Around the corner from Velando is a boutique for clerical garb. In the window shortly after the conclave was a mannequin in a red-trimmed cassock and red zucchetto, the cardinals' skull cap. Since it's not every day that bishops become cardinals and a red wardrobe is needed, the shop also makes lawyers' robes. The bustling and increasingly chic Prati neighborhood just beyond Borgo is filled with law offices.
Near St. Anna's Gate is Borgo's most famous tailor for clerical garb. Using a 1960s-vintage, pea-green sewing machine, owner Raniero Mancinelli has been sewing cardinal red robes and papal hats for decades — including last-minute orders to spiff up cardinal and bishop garb for Francis' installation.
But most of Borgo's shops sell ordinary items for laity and clergy alike. On Borgo Pio (or pious village in Italian), next to a takeout pizza place, a simple housewares store sells items like laundry detergent. Such mom-and-pop shops were once common in Rome; many have closed their doors, unable to compete with now ubiquitous supermarkets. The housewares place currently sports a "for sale" sign; down the block is a shuttered butcher shop. But many Romans special order Argentine beef, famed for its tenderness and flavor, so who knows? Perhaps the forlorn butcher will reopen now that an Argentine runs the Vatican.
Benedict, before he became pope, sought help at the electrical shop at Borgo Pio 53. When he asked electrician Angelo Mosca to fix a light fixture at his apartment, he offered to hold the ladder.
"'I'm afraid you'll fall,'" Mosca recalled the future pope saying. "Your eminence, I hope not," Mosca said he replied. Still, Ratzinger, with a reputation for courtesy, held fast to the ladder.
While tourists in Borgo might not need a light bulb, pounding the cobblestones takes a toll on shoes, and Il Calzolaio shoe repair and shoemaker shop might come in handy. It did for Ratzinger, who occasionally waited on a chair in the shop while repairs were done. Calzolaio's master craftsman, Antonio Arellano, a soft-spoken Peruvian immigrant, not only resoled Ratzinger's shoes, but he made two pair of red goat-skin slip-ons for him after he became pope.
A photograph in the store on Via del Falco 30, which intersects Borgo Pio, shows Arellano presenting a pair to the pope at a general audience at the Vatican.
"He has almost perfect feet. He walks so straight, with perfect support," Arellano said. He even recalled the former pope's shoe size: 42 European (8.5 in the U.S.).
Arellano also displays a replica of the brown, open-back calfskin slippers he made for Benedict in 2011, upon an order from the Vatican, he said. He shyly shows off an Easter card he received from the pontiff that year, with a handwritten note of thanks from Monsignor Georg Gaenswein, Benedict's longtime personal secretary.
When Gaenswein and Ratzinger craved food with roots closer to their native Germany, they headed to Cantina Tirolese, a restaurant at Via Vitelleschi 23 serving dishes from Italy's Alpine South Tyrol region and Austria. Diners can ask for Table No. 6, "a big round table with cardinal red cushions" downstairs that Ratzinger liked to reserve, said restaurant owner Manuela Macher, whose mother is Austrian and father is Roman.
Ratzinger was "an assiduous patron. Every winter, he would come in three, four times, even by himself," she recalled. Then-Cardinal Ratzinger would arrive about 7 p.m. or 7:30 p.m., dinnertime in Germany, Macher said, laughing, since Romans rarely venture out to dine before 8:30 p.m. Sometimes he came straight from the Vatican, carrying his satchel of paperwork.
The future pope never ate much, the owner said. But he was nostalgic for comfort food from his native Bavaria that wasn't on Cantina Tirolese's menu, so the staff re-created it, just for him. "It was beef broth with crepes cut into thin strips," said Macher.
Not counting lunch or dinner, Borgo and its few blocks, lined with simple, often wood-trimmed buildings, many of them several centuries old, can be explored leisurely in a couple of hours. Some street names recall wares once made there, like Via degli Ombrellari (umbrella-makers street), although these days, Asian immigrants pop out at every corner on rainy days to sell folding versions.