Rome Shopping Guide
Rome is a simply marvellous place to go wild with your credit card, although the English or American visitor may initially find some drawbacks to shopping in Rome.
Romans concur with Parisians that it is better to be chic than shocking. Consequently, Rome’s shops are full of (usually expensive and almost identical) fine clothes, leathers, shoes and bags. In winter, real fur is still de rigeur. The smart designer shops, where sales assistants are at their snootiest and price tags discreetly absent, are concentrated in the network of streets spanning out from the Spanish Steps. Of these, Via Condotti has most of the big names: Gucci, number 8, Max Mara, number 17-19A, Valentino, number 16, Louis Vuitton, number 15, Salvatore Ferragamo, numbers 65 and 73, and Giorgio Armani, number 77. Bulgari, number 10, displays glitteringly expensive watches, while Damiani, number 84, stocks alarmingly costly jewellery, worn by Jennifer Aniston in recent publicity campaigns. Nearby Dolce e Gabbana, Piazza di Spagna 82/3, offers slightly more entertaining but equally expensive gear. Fendi has a cluster of boutiques along Via Borgognona, numbers 36-39, with a wide range of furs, shoes, bags and their ready-to-wear collection. Other big names here are Gianni Versace, number 25, Moschino, number 32A, Gianfranco Ferré, number 6, and Laura Biagiotti, number 44. In the same area, the recently-opened TAD conceptstore, Via Babuino 155A, specialises in ‘ethnic-chic’, with departments ranging from furniture to flowers and clothing to music. There is also a hairdressers and a café. On neighbouring Via Frattina, number 23, the glorious Pineider stocks upmarket stationery and desk equipment.
Affordable buys are to be found in the high-street shops lining Via del Corso, Via del Tritone, Via Nazionale and Via Cola di Rienzo. Alternatively, bargains are snapped up in the January and July sales.
The antiques quarters lie along Via Margutta, Via del Babuino, Via Giulia, Via dei Banchi Vecchi and Via de’ Coronari (the pedestrian street organises fairs in May and October when its stores are open late). Bric-a-brac and retro clothes are on offer at the increasingly popular flea markets, the best being Via Sannio (Monday to Saturday, 0730-1300) and Porta Portese (Sunday 0730-1300).
Although there are supermarkets and shopping malls in Rome – including the 100-shop Centro Commerciale Cinecittà Due, Viale Palmiro Togliatti 2, Tuscolana – the Roman shopping style is to visit the local fruit and vegetable markets (Monday to Saturday, 0700-1300) and to dip in and out of delicatessens. Luxury goods to take home may include assorted vinegar, truffles and olive oil. Castroni, Via Cola di Rienzo 196, sells the culinary riches from Italy’s regions and comforting imports from around the world (including baked beans). The well-established Trimani, Via Goito 20, was founded in 1821 and stocks an excellent selection of Italian wines.
Smaller shops often close for lunch (1300-1630). Larger stores tend to stay open all day (0900-1930). Opening times can be confusing, with many food shops closed on Thursday afternoon (in winter) and other shops not opening until the afternoon on Monday. Summer brings later opening hours (until 2000) but also Saturday afternoon closing and complete closure for at least a fortnight in August.
Value-added tax (IVA) is 20% on clothing and luxury goods. Foreign tourists from non-EU countries can claim a tax refund, provided they spend at least €155 at the same shop on the same day. Those who are eligible should ask the shop assistant for a receipt (with a description of the articles purchased) and a ‘tax-free cheque’. Upon departure from the EU (no later than 90 days after the date of purchase), these should be presented to customs. Global Refund (website: www.globalrefund.com) can provide more information.
Rome is a simply marvellous place to go wild with your credit card, although the English or American visitor may initially find some drawbacks to shopping in Rome. One problem is the siesta, (everything closes for the entire afternoon) The other is a certain slackness where the Trade Descriptions Act is concerned. (I don’t think they have one). There is no ‘consumer-power’ in Italy. When shopping in Rome you are generally at the mercy of retailers who regularly sell faulty goods that they will not allow you to return, even on the same day of purchase, so be warned.