Thursday, March 15, 2007

ever wonder where the pope gets his undies

never fear, i'm here to tell you the answer. gammarelli's, that's where. gammarelli's is a tiny little store off of the piazza minerva, just behind the pantheon, that has been making the pope's clothing since 1798. cardinals and bishops also come from all over the world to visit this rough equivalent of versace couture, but for the catholic ruling class.

consider this; when the world was about to receive its brand spankin'-new pope in 2005, it was somewhat scandalous that gammarelli put 3 new cassocks in its window, even before the new pope's official public 'coming out' ceremony. this was roughly the equivalent of giorgio armani doing something crazy like putting katie holmes' wedding dress in the catalog for his spring collection, even before her wedding.

it's not really correct to call it a 'store,' not only because 'institution' is more accurate, but because 'store' is an overstatement and also misleading. gammarelli's consists of just a window with a very formal popey-looking vestment in it - when we visited there was a suspicious-looking lace under-layer to the cassock, not joking- a few pairs of socks and an old-school cardinal's hat peering out at the window shopper. a peek inside reveals only a bunch of bolts of extremely ornate and heavy looking gold-infused and brocade fabric, located up high, with only aged wooden drawers at eye level and below. add to this forbidding mix the two cranky-looking older gentlemen working there, and you don't exactly have a tourist draw. in fact, it's more like a brick wall.

but i'm not shy, to say the least, and i had read about gammarelli's in the new york times. i was determined to, first, find the darn place, which is obviously not in any guidebook, second, get the nerve to enter and, third, to buy something. come on, i mean, this is the tailor to, aruably, the most powerful man in the world, and i needed to investigate. i had questions that needed answers. do the tailors have to go through some sort of purification ritual, or at least background check, before touching/taking the pope's measurements. i mean, the pope is a lot more important than the president, and you can't get into the white house, or even the old executive office building, without coughing up your social security number at least a day in advance, so the secret service can sniff you out. do these guys see the pope naked. does the pope have body odor as bad as the average italian man. the world needs to know, but sixth-generation popey-tailor annibale gammarelli isn't talking.

so i stood outside and looked into the window, trying to devise a plan for what i was going to do once inside. i needed a mission, so as not to get kicked out immediately. a-ha. i had an idea- i'll ask them if they have any sort of 'souvenir'- an internationally-known word- for my monsignor at home. 'just buying for a friend,' basically, since clearly there's nothing for a young woman in a catholic popey shop. i spied some socks in the window, and they came in some fun colors- bright red, snappy purple, and basic black.

so i entered, leaving a somewhat horrified john outside to let me make an ass of myself in the popey-shop. i entered, asked for any type of small souvenir for my phantom 'monsignor at home,' and they looked at me like i was crazy. socks, i said, like the ones in the window, can i buy some of those, please. what color, they asked. hummm, i like the red and the purple. now the old man is really getting annoyed with me. after some minutes, as he is wrapping up my 2 pairs of socks- bright red and snappy purple- it finally becomes apparent to me that he is pissed off at me because i cannot get it through my think skull that the socks are bishop-purple and - literally- cardinal red. not only am i actig ridiculous by not knowing my monsignor's size and yet trying to buy the smallest available size of socks- because they are secretly for me- but when/if i give these 'souvenirs' to my 'monsignor at home,' he's going to be wearing the official colors of a bishop or a cardinal. ugh. good thing i didn't really realize all of this until my purchase was finished.

anyway, not only do i now own two slammin' hot pairs of super bright, silky socks that are going to go all the way up to my knees and keep me warm under my boots in the winter, but i have such a great story, and john as my witness. much better than the pope-snow-globe that i could have purchased for the same ten bucks.

p.s. not only does 'gammarelli's' answer the 'where does the pope buy his socks' question, it will also come in handy for 'what thriving business, with the bulk of its customers hailing from all over the world, in 2007 still does not have a website.' now you know.

p.p.s. the internet era again leaving gammarelli's back in 1798, there is no wikipedia entry for 'gammarelli,' something i may do something about, after i catch up with blogging. interesting to note that the polish version of wikipedia does have an entry;

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