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Every time I go to Rome, I have a ritual—usually the first morning I arrive. I’ll walk down to the Pantheon, my favorite 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; rumor 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 travelers—I can finally buy them online.
Check out more photos of the socks below: