London is a man's town for shopping, Paris is for women and Rome is for both, the best bazaar in Europe. The heart of Rome's bazaar is the Via Condotti, four short blocks that extend from the Piazza di Spagna to the Via del Corso, displaying in beautifully appealing windows the fine Italian hand at work: jewelry at Bulgari, more fabulous than Cartier; sweaters and sport shirts, ties and robes and gloves at such renowned haberdasheries as Cucci and Battistoni; silks on every side, among the world's best; china and antiques; leather goods at Gucci crafted with a saddlemaker's art.
The shops of the Via Condotti, and of the busy areas near it, reaching from the Spanish Steps to the Via Sistina and the Via Veneto, are filled with the best that Italy has to offer. During the Olympics they will suspend the siesta custom (closed doors from one until 4 p.m.) and stay open from 8 in the morning till 9 at night. Any visitor should do as the Romans do and shop these districts. But to get the most out of a Roman shopping spree, and the most out of Rome, he should get off the main thorough-fares as well.
A good start in this direction is a visit to the Porta Portese, Rome's flea market, on a Sunday morning from 9 to noon. Here spread out on the ground is a fascinating mixture of junk and antique bibelots—it will help to have a canny Italian-speaking friend at hand. Frequently items seen here on Sunday turn up on Monday in the Via dei Coronari, an ancient street of antique shops, also worth a visit, and the Via del Babuino, a step up on the antiquarian's scale and well inside the realm of collector's-item objects and prices.
Near the Via del Babuino is the Via Margutta, a narrow street which has for 300 years been the center of Rome's art colony. It is a bustlingly busy thoroughfare these days, with Rome enjoying a renaissance as one of Europe's leading modern art centers. During the Olympics artists with studios in the vicinity will have an outdoor art show, filled with good and bad. While in this street, drop in at No. 88, for here is one of the new finds of Rome, an art gallery and gift shop run by Charles Moses of Cincinnati. The art seeker in Rome—prices are below Paris and London—should also see L'Obelisco, whose owner, Gaspero del Corso, has been a power behind the Roman modern art renaissance. In search of old prints—Piranesis, Rossinis and the like—one should visit Nardecchia's wonderfully stocked shop in the Piazza Navona, opposite Bernini's Fountain of the Rivers.
A custom-made suit is one of the best buys a man can get in Rome. If you go to one of the established Roman tailors—Caraceni, Cifonelli, Ciro or Brioni—you will get a suit the equal of anything that Savile Row has to offer, for less money, and cut to Savile Row styles rather than Italian ones, if requested. At Brioni, Via Barberini 79, for instance, a suit of fine English flannel or Italian silk is about $140. Ordinarily it takes about a week from start to finish, with three fittings, but during the Olympic crush, the traveler will be wise to allow all the time available; selection of fabric and model should be a first-day-in-Rome project.
For women, the boutique sportswear items for which Italy is famous are at their best at Simonetta, Via Gregoriana 5a., where you can get a dress for under $60; at Pucci, Via Campania 59, famous for pants, shirts and bikinis; and at Galitzine, Via Veneto 155, where you find the tunics over pants which are a new Roman caprice.
AT NARDECCHIA'S, in the Piazza Navona, Mrs. Jean Claude Abreu leafs through part of the shop's fine old-print collection.