We have now returned to life in Vicenza, which we are calling home for the next few months. The apartment is shaping up to be extremely comfortable, Italian vocabulary and verbs are accruing in both our brains, and I am learning how to cook dinner in three courses (1) pasticcia (or pasta), 2) meat and veg, and 3) salad and/or cheese). I have found my favorite ‘local’, or Enoteca/wine bar, just down the road where I have learned to drink my espresso standing at the bar, black and with lots of sugar. It’s also where I can enjoy an apertivo and an assortment of tapas-style bites of food and write while L is off at his football practice or hanging out with neighborhood kids.
This might sound petty but one of the things I truly enjoy about being in Europe, or even just a more urban setting, is that one can dress with raising the ire of the locals. Meaning, back in the Midwest, if you put on a good pair of shoes, or a dress and jacket, you will undoubtedly be asked repeatedly throughout the day, ‘Where ya headed?’ or ‘What’s the occasion?’ which always, I must admit, make my blood slowly percolate.
So today I relished not turning any heads when I wore my new, black, spikey Donald Pliner boots, bought for a song in a London charity shop, on the bike down to the market at Piazza dei Signori. Two things that I’ve noticed about Italians and bikes that you’ve got to love: 1) they’ll wear anything and ride bikes – 4” heels or a tuxedo, no matter, and 2) if it rains, they ride their bikes, steering with one hand while holding a large umbrella with the other -- the rain will not ruin the look. How they do this balancing act safely, while navigating city traffic, I’m not sure. I’m not yet so brave as to try it.
All this talk of fashion leads me to another observation that I have been making for a long time and at some point I will produce a photo study of it: that British and European men wear their shoes so damn well. Or more precisely, they choose their shoes with care yet manage to project an effortless sense of style. They are, of course, largely working with a greater stock of well-made shoes, and such a man’s shoe is a beautiful thing to behold indeed. All right, let it be known: I covet European men’s shoes. They are also not afraid to pair them with colorful socks, and such a subtle nod to expressive style does not automatically suggest a sexual preference, as it might in America, the land where the utilitarian still reigns supreme and men are trapped in a suffocating sandwich of black, brown and grey.
While L is happy to be back in Vicenza as well, and playing soccer with 'Club Calcio' again, he has been suffering a bout of homesickness and there have been ample Skype playdates with friends back home. He insists he still loves travelling but just wishes that everyone could be in the same place. Then all would be right with the world. I just keep telling him his friends will still be there, and his cat, and be happy to see him when we go back.
Setting bikes, shoes, and umbrellas aside, after raining biblically most of the week, Vicenza is gleaming in a smoky, late autumn light that sets the hills surrounding it, and the silhouette of Monte Berico, perched above the city, in stunning pastel hues that no doubt have inspired many a poet, painter or architect for ages. Meanwhile, we crack on with our more mortal work, on a plane much closer to the mundane, but perhaps, important in its own way.