Souvenirs and Gifts in Rome: What to Buy and Where to Buy It
Rome is the geographical and cultural center of Italy. It’s the capital of the country, the center of the ancient Roman Empire, and the seat of the Catholic church. There’s so much to see and so many experiences to have, there’s no doubt that you’re going to want to have something to remember it by. You’re also probably going to want to give a piece of Rome to your friends and family who couldn’t make it. But between the kitschy souvenir shops and cheap vendors all over the city, it can be hard to discern authentic, high-quality Italian goods from their cheap knock-off counterparts. First, we’ll talk you through what unique gifts to buy in Rome, and where you can find them. Plus, a lot of these places aren’t just shops, they offer great cultural experiences, too!
Italy has potentially the most famous cuisine in the world, and with good reason. Once you go back home, you’ll never be able to eat at an Italian restaurant again without saying, “Well, it was better in Rome.” That’s one great reason to bring some authentic Italian specialties back home with you. Plus, food is usually easy to pack in a suitcase. Just be sure to go over any specific customs rules your home country may have before you bring anything edible over the border. Most countries do not allow any foreign meat, fruit or vegetables to be brought home.
You can’t go to Italy without trying some cheese. The Roman specialty is Pecorino Romano, made from sheep’s milk. You’ll find it in classic Roman dishes like cacio e pepe and supplì. Any deli in Rome will be able to pack and vacuum seal cheese for you, but if you’re looking for the best in town, check out Antica Caciara in Trastevere or Volpetti in Testaccio, which stocks cheese as well as many other Italian edible goods. You can also go to Beppe e i suoi formaggi in the center of Rome for more of all kinds of Italian food to go.
Another unique Italian food to look for is truffle. Italians are the masters of cooking with truffles, and you’ll be able to see that anywhere you look. You can find all sorts of truffle-based treats, like truffle oil, truffle sauce, or just about any truffle-infused food, including the aforementioned pecorino cheese (stop at Volpetti). Rome is also known for its many chocolatiers. The oldest and most famous shops include Moriondo and Gariglio and Pasticceria Valzani. Each shop makes their own specialties that have been handed down for generations. Pick up a box of your favorites to bring home.
Besides wine and liquor, Italy is also known for its all-encompassing coffee culture. If you or a friend love coffee, you’ll find some of the best in Rome. A favorite place for gifts is Caffè Sant’Eustachio. They sell whole and ground coffee beans, and everyhing from tableware, tea, accessories, and basically anything coffee-related. Another great item is a moka pot, which is how the locals make their morning coffee. You can also stop at your favorite café and pick up a bag of their coffee beans.
Wine and liquor can be tricky to bring home, as the glass bottles are very breakable. If you’re just bringing home one or two bottles, just be sure to pack it in the middle of your suitcase and use your clothes as shock absorbers. You might also want to use a plastic bag or wine bag in case of spillage. If you’re really worried about your drinks not making it back in one piece, most stores can package and ship it back home for you. The region of Lazio has plenty of local wineries to choose from, but if you’re looking for a wide selection, try Castroni, Trimani, or Eataly Enoteca. They’ll have selections from Lazio as well as the rest of Italy.
Italy is also known for its liqueurs and spirits, like limoncello, grappa and amaro. Limoncello is a lemon liqueur, a specialty of Capri, but is widely available across Italy. At larger stores, look for limoncello from Capri or southern Italy. Grappa is a type of brandy originating from Roman times. An Italian specialty is the caffè corretto, an espresso with a small amount of grappa. It’s a great drink to make at home with your Italian coffee beans. Depending on your tastes, amaro and amaretto are other great Italian liqueurs to bring home as gifts.
Milan may be Italy’s fashion capital, but you’ll still be able to find plenty of luxury and high quality clothing items in Rome. Leather is a very popular gift in Rome, and there are plenty of quality stores to choose from. Florence is the main hub for producing leather in Italy, and there are several Florentine brands that have opened shop in Rome. One such store is Ben Heart, which has several locations across the city. They sell a variety of items, from bags and shoes to smaller items like belts and wallets. If you’re looking for leather shoes, one of the best places is Marta Ray, which also has several locations in Rome. They are most famous for their women’s flats and accessories, as well as their variety of colors and patterns. Another Roman staple is Mancini, near the Pantheon, that has been in Rome since 1918.
Although most Italian designer brands are based further north in Milan, there are some native Roman brands to look out for. If you really want to splurge, Rome’s most famous fashion house, Fendi, has a flagship store in shopping district. You’ll find luxury clothes, leather and accessories at luxury prices. Laura Biagiotti is another Roman brand that offers a similar variety, and is also famous for perfume.
Ties and scarves are also some Italy’s most high-end exports. Famous designers like Salvatore Ferragamo and Canali are known for their ties, and Italy has some of the finest textiles in the world. If you want to get a luxury tie or have one custom made for yourself or a loved one, go to Pellicano, near the Pantheon, or Talarico. They have a great selection and make excellent custom ties. Scarves are also a great gift item, because they are extremely light and easy to pack. Scarves are sold in nearly every souvenir or clothing shop in the city. However, the best designer and luxury scarves can be found at Faliero Sarti or Sciunnach.
If you’re not looking to break the bank, but still want to take home some Italian fashion, check out the markets. Rome has many street markets for thrifting clothes and almost anything else you could want to buy. Porta Portese is Rome’s most well-known market, but it’s also the most intimidating. If you’re looking specifically for clothes, check out Mercato Monti Urban Market. It’s open every weekend, and is great for vintage or designer items. Via del Governo Vecchio, behind Piazza Navona, is another great shopping avenue for vintage or used items.
If you’re low on packing space, and don’t think you’ll be able to bring back extra clothes, bags or wine bottles, there are plenty of small items and accessories to gift to your friends. Postcards are a great and inexpensive gift to get, but sometimes they can seem a little low effort. Instead, find a small photography shop and pick up a few frames. One of the best in Rome is Trevimage, a small studio that features beautiful snapshots of the city. They offer photos in a variety of sizes and formats, so you’re sure to be able to find something for you. And you’ll be supporting an Italian small business!
Another staple of Rome souvenir shopping is religious memorabilia. Religious items are best to get in the Vatican’s official shops, as they’ll always have items made with high-quality materials. The most popular gifts are rosaries, which come in many colors, sizes and designs. You can also purchase portraits of saints or holy figures, statuettes, jewelry or prayer cards. The Vatican has gift shops at the exit of St. Peter’s Basilica and the Dome, as well as within the Vatican Museums. If you’re looking for something a little more unique, Gammarelli is the place to go. It’s an ecclesiastical clothing store, and is famous for being the outfitter of priests and cardinals throughout history. Today, it’s a favorite of the current Pope, Pope Francis. You can purchase high-quality accessories, including the same style of socks worn by the Pope. Rome’s souvenir shops are not limited to Catholic items, either. You can also visit the historic Jewish Ghetto and visit the main Temple’s museum gift shop.
For a more classic and practical gift, pick up some Italian stationery. There are many fine Italian brands that specialize in traditional stationery and notebooks. One is Roman brand Campo Marzio, where you can pick up leather journals, notebooks and other small leather wares. There are a lot of bright and unique designs in addition to their traditional items. Also notable is Il Papiro, an atmospheric little shop, and Antica Cartotecnica, which offers everything from high-end pens to maps of the world. If you’re not looking for anything fancy, but still want a practical gift, bookstore chain La Feltrinelli offers inexpensive planners and notebooks. There you can find both leather-bound items, and items featuring pictures and artwork of Rome.
Jewelry is also an easy gift to bring home, and there are plenty of options in Rome. For something quick, many souvenir shops offer artisan creations in Murano glass. Murano is an island just outside of Venice that specializes in glassmaking. Its cousin Burano, is a specialist in lace, which you can also find in many souvenir shops. For something more uniquely Roman, check out Co.Ro, which makes jewelry based off of Rome’s historical and brutalist architecture. Other jewelry designers based in Rome are Costanza de Cecco and Lucia Odescalchi.
You won’t be able to walk two blocks in Rome without seeing a Ferrari vendor. Italy is home to dozens of famous brands, and there are official vendors all over the city. The most popular is Ferrari, and you can buy nearly anything with a Ferrari logo, which makes Ferrari a great option for gifts. There’s t-shirts, stickers, hats, wallets, watches and everything in between. There are probably hundreds of souvenir shops that are licensed to sell Ferrari, but if you want the most selection, head to the official Ferrari Store Roma on Via Tomacelli. Some stores also sell Alfa Romeo or Lamborghini merchandise, but Ferrari is the only brand with its own store in Rome.
For football (or soccer) fans, you’ll find plenty of official shops for Rome’s two hometown teams, S.S. Lazio and A.S. Roma. S.S. Lazio, established in 1900, is the original Roman team, and has two official shops within the city. A.S. Roma was founded in 1927, and features the classic she-wolf symbol within its logo. They have four shops throughout the city. The Fans Rome, also has a great selection of official team merchandise, including vintage jerseys.
Other Unique Gifts
If you’re still looking for something unique or off-the-beaten-path in terms of Italian gifts, there are still stores out there. If you can’t get enough Christmas, or if you or a loved one collect Christmas ornaments, Sempre Natale, or “always Christmas”, near Piazza Navona is the place to look. They have a great selection of handmade glass ornaments in a variety of shapes and themes, from the Colosseum to ice cream cones.
Another quirky shop to check out is Bartolucci. The character of Pinocchio is an Italian creation, and you’ll find a lot artisans take inspiration from this beloved story. Bartolucci has hundreds of wooden pieces, all hand-crafted into adorable shapes and figures, including Pinocchio himself.
Lastly, La Bottega del Marmoraro is one of the most unique shops in Rome. Here, you can have a made-to-order marble slab engraved with your own personal message. If you want a reminder of the ancient Roman atmosphere, pick up a marble sign with Latin or Italian phrases to bring home.
Rome is home to hundreds of great sights, from ancient ruins to pristine churches to exquisite art. But as much as there is to see, there is just as much to shop. All of these shops will give you something to remember the city by, all the while giving you a unique slice of Italian life and culture.