Shopping in Rome typically conjures mental images of lavish boutiques filled by designer clothes with exorbitant price tags. The Italian capital is one of the most stylish places on the planet, but even Romans enjoy securing a bargain.
Across the city are a range of street markets where locals and tourists alike peruse cut-price items. If they’re lucky they might find one of those coveted designer products in good second-hand condition for a fraction of the price it costs new.
At the city’s markets, vendors sell everything from second-hand clothes, shoes and fashion accessories, to new handbags, high-heels, sunglasses, leather products, electronics, mobile phone accessories, hats and luggage.
Often the sellers are not only happy to barter over prices but, quite uniquely, are even open to trades –hand over your Ray Bans in exchange for a leather backpack.
This is your guide to Rome’s best street markets.
Via Sannio Market
About 2.5km south-east of the Pantheon
Via Sannio looks similar to the type of street markets you see throughout South-East Asia. On a narrow paved area by the side of a quiet road in central southern Rome, makeshift stalls stretch for about 100 metres selling a wide variety of items.
Via Sannio’s vintage stalls are perfect for the shopper who loves to delve through racks looking for that unique item. However, the specialty here is handbags. Via Sannio’s vendors are very persuasive and will place a handbag into your hands before you know it, urging you to feel the quality of the fabric.
Not being a handbag connoisseur it was difficult to tell which products were genuine brand names, rather than copies. But the bags I inspected all were free of blemishes, had neat and strong stitching, and looked and felt beautiful.
Purses, clutches, shoulder bags, backpacks, overnight bags – Via Sannio has a giant range. The market's other main feature is its array of vintage clothing.
At one end of Via Sannio were three stalls with several racks of second-hand clothes, all of which looked to be in good condition and well made. In particular, there was a fine selection of both men’s and women’s coats and jackets, including some gorgeous leather varieties.
More Italy holiday inspiration
Campo De Fiori Market
600m south-west of the Pantheon
Located in a quaint stone-paved square surrounded by majestic, ancient buildings, Campo de Fiori’s setting is pure Roma. This part of the Italian capital, just south of the Pantheon, is a trove of fascinating narrow streets lined with classical architecture and majestic churches.
As one of the oldest markets in Rome, with a history dating back almost 150 years, Campo de Fiori is less about shopping than it is about the experience. Where Via Sannio market offers great prices, Campo de Fiori’s appeal lies in its charm, beauty and people-watching.
While Campo de Fiori has become a tourist attraction, it remains a local market where Rome residents come to buy fresh fruit and vegetables from the vendors who set up their stalls in the square.
Open every day of the week except Sunday, the market is particularly busy in the early mornings when locals come to pick up ingredients for their day’s meals.
Porta Portese Market
1.5km west of the Colosseum
The advent of hipster culture has made second-hand clothing highly desirable. Arguably nowhere in Rome is better for finding vintage fashion pieces than the Porta Portese flea market in Rome’s southern suburbs.
Porta Portese sprawls along the streetside in the oh-so-cool neighbourhood of Trastevere, a medieval area which has become one of the most lively sections of Rome.
Trastevere is famed for its nightlife, but it’s also a captivating place to wander during the daytime, with its chic cafes, local designer shops and, most of all, the bustling Porta Portese market.
Such is the density of this market it is worth setting aside at least two hours to explore it. If you’re the kind of person who loves unearthing a well-worn band t-shirt from the 90s, or a cute 1960s-style dress, then you may never want to leave Porta Portese. This market even has vintage accessories, bags and shoes, so you can head back to your hotel with a full outfit.