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?

Ombre Woodgrain Sheath Dress

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I’m so glad I was able to wrest another garment out of this fantastic ombre-woodgrain fabric, despite the anatomical challenges it presented! I first made a romper with this fabric and now this dress.

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I wanted a very simple, fairly fitted dress without a lot of seams or fuss, so I used the basic pieces from V8904, a pattern that worked really well for me previously (see my asymmetrical layered dress, which was unofficially Suzanne-Sommers-approved!). Of course I omitted the diagonal over-layers and just used the basic pattern pieces: front, back, 2 sleeves, and a neckband. There aren’t even any darts on this.

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The sleeves on this pattern have a ton of ease, which is something I forgot since the last time I made it. (Must jot that down on the pattern cover or something for future reference.) So I found the sleeves were a bit fluttery for my liking, and instead of recutting them or doing a proper dart or something, I was super-lazy and just tacked down a little fold-over on each sleeve. My vacation departure date was approaching and there was a lot of sewing I wanted to get done before that, so I was all fuck it, lemme just do this lame hack.

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These pictures were taken on one of the first few days of my trip to Italy, and I was able to pose for the photos without passing out from holding my gut in. Let’s just say that this dress did not get a whole lot of wear towards the end of the 3 weeks I spent eating my way through Italy. ๐Ÿ™‚

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