Fabric Porn: Fabric Shopping in Rome (with some Shoes, Cats, Ancient Ruins, and Cheesecake thrown in for good measure)

While I was on vacation in Italy last month I got a little obsessed about finding fabric stores wherever I went. Yelp was being cheeky and sending me to anything from card & gift shops to a grungy little hole-in-the-wall where a couple who should’ve long since been retired were presiding over some dusty old packages of sheet sets and were NOT happy when I wandered in asking “Tessuti? Avete tessuti?” (fabric? do you have fabric?) in broken Italian. Despite that, I managed to find some fabric shops and I thought I’d share my adventures with you.

I visited three fabric shops in Rome, all within a couple of blocks of each other.

Basetti Fratelli Tessuti (Corso Vittorio Emanuele II, 73)

This was the most extensive fabric shop I visited….room after room after room of fabrics stacked to the (very high) ceilings:

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Bassetti Fratelli fabric shop: view from one room into another

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Another room choc-a-bloc with fabric

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I’m getting sucked into the Bassetti vortex here…it just keeps going.

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A stack of designer fabric. Versace, anyone?

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The old-school ‘cashier’.

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My long-suffering husband kindly colour-coordinated himself for the shirting room.

I was actually way too overwhelmed to buy anything in this store. Option paralysis overcame me and I wandered out in a fabric overload haze.

Azienda Tessile Romana (Via S. Nicola Dรจ Cesarini, 13) & the The Largo di Torre Argentina Ruins

Just a short walk away from Bassetti Fratelli was Azienda Tessile Romana.

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This was a much more manageable store, although I also left here empty-handed.

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The most interesting thing about this shop for me was its location directly in front of a giant hole in the ground containing, oh, you know, ho-hum, ancient Roman temple ruins over 2,000 years old — the Largo di Torre Argentina. Apparently Julius Caesar was assassinated on or just adjacent to this site. NBD as the kids say ironically, or as as us oldies translate, No Big Deal.

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The Largo di Torre Argentina, ancient ruins just hanging out in the middle of a busy Rome intersection.

This archeological site is in the middle of a fairly large and busy intersection, and you can wander around the edges having a look without buying a ticket or anything. It’s also home to a big feral cat colony who took advantage of all the nooks and crannies and respite from people and cars. You’re allowed to go in to a small area to one side during certain hours to visit the cats, and there’s a small shop of cat toys and souvenirs that help fund the cat shelter.

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Did I visit the cats? Yes. Yes I did.

Did I visit the cats? Yes. Yes I did.

If this were anywhere else but Rome, this spot would be a VBD (Very Big Deal), complete with lineups of tourists anxious to part with their Euros to have a look around. But because it’s Rome, there seems to be something like this on just about every street corner. It’s an amazing city.

Oriani Gioielli Shop, Rodeo Belt Shop, and Discount Italian Shoes

If you were to draw a straight line from the front door of Azienda Tessile Romana right through these ruins and across the street, you would find this little shop that sells jewelry, gloves, and custom-made sandals — pick the style, flat or heel, and the colours and they’re ready within an hour or two. I’m told this style of sandal was popularized around Italy’s Amalfi Coast and the island of Capri.

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But I digress. (I always digress where shoes are involved.) From here I wandered a couple of blocks south and wound up on Via di Sant’Elena, where I found the Rodeo Belts Shop. Here I bought the elusive yellow leather belt I’d been looking for for a couple of years, as well as a black suede wrist cuff.

Just a little further along the Via di Sant’Elena was a discounty-looking shoe store where I bought a really cute pair of ivory-coloured leather high-heeled oxfords for just 39 Euros. The sign outside says “Calzature Donna – Tutto a 39 Euro” and they take cash only. This is the only pair of shoes I bought while I was in Italy, and those who know me personally will know that I exercised jaw-dropping restraint!

Discount Italian leather shoes on the Via di Sant'Elena

Discount Italian leather shoes on the Via di Sant’Elena

Fatucci Tessuti

Around the corner on Via dei Falegnami (#63/64) is a much smaller, more manageable fabric shop than the other two I visited earlier — this one was just my speed. Fatucci Tessuti doesn’t have a sign outside so it’s easy to miss; just look for the red-framed door and the number 63 on the wall.

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The fellow running this shop was very helpful (but camera shy). Lots of lovely silks at reasonable prices, starting at 8 Euros per meter, like this one that the shopkeeper insisted I take a photo of…

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…but it was this cotton print featuring cranes (or maybe geese?) for 12 Euros per meter that I fell in love with.ย  It has an incredibly fine thread count and it is truly very ‘crisp’ feeling. I love the contrasting orange dots sprinkled on the periwinkle-blue background.

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Jackpot! This crisp cotton print is coming home with me.

I have since made a dress with this fabric, which I’ll share with you in my next post.

If you’re in this area you’d be remiss not to go another few blocks to the “Jewish Ghetto”, centred around the Via del Portico D’Ottavia, where you’ll find the Forno del Ghetto (Bakery of the Ghetto). This is another business with no sign at all out front, so look for the window with the burnt-looking cakes.

The window at the Forno del Ghetto on Via del Portico D'Ottavia. Don't let their appearance fool you.

Cakes in the window at the Forno del Ghetto on Via del Portico D’Ottavia. Don’t let their appearance fool you.

The appearance of these cheese cakes belies their absolute deliciousness! Don’t even let the super-grumpy women gruffly serving the cake deter you from sampling them. Stand your ground when they glare at you when you walk in, and do not waver in your resolve when they bark at you whether you want chocolate or berry! You will be duly rewarded for your courage.

Forno del Ghetto chocolate cheesecake. YUM!

Forno del Ghetto chocolate cheesecake. YUM! I’m only a little shaken after interacting with the shopkeepers. ๐Ÿ˜‰

Have you been fabric shopping in Rome? What treasure troves did you find?

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11 thoughts on “Fabric Porn: Fabric Shopping in Rome (with some Shoes, Cats, Ancient Ruins, and Cheesecake thrown in for good measure)

  1. Look for the window with burnt-looking cakes, haha, good to know:-) Cheesecakes, ancient ruins, fabrics, cool shoes… sounds and looks like an amazing trip! and what great self-restraints you have… I love that fabric you bought, and am also quite jealous about those shoes…what a find! That cheesecake does look amazing.. aghh I need to go to Rome. Thanks for sharing:-)

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  2. I trust you didn’t spit out any gum on the Roman streets, or accidentally drop a tiny scrap of garbage? i made those mistakes in Rome and was roundly and vehemently chastised.

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    • Hi Felicia. I must admit I’m more likely to be the one doing the vehement chastising…I once drove out of my way to follow a car full of tourists in a national park in New Zealand who threw a bag of garbage out their window…I followed them until they stopped then I got out of my car and tore a strip off them. The only problem was, I don’t think they understood a lick of English. Ah well, perhaps they’re still wondering why the crazy lady was shouting at them! ๐Ÿ˜€

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  3. My husband & I just happened across that ruins site but had no idea about it, we just started calling it the cat garden. Too bad this was just as I was starting sew and had no room in my minimal luggage for such goodies anyway.

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    • I think that’s part of its charm — you’re just walking along, minding your own business, when suddenly you happen upon 2,000 year old ruins. Filled with CATS. It is pretty cool!

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  4. I bought some beautiful Roberto Cavalli silk in Fratelli Bessuti but got felt up (boob brush and squeeze while draping the silk around me to see how much I needed) by the guy selling it to me, then he he gave me a discount on my fabric. I really wanted to go back and keep looking but couldn’t after that. After that we went to a small town in Tuscany and low and behold our small family run hotel was surrounded by fabric stores, and they were thankfully staffed by women. What I loved about fabric shopping in Italy is that I came home with four fabrics straight off that seasons runway.

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    • Ugh, horrible. Sorry to hear that happened. What town in Tuscany was it you found all the fabric stores? I went to a few places in Tuscany as well, but I didn’t come across too many fabric stores.

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  5. I loved Rome for that reason, you stumble upon some significant thing or other everywhere. My friend and I took the wrong bus and it took us into some area with only modern buildings (and a road full of kitchen-supply-stores, for whatever reason). So we got off at the some stop and decided to walk around in this anonymous part of Rome a little, only to turn a corner and see the “Steps to the Vatican”.
    Btw, I totally understand why the shopkeeper made you hold up that fabric… it would make a faboulous Maxi-Dress, and I really want it now…

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