Image: Getty Images
December 24 2009
I have a confession to make. On every trip to Rome, I have an unbroken ritual for the day I land: first coffee, then socks. I chug my favourite foamy espresso at Caffè Sant’Eustachio. I’ve never worked out what magic ingredient the baristas add to make it so creamy, as their hands are artfully hidden behind a mirrored screen while they work (most people say it’s a pinch of bicarb).
Then I stroll a few minutes to Gammarelli, the Pope’s tailor for more than 150 years – at least until Benedict, who caused a major upset when he ditched them in favour of Euroclero, the tailors he had used while a cardinal. Still, this priestly outfitters sells cassocks and robes to the rest of the Vatican’s inner circle. And crucially, it also ministers to a few secular fans.
Most pilgrimage here, like me, to buy the ultrasoft, fine-gauge cotton socks (€11.50 per pair) intended for cardinals but available to all (in three colours: black, purple, and red). And when staff greet you, knowingly, with “Un paio di calzini, signore?” (“A pair of socks, sir?”), just nod.