In Italy, anything can be artsy and stylish. If you come to Rome looking for exclusive clothing, trendy shoes and groovy accessories, take a break from your sightseeing and stroll along the flashy shop windows that line Via dei Condotti — you’re bound to find all the brands Italy is famous for, including Giorgio Armani, Valentino and Gucci.
However, if you wish to wander away from the touristy areas and combine your shopping itch with the urge to share a bit of the local life, you might want to consider a jaunt into one of the city’s weekly markets. Some are more famous than others (you can tell by the presence of the tourist crowd), some are decidedly less known; but all offer a wide choice of goods, from handmade clothes to upscale jewelry.
Probably one of the most popular and largest street markets in the city, Mercato di Porta Portese takes place every Sunday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., and is located just a stone’s throw away from Trastevere rail station. If you plan to arrive via public transportation, you’ll head along Viale Trastevere and down Via Carlo Porta before getting lost in the huge variety of stalls displaying everything from antiques to sportswear, lingerie to Indian shawls. If you are planning a proper shopping trip and prefer to arrive by car, your best bet is to park in Viale di Trastevere itself and walk from there.
Sprawling from Piazza Porta Portese to Via Carlo Porta through Via Ettore Rolli and Piazza Ippolito Nievo, you cannot possibly visit all of the stands (there are more than 700) in one day, but rest assured that whatever merchants’ wares you manage to peruse, you will find something compelling to bring home with you.
At first sight, one might dismiss the quality of the inventory, but delving into the lot will reveal exclusive handcrafted house décor and clothing for a bargain. With modernity taking over, locals complain that the old spirit of the market, including the street vendors shouting to attract customers and the chance to find original handicraft, is fading away. However, while the society is indeed changing, so is the market — it is adapting to new tastes and has started to showcase items from other countries, including everything from Indian jewelry to African sculptures.
Famous for its military-style clothing, shoes and bags, Mercato di Via Sannio raises its curtains every day except Sunday, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., with operation extended until 5 p.m. on Thursday and Saturday evenings. Reaching this market is very easy, as it’s located just outside the San Giovanni rail station on line A. If you want to get there by car, you can park all along Via Sannio, the street off which the stands line up.
Apart from the military fashion gear, this market has always been famous for its leather products, especially beautiful jackets, which are available for very affordable prices compared to what you could find in proper retail shops. From elegant coats to colorful sandals, you are bound to find key items to freshen up your wardrobe without forking out too much cash.
Changing customer demands have led to an increase in the amount of non-leather goods sold at the market. If you are a hat lover, head right to stand 145 at the very end, where signor Antonio of Cappelleria Mirarchi will let you try on all types of headwear.
With so much stuff piled up, from skintight pants to large Indian-style trousers, and loud African jewelry to incense holders, it might seem difficult to find something worth your time. But with a little patience and some digging, you won’t regret a day spent browsing the Via Sannio stalls.
Market in Viale Tiziano
As soon as you arrive at this market (open for business every Friday from 7 a.m. and closing between 1 and 2 p.m.), either on foot or after parking in Viale Tiziano itself, you will immediately notice that it’s brimming with truly great products. Lingerie, dresses, blouses, trousers and shoes come from the best Italian brands — past trips have yielded finds from Max Mara and Blumarine. Stylish purses, kids’ wear, tablecloths, kitchen tools and fine bedspreads also populate the stalls of this street market, which is laid out along Viale XVII Olimpiade off Viale Tiziano, approximately a 10-minute walk away from Piazza Ponte Milvio and across Milvio Bridge on the other side of the Tevere River.
Here, you’ll also find the occasional food stands, selling everything from grocery produce to regional specialties such as olives, cheese and freshly baked breads. But, what you should really be on the lookout for are great deals on exclusive wares. If you are a shoe lover, head straight to the last big stand where you will find a great choice of models, including sandals, flats, stilettos and boots. If you are on the quest for elegant table linens, look for the “Il Mezzaro” stand, whose owner never fails to exhibit plenty of colors and patterns to choose from.
Relatively new to Rome’s market scene, Mercato Monti emerged in 2009 in the exclusive Monti neighborhood in an industrial space that resembles a large garage. Advertising itself as an urban market, Mercato Monti gives space to young designers, creative craftsmen and independent producers.
Located right at the exit of the Cavour rail station on line B, this market is held near the Colosseum, in 46/48 Via Leonina, every Sunday from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. The bustling scene feels like a piece of London in the heart of the Italian capital. A wide selection of modern art and vintage accessories, clothes, prints and jewelry represents a kitsch alternative to the usual Italian shopping routine. An easy stop in your cultural and historical itinerary thanks to its proximity to attractions such as Piazza Venezia, Via del Corso and Fontana de Trevi, here you can find oddities such as belts made out of recycled bike tires or the lovely feathered art and clothes of Lait Noir’s stand.
Photos Courtesy of Angela Corrias