In the Minghella film version of The Talented Mr. Ripley, the two main characters, Dickie Greenleaf and Tom Ripley, are shown riding a train from Naples to Rome. Dickie thinks Tom should get a new jacket, as he’s always wearing the same one. “Let me buy you a jacket,” Dickie says. “When we get to Rome, there’s a great place. Battistoni.” He then proceeds to sing “Roma, we’re taking Tom to Roma!” as Tom smiles out of the side of his mouth and softly repeats the name, Battistoni, like it was some magical place.
Indeed, Battistoni is enchanting. The shop opened in 1946, right before the Continental look took off in the 50s and 60s. It was during this time that Rome—not Milan or Naples—was seen as the center of Italian fashion. The city’s style and architecture was shown off through Italian cinema (directors such as De Sica, Fellini, and Antonioni, to name a few), and many foreigners felt safer visiting since that Italy had become a republic. Some of these foreigners were American movie stars, like Gary Cooper and Douglas Fairbanks, who would come to the capital to get their custom suits and silk pajamas made. And as we all know of that period, where America’s cinematic royalty went, much of the public followed.
During this time, many of these figures visited Battistoni. The shop was more of a salon than a showroom, however. The wood-paneled walls, marble floors, and fine art lent a rarified air, and some of world’s most interesting men would come here to share ideas and gossip while they picked out ties and got measured. Artists such as Marc Chagall, for example, would rub elbows with literary men such as John Steinbeck, and the Duke of Windsor and Gianni Agnelli were also known to stop by. Marlon Brando one day even arm-wrestled the store’s founder, Guglielmo Battistoni, just for fun (Brando won). Humphrey Bogart came so often that he asked if he could leave a bottle of whiskey for himself here. This salon culture has somewhat disappeared in the modern age, but on a recent visit, the space still felt more like a gentleman’s social club than a store.
In addition to the atmosphere, the store has an impressive range of finely tailored goods. Battistoni is perhaps most famous their shirts. After all, the founder, Signore Guglielmo, was an esteemed shirt maker. He made collar points slightly longer and larger, side seams narrower, and armholes high. Everything was hand finished, but fit very cleanly. Today, prices for custom shirts start around $500. They also have made-to-measure suits that begin at $2,750, and ready-to-wear suits for $1,850.*
Then there are the non-tailored goods. For example, they have a selection of Italian-made English-style shoes for about $550. These are made with beautiful, dark brown, fine grained leathers and stitched together using a Goodyear machine. There is also a room full of one- to four-ply cashmere knits ranging between $475 and $1,000, depending on the style and construction. Whether v-necks, crewnecks, or cardigans, these were all incredibly soft and well finished. In the adjacent room, you can find a variety of belts (including some beautifully rich crocodile skins) and a range of outerwear jackets and coats. One of the navy field jackets was particularly impressive to me. The shell was made with a smooth microfiber and finished with dark horn buttons. The lining was pure cashmere, and there was a removable cashmere vest, which you could zip in for colder months. Price on that was about $2,250.
Some of the best items in the store are the ties. The silks feature unique application prints, which means they have crisper edges than their British counterparts, and the cashmeres have a very nice, soft hand. Both are made with soft interlinings, so they knot and drape beautifully. Silks start at $145 and cashmeres at $190. I couldn’t possibly resist leaving without one, so I picked up the red tie you see above. Looking back, I wish I had taken the blue tie with white print as well.
Today, Signore Guglielmo’s children, Gianni and Simonetta, manage the store. Both have kept the store exactly as their father left it, tucked away in a courtyard off of via Condotti. It’s a store of immeasurably good taste, and a must-visit for anyone in Rome.
*Note that all prices in this article include VAT. If you’re a non-EU customer, you can deduct 20%.
Via Condotti 61A
00187 Roma Italy