Updated: May 9, 2021
SHOPPING IN ROME
One of the best parts of travel is certainly shopping. But, where do you go? And where do you go in Rome? Sure, I could go on and on about Via Condotti lined with Gucci, Prada, Bulgari, you name it. That is one of my favorite spots, not for shopping, for people watching. I can’t tell you the number of times I have run into celebrities like Nicole Kidman or then President Bill Clinton when walking by the Spanish Steps. But, let’s get back to reality. When I take a day to shop I want to find decently priced items without compromising quality. Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t spend all my days prancing through Rome on shopping sprees or I would be broke, deal or not. This is why I enjoy when people visit because I can take them to my favorite spots and help them to find what they are looking for (and sometimes find some goodies myself).
THE PERFECT OPPORTUNITY
Now that I live in Rome it seems that more friends and family are visiting than ever. The most recent visit was my dad who came over from Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. This gave me the perfect opportunity to take him shopping for everything on his list (and a few things that were not). For this shopping expedition, we headed over to Prati, a neighbourhood located just next to the Vatican. This is a perfect location to shop either before or after soaking up all that the Vatican Museum and St. Peters Basilica has to offer. Also, with the Risorgimento bus stop strategically placed, this area is easy to get to without a car.
Enough of all of this hullabaloo, let’s get shopping! First on my dad’s list was dried pasta and chocolate. Easy, right? Sure, you can probably find these at any little quickie supermarket, but this gave me the opportunity to introduce him to the legendary Castroni. This store may not be as cheap as the general grocer, but just think, they have had over 80 years to decide what makes the final cut and ends up on their shelves. This is real quality.
Castroni – Via Ottaviano, 55
Upon entering this shop, you can feel the throwback in time to 1932 when this chain first opened. There are multiple locations throughout Rome (some even have a caffe). The shelves are filled with all sorts of classic Italian goodies such as chocolate, candies, coffee, spices, truffle oil, wine, and dried pasta. We sorted through the selection of pasta and decided on tricolore farfalle (tricolore means three colours and farfalle means butterflies). These three colours symbolise the Italian flag. Spinach is used in the green pasta, beet-root or tomato for the red pasta, and durum wheat flour is used to produce the white pasta. With pasta in hand we headed over to the chocolate isle. Now, when I say chocolates I mean this is the spot where you go when you understand and appreciate the different percentages of cocoa. The sheer variety of chocolates is rather daunting including; orange, raspberry, strawberry, and pistachio just to name a few. Venchi has been making fine chocolates since 1878. Their dark hazelnut fondente seemed like a great (and delicious) choice.
I enjoy pasta and chocolate like the best of them, but for me Castroni has a whole different purpose. As a transplant here from the US (and a chef), I really appreciate this store for some of those hard to find spices and other ingredients for cooking. When taco Tuesday rolls around this is my one stop shop for taco shells, refried beans and salsa located in their international foods section. But, enough about me — this is supposed to be a day for my dad.
Storia e Magia – Via Ottaviano, 32
Leaving Castroni we walked down Via Ottaviano where a knight in a suit of armour catches my eye. It is so out of place and I’m sure many people have mistaken it for an entrance into a museum. Hidden away between store fronts, tucked neatly down a small corridor is a magical experience. This is the Storia e Magia. It’s one of the coolest stores in Rome! The shelves are filled with anything and everything having to do with fantasy. Have any interest in: The Hobbit, Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, medieval swords, fairies, and trolls? This is your store. I don’t even particularly like these movies/books, but I love this store because it feels like a ride at Disney Land.