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Shopping in Rome is almost as huge a subject matter as its history. The difference is that the shopping, especially that of clothing is heavily driven by changing fashions whilst the long history is an immutable presence throughout the city. Other than a few exceptions there aren't a large number of shopping centres, malls or department stores. Roman and indeed Italian taste is for a large number of specialised shops. The higher average pricing tends to be balanced by a better service and variety of product. Clearly this suits the fashion-boutique approach Italy is renowned for.
called IVA and pronounced "eeva" in Italian, is usually included within the price. Non EU buyers can get their VAT removed for more expensive items (something like above 160Euros value) in one of two ways: going to shops belonging to the "Euro Free Tax" affiliated shops or alternatively by going through a slightly boring bureaucratic procedure.
It is probably well worth it on high luxury goods which can carry as much as 35% VAT! Take your passport with you to show the shop and make sure you get and keep the receipt as you will need it to substantiate any refund claims.
There is clearly little difficulty in finding places to shop till you drop throughout Rome’s centre. The undoubted centre of fashion and leatherware shopping is to be found around the streets between Piazza del Popolo, Piazza di Spagna, Piazza Venezia and the Pantheon. In particular Via Borgognona, Via Frattina, Via Condotti and others in the direct vicinity. Via Nazionale (starts at Piazza della Repubblica near Termini) and Via Veneto also provide a good array.
Fashion is not all, there is a wide choice for lovers of modern designerware, antiquities (you need a pretty deep pocket) and traditional artefacts including ceramics, glass ware and so on.
Religious artifacts can be found in the Borgo between St. Peter’s and Castel St. Angelo. They used to be plentiful along Via dei Coronari in the Piazza Navona/Campo de' Fiori area during hundreds of years. Pilgrims made their way along it from Via del Corso to the Vatican. The Via dei Coronari shops have tended to become "high end" antiques dealers nowadays. Great window shopping but highly dangerous for any budget. Another good area for antiques is Via del Babuino between the Piazza del Popolo and Spanish Steps.
Slightly off the tourist track but certainly not inaccessible is Via Cola di Rienzo in the district to the north side of the Vatican. Good assortment of shops and fewer tourists to skew the pricing.
Shops break their opening hours into morning (9am –1pm) and afternoon (3.30pm-7.30). Summer afternoon opening times tend to shift half an hour later to avoid the hottest period of the day. The Italians aren’t known for their punctuality so don't be overly surprised if you find a 15 minute shift either way. August tends to be a worse month for shopping as most Italians take lengthy holidays at this time, so do the shopkeepers.
The department stores tend to be open for longer hours. The major ones include: Upim, Coin and Rinascente. Their pricing is generally quite good thanks to their bulk purchasing power. There's one about half way along the Via del Corso.
The Saldi are generally held between July to September and after Christmas – March. The convenience of the sales varies from shop to shop; don’t be downcast if you find that the sign was more an excuse and means of pulling you into the shop, you'll have better luck elsewhere. Watch out for "Liquidazione" which can give good deals as a shop rids itself of its entire stock.
There are plenty of open air markets too. Don't forget to bargain the price down…
Flowers, Fruit and Veg: Campo de’ Fiori square. Every morning except Sundays. This market started up several centuries ago and still offers an experience as you immerse yourself in Roman life.
Foods: The new markets at the Esquiline hill on Via Amedeo Principe. Recently moved into these more stable premises. It offers a wide variety and generally good pricing. The housewives come here for their choice foods. Closed Sundays.
Books old and new: Villa Borghese (Largo Fontanella Borghese) most days except Sun.
Flee market etc. at Porta Portese in the Trastevere area – this is the flee market par excellence in Rome. Even the second hand items newspaper is called "Porta Portese". Sunday mornings only.
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Through our shopping service you can order your tie, socks, scarfs, bags and so on. We'll have it purchased and mailed on your behalf. Gift wrapped for that special thought from Rome. Contact us for further assistance.
Clearly there is no shortage of places to stay in Rome which will allow the discerning visitor to enjoy an intensive session of "retail therapy". One option is clearly a self catering apartment in the city centre, but for those wanting to focus on their one and only shopping objective for a few intensive days then it may be a good idea to delegate to a specialised hotel search service.
The MariaMilani shopping team.
since July 2007