Fashion, food and history have merged in Rome since toga-wearing partyers swept along marble roads to Bacchanalia festivals.
In the modern city, one place encapsulates all those aspects in one polished, bustling square block.
Rinascente, an upscale department store with nine locations in Italy, opened an eight-story flagship in the Italian capital in late 2017 at Via del Tritone 61, practically around the corner from the Trevi Fountain. There, Gucci and Fendi brush up against reminders of earlier Romans.
Enter through doors manned by welcomers (who likely double as guards). You'll find not only striking displays of Italian designer clothing and rooftop dining with a view of St. Peter's Basilica, but also the remains of ancient aqueducts.
When excavating to remake the building into a department store, workers uncovered remains of the Aqua Virgo aqueducts dating to 19 B.C. The archaeological discovery slowed construction, but didn't halt it.
Instead, the store has turned part of its basement into a mini-museum. (The designer clothing and housewares are out of reach, the expansive food court much more affordable and the aqueduct viewing entirely free.)
Images projected onto the ancient stone walls show what the aqueducts looked like when they brought water from the countryside to Romans during the days of Emperor Augustus. I peered down over a railing at soil deposits where water once flowed.
A coffee shop is adjacent to the display, so you can absorb the history over a beverage. But it's better to head to the elevator and hit the up button. On the top floor, several options for dining — from pizza to Japanese-Brazilian fusion — will better quench your thirst and appetite. Plus, there's that view.
The whole place is a feast — for the stomach and the eyes.
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