Condotti (Via)

A famous street in Rome that provides a showcase for elegance and luxury shopping, via Condotti continues to be the street that is most coveted by the great names of fashion for whom it is, along with Milan’s quadrilateral, the most important in Italy. The traditional and established boutiques such as Gucci, Bulgari, and Battistoni, where the Duke of Windsor, Prince Umberto of Savoy, John Steinbeck, Charlie Chaplin, Jean Cocteau, and Renato Guttuso would come to have their shirts custom made, have been joined over time by the most prestigious griffes of the Made in Italy movement (and sometimes made elsewhere), such as Armani, Cartier, Ferragamo, Gabrielli, Hermès, La Perla, Prada, Mila Schön, and Trussardi. Then, and not without very animated polemics from the Via Condotti Association, established in the 1960s in order to safeguard the noble street, they were joined by Foot Locker, a fluorescent emporium of sportswear. Over the years, via Condotti, linked with Fifth Avenue, Faubourg Saint-Honoré, and Bond Street, has lost its ancient artisanal vocation, as well as its commercial identity: the old shops have sold their locations to the big brand stores. Also gone, in order to leave its space to a stockings boutique, is the renowned Baretto, which was at the corner of via Belsiana, and which counted Giorgio De Chirico among its habitués. Via Condotti has won its battle against decay and survives in the midst of mass tourism, having being able to keep its identity, if not from a commercial point of view, at least historically. In fact, it mixes consumerism with, for those able to enjoy it, a special spell, an atmosphere of the Grand Tour or a Stendhalian promenade. It gets its name from the acqueduct known as the Acqua Vergine that passed nearby. With the famous stairs of Trinità dei Monti at its back, it constitutes one of the most changeable and picturesque sceneries of the 18th century. An obligatory stop is the historic Caffé Greco, about which Casanova wrote in his memoirs in 1742, but whose golden century was the 19th, when around its small oval tables would gather the most illustrious European painters, sculptors, musicians, and men of letters. Among its eminent patrons were popes and kings, such as Leo XIII and Louis I of Bavaria; painters such as Corot and Ingres; and writers such as Goldoni, Hawthorne, Byron, Chateaubriand, Leopardi, Shelley, Stendhal, Andersen, Gogol, D’Annunzio, Baudeleire, Henry James, Thackeray, and Mark Twain.