As a rule of thumb, the only time I ever spend walking around Rome's so-called shopping district ~ the intimidating  and overcrowded Tridente  from Piazza di Spagna to Piazza del Popolo and Piazza di San Lorenzo in Lucina~ is either in the early morning hours or late in the evening, and always after a few drinks at the Hotel de Russie.  Though I love the windows, the shops and the people-watching, the clothing itself seems a little less inspired.  While waiting for the rise of via Borgognona, I have another alternative. Literally.

Piazza Mattei.  Yes, that quiet piazza  in the Jewish quarter where every one seems to walk on the way to the Ghetto or Campidoglio, only stopping for a photo op with Giacomo della Porta's Fontana delle Tartarughe (turtle fountain).  Set back at Piazza Mattei #1 and #5 is my alternative to the chaotic Tridente and incidentally a salve to my schizophrenic personality

#1:  Boutique Uno first grabbed my attention with its display of The Laudress, a line of eco-clothing detergents that I've only seen in the US.  But it is Uno's well-researched selection of casual wear from off-the-radar designers, Italian and international, that makes the perfect foil to the mallification of Via del Corso.  I've found some So-Cal favorites like Velvet and more recently No.Nu, two former Fendi designers with a penchant for silks and asymmetrical cuts, and Album di Famiglia, luxurious cottons with beautiful stitching.  My fancy? Colorful cotton scarves. Piazza Mattei, 1, Tel. 0668301897    Uno Boutique has cloned itself  on Via Carini, 42 (Monteverde neighborhood) to debut April 2.

#5:  Alternative. Well bedside manner may be lacking in Maurizio Catalioti's shoppe du luxe, his amazing eye for choosing breath-taking (yes, I said breath-taking) pieces from ready-to-wear's most ingenious and hardest to find helps soothe the pain.  Every few months, Catalioti introduces a designer or line into Piazza Mattei which seems to find its way into Rome months later.  Newest initiate?  Alessandro dell'Acqua's No.21.  For the past few months, I've had a sense of dèja vu each time I walk into Alternative-- finally realizing that Catalioti's past incarnation was the hidden (and now defunct) Luisa Via Roma shop  behind the Imperial forum.   Piazza Mattei, 5, Tel. 0668309505.

Nutshell: Whereas my heart belongs to Alternative, my wallet belongs to Uno.

Shopping Tidbit: della Porta's 1580s fountain has inspired a look a like in Fort Myers, Florida's Miromar outlet mall. All shopping roads lead to Rome?