The Rome Guide
For all its mythic history—about 2,800-years’ worth—the Eternal City has a way of making all who visit it feel like they’ve discovered something entirely their own, be it a local trattoria with out-of-this-world cacio e pepe or a famous Caravaggio in a seemingly average church (rule of thumb: walk into every church you come across, you never know what can be found inside). And while so many culture-rich European cities require rigorous touring, Rome’s distinct neighborhoods are best explored by simply strolling around (navigating the cramped cobblestone streets by car is more trouble than it’s worth), as so many of its key sites sneak up on you in easily accessible piazzas. For especially meaty landmarks—the Vatican and the Colosseum in particular—a private guide guarantees you get to see as much or as little as you wish: Your hotel will help with booking or you can DIY by using a touring outfit—we like this one, which employs many local art history students as guides.
Then there’s the food. From teeny mom-and-pops to trendy newcomers to slick hotel-backed cafés—arguably some of the best spots to stop for aperitivo with a view—a good meal is easy to come by in this part of the world, though there are some standouts, many of which are covered in this guide. Note: Though Naples gets all the pizza glory, Roman-style pies are crispier, more varied in terms of toppings, and just as exceptional, so feel free to sample with abandon.
Bernard DelettrezVia Bocca di Leone, 32, Campo Marizo | +39.066.997.0030
Dad to Delfina and the man who inspired her to go into jewelry design in the first place, Bernard Delettrez has been churning out surrealistic, mixed-medium jewelry—sculls, bones, insects, and reptiles—for decades. His shop, while small, feels more like a gallery than a retail space, with a wide range of his work displayed in a series of museum-style cases.
Delfina DelettrezVia del Governo Vecchio, 67, Centro Storico | +39.066.813.4105
Take one look at Delfina Delettrez’s artfully edgy—yet somehow totally trend-proof—gemstone-laden pieces, and it’s no surprise at all that she’s a Fendi through and through. Tucked into a side street near the Piazza Navona, her teeny shop is set up to look like the inside of an intricate jewelry box (the space housed a pharmacy in its past life), complete with mirrored walls, ivory-colored pharmacist’s cabinets, and insect-themed curiosities—undoubtedly a nod to the creepy-crawly motifs of some of her more elaborate creations.
FleurBocca di Leone, 46, Campo Marzio | +39.066.992.3705
A one-stop shop for all things fashion and design (look for unique mid-century furniture, textiles, and lighting), plus flowers, candles, and home fragrance. If you want to linger, don’t miss the small tea house and oyster bar in the back. There’s a second outpost in Milan.
GenteVia del Babuino, 81, Campo Marizo | +39.063.230.582
We like to think of this as the Italian equivalent of say, a Barneys, though it’s a bit smaller in size. There’s both a men’s and women’s flagship on Via Babuino, plus a few smaller shops scattered throughout the city; you’ll find an unerring edit of Alaia, Tom Ford, Alexander McQueen, and the Row—albeit with a Roman bent. (The Céline assortment, unsurprisingly, is really good.) For the guys, they bet big on more tailored suiting looks from Thom Browne, plus sharp jackets from Givenchy and Valentino sneakers.
IossellianiVia del Leone, 21, Campo Marizo | +39.064.544.9987
Iosselliani’s elaborately beaded, multi-chained, rainbow-hued jewelry (both costume and fine) are statement pieces at their best. Conceived and crafted right here in Rome by a (married) couple of design-savvy jewelers, the artful rings, bracelets, and necklaces make for excellent keepsakes to bring home. The moody wood-and-mirrors flagship is also where you can see pieces from their home décor collection.
Made About DreamsPiazza San Salvatore in Lauro, 11, Centro Storico | +39.066.839.5080
This sublime children’s shop stocks very cool, not ubiquitous things for littles. In addition to their own collection of darling hand-knitted bloomers and cardigans in soft, muted colors like mauve, blush, and grey, there are also handmade cotton toys from Maileg, cashmere onesies, plus labels like Stella McCartney Kids, and Nupkeet, a great boys line from Italy.
MondellianiVia dei Bergamaschi, 49, Colonna | +39.063.105.4913
From trendy to classic to downright avant-garde, the eyewear at this tiny, son-and-mom operated shop is—for lack of a better term—a sight to see: The frames are divided into themed collections and come in a rainbow of colors (the ombre and neon sunglasses are favorites) and prints. Ask them to see the vintage collection if you stop in.
Palazzo FendiPalazzo Fendi Largo Goldoni, 420, Campo Marizo | +39.063.345.01
A true Roman heritage brand, Fendi went to great lengths to restore and revamp a historic palazzo to serve as the brand’s six-story headquarters, while still letting the building’s magnificent architecture shine. In addition to the two floors of retail space—complete with contemporary art from the family’s private collection—there’s a Zuma sushi outpost, an apartment reserved exclusively for VIP’s, and a branded seven-room hotel, Fendi Private Suites.
Saddlers UnionVia Margutta, 11, Campo Marizo | +39.063.212.0237
When Saddlers first launched in 1950's, it was an instant hit with its sleek drawstring bucket bags and totes, and counted Jacqueline Onassis as a fan. In 2009, the brand was revamped by Micaela Calabresi Marconi, a young fashion executive with a fondness for logo-free nostalgia. Its present-day incarnation maintains a retro-bent: color-blocked suede pochettes, studded clutches, and leather bracelets—all fully customizable. The weekend bag can be made to order, with a strap customized to you so it hits at just the right spot.
SBUVia di S. Pantaleo, 68-69, Centro Storico | +39.066.880.2547
Pots of cacti lining the storefront might not be exactly what you’d expect from a men’s shop in Rome, but SBU (the abbreviation stands for Strategic Business Unit) isn’t afraid to buck convention. In a city where tailored pants and cashmere pullovers are the norm, SBU has its own line of hipster-inflected menswear—think shelves of dark, straight-leg denim, utility jackets, leather high-tops, plus some Japanese selvedge.
Society LimontaPiazza di Pasquino, 4, Centro Storico | +39.066.832.480
Occupying an old upholsterer’s studio, Society is the brick-and-mortar outpost of the centuries-old Italian textile house, Limonta. Known for its simple, super-soft neutrals and pastels, the linens—everything from the jacquard throws to the cotton voile sheets and table runners—are top-notch in terms of quality. For warmer months, the seersucker sheet set is pretty much perfect. The linen napkin sets and placements make great gifts to bring back.
Valentino FlagshipPiazza di Spagna 38, Campo Marzio | +39.069.451.5710
Designed by David Chipperfield and situated just steps from Valentino’s storied command post in Palazzo Mignanelli, the brand’s massive, gleaming flagship boutique serves as a beautifully marbled backdrop for the seasonal collections—men’s, women’s, and accessories—many of which can only be found here. It sounds fittingly opulent, but the space is kept purposefully understated in a way that’s almost museum-like.