ROME IS UNIQUE on the world stage. The city, known for its ancient artifacts and traditional cuisine, also possesses the expanse and calling of the Vatican, neatly nestled along the Tiber river, which snakes through the city. While known for its major monuments and sights, I prefer the backstreets of Trastevere or the winding alleys of the Jewish ghetto. These are the places where local craftsmen are found, with the creations that define each of their life’s work.

I was just outside the Jewish ghetto in Rome, when I happened upon a shop that sold only belts. This was striking in that often times belts are relegated to an accessory rack in a shoe store. Or belts may represent less than 1 percent of a clothing retail space. But never had I seen a shop dedicated to belts. Now, it was not a large store, but it was more than sufficient to tell the story of this craftsman owner and his passion.

In a brief discussion, mixing my poor Italian with his better English, I learned a bit of his history in making belts, which is something that he had been doing for over 50 years. As he showed me the detail on each one, I marveled at the attention to detail: the stitching, the lines, the widths, and the more obvious individualities of color and buckle.

The shop owner was much more interested in where I planned to wear the belt than which designs I liked. In his mind, the selection of a belt was much more about how I planned to use it, than which one I preferred on the ...

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