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 Rome’s 3,000 year history makes it a city that is many things to many people.  The Forum and Pantheon beckon fans of the ancient Roman Empire, while the Piazza Navona and Trevi Fountain are magnets to devotees of the Baroque.  What’s hard to ignore, however, is that Rome is also very much a company town, and that company is the Roman Catholic Church.   The church’s global headquarters is Vatican City, home to some of the unforgettable museums and churches in the world, including the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s basilica.  But much of the everyday life of the men and women who serve the church takes place in the bustling neighborhood nestled between Vatican City and Castel Saint’Angelo known as the Borgo.  This charming neighborhood is often overlooked by tourists eager to get to and from the Vatican, but for those looking for a quintessential off-the-beaten-track Roman experience, the Borgo offers a unique experience of rubbing shoulders with the princes of the church, true pilgrims, and priests, and nuns as they enjoy leisurely lunches in one of the Borgo’s fine restaurants or shop for ecclesiastical vestments and liturgical articles. 

Via Borgo Vittorio is home to most of these family-run stores, which have catered to the clergy for centuries.  Poking around them is a delightful experience.  Bolts of luscious silk, damask satin, and brocade are stacked by color in every imaginable red (for cardinals) and purple (for bishops) as well as the signature black crepe, wool and cotton.  Here bishops and cardinals can order handmade shoes from soft calfskin leather, or order a bespoke brocade cassock for Lent, Easter or Christmas.  Borgo Vittorio is the go-to destination if you need a new chalice or thurible or a little frankincense or myrrh to put in it.  All manner of rosaries, crosses, crucifixes and religious statuary are on offer and of much nicer quality than in the souvenir shops, which line St. Peter’s Square.  And where else in the world could you comparison shop for marble baptismal fonts?   When the hunt for sacred sartorial splendor palls, relax in one of the neighborhood’s elegant restaurants.  Who knows?  You might end up sitting near the next pope, while he quietly enjoys a plate of pasta! 

Alexander+Roberts offers a number of ways to visit European cities like Rome, including our Italy by Rail program.

Posted: 6/3/2015 3:42:11 PM by Alexander + Roberts

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