By Brad Rickman | Posted to Conde Nast Traveler
There are other outstanding coffee cultures around the world, but no one does it quite like the Italians. It isn’t just pastime or profession for them, it’s art. The perfect grind; that silky crema; the precise amount of heat applied to the milk; and of course a beautiful pour of foam. Espresso. Cappuccino. Macchiato. Attention to detail is the thing we admire most, and that particularly Italian refusal to accept no thing but the right thing.
A work of cultural genius, this: sit down in the light of a waning afternoon; have a drink and a (complimentary) snack; watch the world stroll by. It’s the height of civilization—far more graceful than American happy hour—and no one on earth does it with the devotion of the Italians. It hardly matters whether you opt for a negroni, an aperol spritz, a glass of wine, or a Lemonsoda; the olives will be briny, the patatine will be crisp, and the sights will be beautiful. Why can’t this be an export?
From precision-executed standards to design-forward flourishes, the finest craftsmanship and the most convention-shattering ideas in footwear are Italian. You can’t beat them, but you can wear them.
The modern cinematic era owes its soul to postwar Italian masters like Visconti, De Sica, and Fellini—and we all owe them the Italy of our imaginations, stocked as it is by Mastroianni, Sophia Loren, and Anita Ekberg-draped fountains. But the magic doesn’t stop at La Dolce Vita and The Bicycle Thief. We’ve also been charmed more recently by Tornatore’s Cinema Paradiso, Benigni’s Life Is Beautiful, and Sorrentino’s La Grande Bellezza. As with so many things Italian, such great films are all about the balance: beauty, wit, tragedy and magic, each in just the right portion.
Sure, Saville Row is legendary; but there’s nothing like a visit to Milan’s Quadrilatero della Moda to make a non-native feel inadequate when it comes to suits—and how to wear them. Italian men have a gift for flourish without flash and swagger, inhabiting their clothes in a way that seems at once both classic and plucked from the future.
Forget the fact that Luxottica, an Italian company, manages some 80 percent of the world’s eyewear brands. Sunglasses are more than an accessory for Italian women (and men). They’re as indispensable as shoes, and just as expressive—summer or winter, one never leaves home without them. Trendsetting designs are enviable enough. What we find most difficult to imitate, though, is the flair with which they’re worn.