spearheaded projects with the U.N., working on one line in particular with artisans in Africa, but the staff at the Rome store points out that it is also important to note that most of the products are made by Italian craftspeople whose skills are in danger of dying out in light of cheap overseas productions.
Carmina Campus accessories are sold at such design-conscious stores as L’Eclaireur in Paris and Joyce in Hong Kong, but Re(f)use is the only free-standing store entirely dedicated to this wonderful project. It’s one of Rome’s most interesting—and worthwhile—new boutiques.
Says Indagare insider Alberto Moncada, the owner of boutique hotel Margutta 54: “Saddler Union sells beautiful hand made leather accessories including lovely bags, wallets and belts. This shop was the Gucci of the 1950’s, only it didn’t grow and become a global brand the way Gucci did.”
Stylish Roman women avoid the big labels and head to Twombly’s atelier for her feminine, one-of-a-kind creations that both flatter and impress. By appointment only; mention your Indagare membership.
With the same kind of cult following as Jacques Fath once had among fashionable travelers to Paris, Sorelle Fontana, near the Spanish Steps, has long catered to aristocratic ladies who know exactly what they like. Many Americans got their first glimpse of the fashion house’s look on Hollywood stars in the movies, including Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday and Ava Gardner in The Barefoot Contessa. The current designer, Marco Coretti, carries on their couture business and has added a ready-to-wear line.
Tommy and Guilio Caraceni
Founded in 1913 by Domenico Caraceni, this bespoke tailor shop is famous for its exquisite suits, shirts and other fitted garments for both men and women, including impeccable cashmere blazers (Gianni Agnelli had his suits made here). Tommy and Guilio Caraceni carry on their family’s commitment to the highest quality. A word of warning: there are other Caraceni shops, including one in Milan, but this is the only place to get a true Caraceni item. Appointments are necessary; be sure to mention Indagare for special attention.
Top Shops for Men
Recommends Indagare insider Alberto Moncada, the owner of boutique hotel Margutta 54:
- Battistoni (Via Condotti 61a, inside the courtyard; 39-06-697-6111): This boutique has been around since 1946 and offers a classic, tailored look.
- Sergio Nesci (Via Mario de’Fiori 9; 39-06-6994-0801): This store is just a bit younger than Battistoni, having been started in 1950 by Giuseppi, the father of Sergio who is now in charge.
- La Camiceria di Piero (Via di Pallacorda 1; 39-06-689-2401)makes nice custom-made shirts and brilliant cashmere scarves for men.
Part of an urban redevelopment project in the EUR district (a half-hour taxi ride from the city center), this massive concept store mixes luxury brands (Lanvin, Jil Sander, Yamamoto) with up-and-coming labels. There are also some upscale food outlets.