Lonely Planet Writer

Rome's newest department store houses ancient aqueduct

Historic department store la Rinascente has inaugurated its newest outlet in Rome’s city centre, boasting luxury brands, haute cuisine – and an ancient aqueduct. While renovating the antique palazzo that would become the shopping complex, builders stumbled across a lengthy section of the aqueduct Aqua Virgo.

La Rinascente in Rome. Image by Le Chicche su Roma e non solo on Facebook

Completed under Emperor Augustus in 19 BC, the Virgo was one of the eleven aqueducts that ushered water into ancient Rome. Twenty centuries later, the pipeline is still in working order, supplying the Trevi and other grandiose Roman fountains. Shoppers can view the archaeological marvel up close on Rinascente’s basement floor.

The eight floor, 14,000-square-metre space on Via del Tritone features some of the world’s top clothing, accessory, and home decor brands. It also hosts an array of eateries, like Japanese-Brazilian sushi spot Temakinho and gastro deli San Gregorio. Michelin-starred chef Riccardo di Giacinto and wife Ramona Anello are at the helm of Rinascente’s Mediterranean restaurant MadeITerraneo and Up Sunset Bar. Both spots, found at the sixth and seventh floors, offer an incredible 360-degree view of the Eternal City.

The shopping centre took a whopping eleven years to complete, and was painstakingly restored with the help of prominent architects Vincent Van Duysen, India Mahdavi, Claudio Silvestrin, Giuliana Salmaso, and others.

Rinascente was founded in the 1800s by the Bocconi brothers and sold to entrepreneur Senatore Borletti in 1917. Poet Gabriele d’Annunzio suggested La Rinascente (“she is born again”) as the new moniker to signify the rebirth of the store and the rebirth of the nation after World War I. Rinascente is credited with pioneering ready-to-wear apparel and introducing miniskirts and bikinis to Milan. It was also among the first stores to sell clothing by mail order. There are currently eleven Rinascente department stores in Italy.

By Alexandra Bruzzese