The Expensive Things I Purchased In Italy

1)  In Rome, one of the most stylish cities in the world, there is a hat company so renowned for their fedoras that they’ve actually made a relatively famous French movie with the hat’s name.  (The movie is not about the hats, but rather the gangsters who wore them.)

That hat’s name is Borsalino.  And I purchased one.

Italy highlights

This hat is, in all ways, ridiculous.  It’s as light as Elven chainmail, just this thin layer of woven stuff that somehow manages to retain a shape.  When I put on my old hats, they feel weighty; this thing is a puff of air.  Totally worth the 129 Euro it took to buy it.

2)  What was not worth it was the 1500-Euro panama hats I tried on in Venice.  There are four grades of panama hat, and for some reason the top-grade is $2300 and the next grade down is $750, and – well, there was an improvement in quality, but the fit wasn’t anywhere near as good as the Boursalino, nor was the quality seemingly that amazing.  But hey, for a brief period I had a hat worth a reasonably priced used car resting atop my dome.

€1500 hats.

(Though major points to the woman in the shop for looking at me as I walked in and perfectly guessing my hat size just by glancing at my head.)

3)  While in the city with the most Michelin-starred restaurants (one more than Paris, which I’m sure chafes), we decided to dine at one.  I booked seats at La Terrazza Del’Eden, a one-star restaurant with a great view of the city.  And my Mother got to see what Michelin-starred  service was like.

Michelin service, for the record, is where they have a battalion of waiters constantly scanning you unobtrusively – they don’t interrupt your conversation, but if your wine glass goes dry they’ll be there to refill it within a minute.  They are knowledgeable.  They will do literally whatever it takes to make you happy.  They are the Marines of the service industry, and in this case our waiters saw me come in with my new Boursalino hat.  I looked around for a coat check for about five seconds before they smiled and unfolded a small table next to my seat for me to rest my hat on, and another table for my mother to rest her purse on.

These guys are pros, I thought.

The best dish I had in Italy – and there will probably be a meal overview, as Italy was basically a cavalcade of amazing dining – was this:

Italy highlights

This is a peach gazpacho.  I don’t know why I ordered it; I can’t stand peach, and I don’t like raw tomatoes.  But I do like cold soup, and I said to myself, If a Michelin-starred restaurant thinks these are two good flavors to put together, I will trust them.  And what I got was a synthesis of the umami of tomatoes and the light sweetness of a peach without the cloying syrup in it, this constantly mutating dish of flavors that changed as I tried, say, putting more of the puree of tomato onto my spoon or the cream on the side in.  My mouth rang with flavors, my tongue vibrating as as chilled complexity saturated every taste quadrant on my tongue; it is the closest I’ve come to eating a meal as complex as a Velvet Tango Room drink.

But you also had dishes that looked like this red mullet:

Italy highlights

And this foie gras:

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So basically, we had a pretty amazing meal there. Well worth the price, if you like spending vast amounts of money on dining experiences.

4)  But!  I forgot to bring my suit to Italy because I thought it would be casual turista dining throughout, so my usual “nice shirt and chinos” would carry me.  But you can’t pull that shit at a Michelin-starred restaurant!

(Except, as it turns out, you totally can.  We had a family of Japanese tourists over who showed up in T-shirts and baseball caps.  Michelin waiters being what they were, nobody said anything, but these people spent money on a huge meal with two screaming kids and a granddad in a sun visor who nodded off at the table. They were placed in the very far back.)

So I said, “What I need is a fine and stylish Italian suit,” and set out with my family to find one.

…not so fast, Fat American.

The first three shops were pretty damned rude.  Stylish Italians are thin, and they weren’t particularly thrilled about me either, and so there was a lot of bad English and gesticulating of “This is what we have in your size,” followed by rat-a-tat Italian among the clerks that was pretty clearly, “Look, this guy’s in here, we can’t make him leave, what the hell do we have?”  Which was fairly humiliating.

Eventually, however, we went to Sartoria Italiana, a tiny shop with some nice suits, and the proprietor didn’t seem actively repulsed by my heaving body.  We tried on suits for almost an hour – my wife wanted a charcoal grey suit at first, as she thought it very flattering, but I pointed out that this suit didn’t feel like me.  Which is to say that I’d wear it for the handful of formal occasions that I wore all suits for, and then it would gather moths in my closet.

No, I wanted something colorful, something bold, something European.  And we were there so long it got awkward, as the clerk on duty left and was replaced by a “doesn’t-speak-English-at-all” clerk, who struggled mightily to get across the concepts of proper hems, what’s stylish in Italy, and what time to return.

Yet we persevered!  And this was my Great Italian Suit!

THE SUIT

Italy highlights

This thing is light and comfortable, and it may get me to wear it on more occasions than just funerals and weddings. It looked phenomenal, and I couldn’t stop swanning about in it. Plus, I wore it for a whole airline flight (in order to preserve and protect my customs charges, as per advice from Bart Calendar), and it didn’t chafe or pull.

A suit like this can get a man to wear more suits. This could become an addiction, really. Which Gini is already starting to meep about the prices, but hey, I remember the days when all I wore was black T-shirts and black pants and she said, “Don’t you want to look nice?”

Be careful what you wish for, my love.

Still, despite all the serious sartorial stylings of the suit, one can’t stop the cross-generational appeal of FINGERGUNS:

Italy highlights

4 Comments

  1. Sarah
    Aug 8, 2014

    You look amazing. You were right to hold out for the color. And the hat, oh the hat!

    Just say this article earlier this week (http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2014/08/03/magazine/bittman-gazpacho-the-simple-chilled-soup.html?_r=0). There isn’t a recipe for tomato/peach but there is one for tomato/strawberry that I’ve been eyeing. Actually, I’ve been eyeing all of them.

    Glad you had such a good time.

  2. Yet Another Laura H
    Aug 10, 2014

    The pants are particularly nice on you.

  3. Mark D
    Aug 10, 2014

    You look great in that suit, very good investment!

  4. Rachel
    Aug 22, 2014

    Both suit and hat look wonderful. Worth the money to buy something of real quality, for sure.

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