Every time I go to Rome, I have a ritual – usually the first morning I arrive. I’ll walk down to the Pantheon, my favourite monument there, and pause to gasp a little, every time. Then I amble ’round the rear of the building to Piazza Sant’Eustachio, where there’s usually a crowd in and around the namesake cafe; there are lookalikes nearby, but the original has the egg yolk-yellow signs. I grab an espresso at the bar, the foamiest in town; rumour is that the baristas here add a pinch of bicarbonate of soda to boost the crema, but since there’s a big mirror screening their working hands from customers, I’ve never been able to confirm.
Then I walk around the corner to Gammarelli, on the corner of the piazza next door. For centuries – on and off, since 1798 – it’s been the papal outfitters, supplying robes, vestments and finery to Rome’s highest-ranking clerics. Stepping inside, it’s time-warped and Dickensian, all patinated windows and shelves piled high with boxes.
I’m not there to gawp, though, but to shop: anyone can buy their wares, though most aren’t exactly multipurpose. The glaring exception is the socks: silk or cotton or a fine merino-nylon blend, they come in cardinal-ready shades. Black, white and purple are fine, but it’s scarlet that I can’t resist. They’re the finest socks I’ve seen anywhere, and I always buy a pair or two when I’m in town. I’m not alone; any layman walking into the store is likely to be greeted with “Calzini, signore?”
Even better, after years of making dedicated detours to buy them in situ, now I don’t need to wait until Italy reopens to global travellers—I can finally buy them online.
Around £19, BUY NOW
Check out more photos of the socks below