Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Jackets with the Fur

When I'm in Italy, I try to check out what people are wearing to find out what Americans will be wearing next year. Italians are soooo stylish and, to me, not afraid to experiment with new looks. I had never been to Europe during winter and was looking forward to increasing my sartorial repertoire.

News flash: au courant outerwear in Italy this year is the down parka with fur collar circa GAP 2001. My little brother (LB) pointed out, "that's just new enough to look out of style but not quite old enough to look cool." I insisted that if he wanted to be a trendsetter at school he should adopt this look. He said he would hold out for the full on fur coat after his successful career as a financier (good one).

At first I felt out of the loop. Was this simply an Italian winter staple? I asked an expert, my Italian BF.

He gave me a look of disgust and rolled his eyes. He wouldn't be caught dead in that jacket. He told me that clothing trends spread virally in Italy. He had never noticed it before because they are usually more subtle than a marshmallow coat with a fur collar. Now that it was in his face he determined that everyone was just a huge copy cat. During our tour of Rome we delighted in counting the number of fur collars packed into restaurants and coffee bars.

I took series of photos (a few are in the collage above) inspired by Scott Schuman, The Sartorialist and Bill Cunningham of the 'On The Street' feature in The New York Times. I used my ghetto digital camera so the photos aren't the best quality, but you get the picture.

When I got back to the states I dug out my ivory down parka with fur collar (which I believe was purchased at the GAP in 2001). I put on my favorite jeans, cute flats, and slipped on the parka. I was temporarily excited that I hadn't gotten rid of it.

One look in the mirror horrified me. Beach ball on stilts came to mind. My inner Tim Gunn was fighting it. I sighed at yet another example why Italians mystify me. They manage to turn everything into chic, even something as unflattering as a down parka.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Americans are cool again?

This can't be. For the past three years, I have had to prepare myself mentally for the anti-americanism before traveling to Europe. I had heard about it after Bush was elected but it's something you have to experience to understand.

People hated us... I mean realllllly hated us. 

I would try to be on my best behavior. I tried to convince myself that I was a mini ambassador and that my actions would have an effect one person at a time. I tried different approaches to change people's disgust. I would say "but I didn't vote for him!" or "we actually do have different types of cuisine in America!" but people wouldn't budge. It's not like I could actually prove anything.

When our soccer team was playing in the world cup in 2006, various Dublin pubs would have the flags of the teams participating hung on the walls. I never saw an American one. The fact that they didn't want to hang or even see our flag says a lot. England's flag was hanging up and Irish people hate the English more than anyone!

The Europeans drank the Kool Aid. Before my three week Christmas trip this past December I packed clothes that didn't look too "American." I gave myself pep talks to get ready for the haters. The only problem was that from the moment I arrived, people were excited to ask me questions about Obama. They wanted to know if I voted, where I was from, if I had ever been to Washington, when the inauguration would be, etc. I wasn't ready for this. 

It was actually kind of cool and a relief. I didn't have to pretend I was Canadian or Italian anymore. It's not like I started wearing flag pins but I didn't try to hide when the news started talking about the US or keep my passport hidden in the airports to avoid glares.

The salesmen at Harrods even said he was thinking about visiting New York and had asked me what city I liked better, Washington DC or London (obvi I picked London).

All I can say is that I hope our government doesn't do anything stupid. People's views about us in the world really have changed (well, at least the Italians' and British views). 

I'll try not to get arrogant about it but it was kind of fun to travel and swap food, geographic and cultural information with Europeans. I had never experienced it at such a widespread level before and I feel like people opened up to me more than in the past. 

Sunday, December 28, 2008


Haven't had much access to the internet since landing in London on December 19. Since then I have spent Christmas in Calabria and then I literally just set foot in Rome 15 minutes ago!

This may sound crazy but my favorite place in Rome just might be Roma Termini train station. You know you've arrived when you get off the train and see the hustle and bustle of Italians in action.  The layout is exciting and to me it's the heartbeat of the city. 

I'll give you a quick recap of how lovely Italy is in every single way. My boyfriend and I flew from London to Rome, had a quick dinner at his brother's house, and then hopped on a night train to Calabria. We had to change trains in Lamezia and upon arrival my boyfriend asked me if I would like a quick "colazione" or breakfast. We popped into the bar below the train station where the smell of espresso and "cornetti" was heavenly. We each had a perfectly made espresso and a chocolate cornetto (croissant) all for under 5 euro. Even at a train station at 5 in the morning Italians don't settle for anything less.

When we arrived at my boyfriends house, La Mamma had magically timed stovetop espresso to be ready right as we walked in. Breakfast #2 was another espresso, some amaretto cookies, FRESHLY baked that morning panettone, and pear juice. Already I was spoiled.

Then we showered, put our clothes in the bureau and I went downstairs while my bf took a quick nap. The fresh ricotta delivery arrived ( I know!) and my bf's brother went out with a huge pot so the lady could scoop some fresh, steaming hot ricotta in it. 

His brother then said I had to have some fresh ricotta with some sourdough bread for breakfast. This would constitute breakfast #3. The ricotta was sooooo creamy and tasted soooo rich and delicious. Obviously I didn't say I had already had breakfast an hour earlier. I knew I would be in trouble when lunchtime came around at noon.

Only in Italy does a little old lady come to the door with ricotta cheese she made that morning from her sheep at HER farm. I love this country.

Saturday, December 6, 2008


I think I'm an Italophile because on paper I lead a very boring life. My day job as a copy editor is not exactly glam. Correcting grammar for textbooks gets really old. I am not proud that I know the Chicago Manual of Style pretty much by heart. This is a very sad skill and is not something I would share with strangers nor put on my resume. Can you spell L-A-M-E?

I started taking Italian classes in college to spice up my curriculum. It's not a secret that being an economics major is one giant snooze-fest (not that economics can't be interesting, but seriously, everyone agrees with this). After learning about curves, inflation, real GDP, and lots and lots of statistics and greek symbols for math (gross), going to Italian class was very refreshing. It was like going to Kindergarten. We had circle time, show and tell, snack time and pretty much everything a five year old would do in school except for nap time (I wish!).

Learning about Italian is also really fun because Italians are fun people. After I graduated I missed this. Having an Italian boyfriend is still fun, but he thinks speaking English is more exciting (a total drag...but understandable from his perspective). He gets annoyed with me when I tell him to teach me the hand gestures. He thinks I am insane because it's like asking someone to teach you how to blink or swallow. Those hand gestures are so cute though!

I decided to enroll in an Italian conversation class to get my weekly fix. I was the youngest person by about 30 years but I still enjoyed practicing my Italian and meeting people just as crazy about Italy as I am.

When my class ended a few weeks ago I looked at other options for winter session and Italian Film got my attention.

I came to my senses when I got tuition sticker shock. $200 to watch 10 movies and discuss them just seemed outrageous. I calculated the cost of a Netflix membership for two months and then the toll it would take on my family to force them to watch the movies with me. It didn't even come close. One movie at a time subscription is $8.99 a month with a two week free trial.

I'll simply watch an Italian film a week and then torture my boyfriend in Italian and my family in English to fulfill the conversation and discussion component. The writing component can be my blog. For the next ten weeks I'll do a write-up of each Italian movie I watch, give a mini-critique and then post it on my blog. I'll also throw in Italian recipes and restaurants I try, fun words to learn, and then share my travel experiences. Everyone loves Italian food and I'm sure everyone will grow to love hearing about me making a complete ass out of myself while travelling (I am really good at this).

Until then, ci sentiamo presto (we'll talk soon).