One of my favorite parts about living in Rome is that art and beauty abound. Practically everything you see in the city is an artistic marvel, from the elegant buildings and numerous fountains to piazzas large and small, and you can be assured that even the task of running an ordinary errand will see you stumbling upon an extraordinary venue. Post offices, banks and medical offices are often tucked within grand buildings so suddenly even the simple act of mailing a letter becomes a glorious adventure, one that leaves you swooning and basking in the glow of living in one of the most beautiful countries in the world.
Italy is so steeped in art and culture, it comes as no surprise that many bureaucratic municipal offices, stores and restaurants wind up in historic buildings. Living in the Eternal City has given me a new perspective on the meaning of cultural heritage, one which I no longer only associate with crumbling ruins but which instead makes me hopefully that history and tradition can continue to be relevant in today’s world and be injected with new life. Rome has many success stories about revitalizing historic spaces, often industrial complexes that play host to social events and installations, but my latest discovery was one I wasn’t expecting – and I was all the more thrilled to find a hidden gem in plain sight of one of the most famous landmarks in Rome, the Spanish Steps.
HB Roma is a concept store with covetable fragrances and stunning frescoes located along the elegant Via dei Due Macelli street in the heart of the city. Stepping inside the store is a real treat for the senses: shiny perfumes, colognes and potions line the walls while art deco details, contemporary furniture and vibrant paintings provide an alluring backdrop to the shopping experience. The boutique perfumery is part of HB Profumerie, a small chain of shops born in Rome in 1962, and undoubtedly has the most privileged location: HB Roma lies inside the 19th century Palazzo Chauvet, the ex-headquarters of Il Popolo Romano, a political newspaper in distribution between 1873 – 1922. The space boasts frescoes that are rich with symbolism related to Italian Unification and include allusions to Pompeii’s grotesques, mythological figures such as Rome’s She-wolf, and others.
HB Roma is worth a visit not only to admire its art and peruse it’s line of fabulous French and Italian perfumes – which cover high-end brands including Acqua di Parma, Clive Christian, Comme des Garcons and Diptyque – but to admire how seamlessly the shop fuses past and present within a multifunctional space. The concept store is punctuated by eclectic, contemporary furniture and sculptural works of art that help the venue double as a sort of art gallery and lounge for shoppers. It also boasts an intimate cocktail bar in the back with a speakeasy feel: Luca Petricca, HB Roma’s owner, wanted to enhance the experience of shopping for perfumes by drawing attention to the interrelationship between smell and taste. The bar serves up craft cocktails, natural wines and infused liquors before closure at 7:30 each evening and is a truly unique place to stop for an aperitivo before dinner in the city center.