A day of choice shopping, hidden history and fairy tale wanderings in San Lorenzo di Lucina, the ‘living room’ of Rome.
This is like the living room of Rome because from here you have the vantage point of the whole city. The area is an important centre of fashion with many eclectic and diverse stores to explore. A short walk from Via del Corso, tall 18th century buildings in blushes of pale orange mark the main square of the quarter of San Lorenzo in Lucina. It sparkles with elite designer names such as Louis Vuitton, Christian Louboutin and Burberry across from one of the oldest churches in Rome. Take a day to discover this charming central quarter with some top picks.
Louis Vuitton, the uber exclusive designer store on San Lorenzo in Lucina actually holds a secret surprise: a fully equipped cinema screen, homage to the building’s former role as the first cinema in Rome. Listings of the films showing every week are posted on the storefront. It’s also a good excuse to peruse the irresistible elite Vuitton stock.
To get in some culture pop across the square to the Church of San Lorenzo in Lucina (8am-8pm), a 5th century church standing on the site of an ancient well dedicated to the Roman goddess Juno. Important excavations in the eighties also uncovered a third century Roman building. In the first chapel on the right is a grill, reputed to be the one on which the martyr St Lawrence was roasted to death. Tours of the excavations are available at 4.30pm every first Saturday of the month.
From the square take a right on Via del Leoncino then left on Via Leone to U.I.T. (Utterly Italian Trend), a hip and trendy store selling handmade high quality Italian leather shoes, sandals and boots (Fiorentini & Baker) along with chic yet casual handbags and purses.
Next take Via della Fontanella di Borghese, (parallel to Via di Leone). Here at no. 40 is Re(f)use, a concept store with remade accessories and handbags using recycled materials, creating space-age looking products which are unique and eye-catching but also sturdy and wearable.
Across the street at no. 68/71 is Sorelle Fontana, a historic fashion house going since the fifties, also exhibiting in world famous museums such as the Guggenheim in New York and The Louvre in Paris. Amazing couture dresses perform and beckon as you pass. It’s worth it just to window shop and to take in the best of the best of Italian high fashion design.
Nearby is the historic Schostal store with friendly staff to help you peruse their classic Italian range from pure cotton briefs and shirts, to delicate lace lingerie and silk stockings still going strong after 137 years in the fashion biz.
Further down on the right at Piazza Borghese is a renowned antiques market that has been selling wares in front of the famous 16th century baroque Borghese palace since 1947. The palace was the imposing residence of the prestigious Borghese family in Rome and considered one of the most splendid in the world, nicknamed ‘the harpsichord’ because of its unusual curved shape. Arranged daily in the centre of Piazza Borghese, green canopied stalls sell a bit of everything from antique books, prints and posters to vintage handbags, jewellery and home curios (10am-7pm – closed Sun). All for a good price, even better if you’re armed with a talent for haggling.
At the back of the palace take Via di Monte D’Oro to Zannetti, a family run bespoke and exclusive design house for watches, cufflinks and jewellery. I adore the details of tiny jewel-encrusted frogs and coral Buddha heads. Follow along the street to one of the oldest and cutest farmer’s markets in the capital on Piazza Monte D’Oro (7am-2pm – Closed Sun).
Across from the market on Via Tomacelli 137/138 is Scout. It has chunky funky urban wear, think mountain lodge shabby chic with rusted garage warehouse décor and youthful trendy knits, edgy attire and accessories.
Back at Piazza San Lorenzo in Lucina take a left onto Via di Campo Marzio, 37 to Just Design, a quirky store with arty creative accessories and home wares with comic book t-shirts, Vespa handbags, vinyl clocks and many more retro trinkets.
Continue up this street till you hit the romantic looking side street Vicolo Rosini on the right to Spago al Parlamento, a restaurant touting real traditional Roman and Italian dishes and a spanking new dining area downstairs.
Pop back out on Via di Campo Marzio, swing a right on Piazza Parlamento and take the left to Via in Lucina, 16 close to Via del Corso. Here sits Cinema Nuovo Olimpia, one of the few English language art-house cinemas in Rome, with big name films screening alongside nostalgic indie and classic flicks.
Tucked next door is the vibrant Coso restaurant on Via in Lucina, 16l. I’ve often dropped in here for a great pre film feast. Stylish wine cellar style décor with contemporary accents, Coso boasts crowd-pleasing Italian recipes alongside modern twists and all for reasonable prices in a refined yet welcoming atmosphere.