In Rome the past meets the present day in a truly unique way, creating memorable shopping experiences. This is the city where haute couture meets history in ancient palazzi whilst antiques add an air of sophistication to modern boutiques. And of course the shopping in Rome's most prestigious streets is centred on fashion, from Armani to Zegna, running through the alphabet of Italian style.
Italian fashion has always been world-famous, but in Rome it becomes truly dazzling, a glorious counterpoint to the setting. In Piazza di Spagna, with Gucci, Prada, Versace and Dolce & Gabbana, walking around is like leafing through an issue of Vogue. There is the fascination of Via dei Condotti, where the ancient buildings have been adopted by the world’s most famous tailors, and the temptation to make an important purchase is difficult to resist.
And of course there is Via del Babuino, home to the most important international brands. In Rome, luxury is on all sides and fits the millennial surroundings to perfection.
Via dei Condotti
Begin your tour in Via dei Condotti, which links Via del Corso with Piazza di Spagna and its beautiful steps up to Trinità dei Monti. The street was named after the conduits that once brought water to the Baths of Agrippa in Ancient Roman times. Later in history, it was the favourite location for writers and intellectuals. French novelist Stendhal lived here as well as Italian poet Giacomo Leopardi, and apparently radio pioneer Guglielmo Marconi died at number 11.
You can get a taste of the refined atmosphere of the past at Caffè Greco, still a popular haunt for personalities from the world of culture and politics.
The first brand that you meet in Via dei Condotti is Christian Dior at number 1, followed by Gucci at number 8, Bulgari (who opened his atelier here in 1905) at number 10, and Louis Vuitton at number 13. Halfway along the street, you'll find Hermès at number 67, Montblanc (70), Giorgio Armani (76) and Miuccia Prada's collections at number 94. In the photo below, a product by Gucci.
On the other side of the street, near the church of S. Trinità degli Spagnoli, you can explore the world of quality watches at the Omega boutique (number 38), then Trussardi (50), Dolce & Gabbana (52) and Ermenegildo Zegna (58). Other highlights on the street include the La Perla boutique, and Battistoni, one of the most famous places in Rome for classic garments, inside an evocative courtyard. Valentino is on this street as well at number 15, and Fendi, which opened its flagship on the seven floors of the Neoclassical Palazzo Fendi in 2005.
Don't forget to explore the next street across, Via Frattina, where the stores include Roberto Botticelli, Cesare Paciotti and Pal Zileri. This street is also home to the Guess boutique at number 96, opened just a year ago. In the photo below, interior of the Ermenegildo Zegna boutique in Rome.
Via del Babuino
Via del Babuino is the other high-level shopping street in Rome. It is twinned with Madison Avenue, New York's street of style par excellence. There are many antiques shops and some beautiful city houses, such as the palazzi Cerasi, Nanier and Hotel de Russie. The latter was designed by Giuseppe Valadier, Neoclassical architect who built many of the city's most familiar monuments.
There is a curious story regarding the street's name. In 1571, a fountain was built for public water supply, and it was decorated with a statue of a Silenus, a savage figure in mythology who often dressed in goatskins. The people of Rome found the statue absolutely horrible, and they nicknamed it 'er babuino,' the baboon. This name stands in stark contrast to the beautiful boutiques that are now located here.
At number 118, you will find the diamonds and bracelets that Audrey Hepburn loved so much, by Tiffany & Co. The Etro flagship is at number 102, while Chanel is at number 98. Alber Elbaz's creations are featured in Lanvin's shop at number 81. Baldinini is at number 150, and it is well worth visiting the brand's new boutique in Via Sistina 56. The adorable animal charms by Dodo are at home at numbers 27 and 28, from where just a few steps brings you to the immense, theatrical Piazza del Popolo, just below the Pincio park. In the square, you'll find the classic felt hats by Borsalino, with the brand's new collections and accessories for men and women.
If, after all this shopping, you feel ready to recharge your body, mind and spirit, we can recommend the De Russie Spa of Hotel de Russie. The indoor pool with whirlpool, Jacuzzi, sauna, Turkish bath, gym and six treatment rooms will provide all the pampering you need, and make you feel like a citizen of a city where spas and baths have been a way of life for two millennia.
How to get there
Via dei Condotti: The easiest way to reach Via dei Condotti is from Piazza di Spagna, a stop on line A of the underground railway. From the main station (Termini), take line A for three stops to Spagna. Cross the square and you are in Via dei Condotti.
Via del Babuino: From Termini, take line A for three or four stops, to Piazza di Spagna or Piazzale Flaminio (just after Piazza del Popolo). By car: you can use the Villa Borghese underground car park, accessible from Muro Torto.