30 April 2017

Passeggita Ponte Vecchio

My husband and I linger on the Ponte Vecchio at dusk. The tourists who dominated the medieval structure during the day have moved on to taking selfies elsewhere. We are free to gaze westward in the direction of the sun-lit Ponte alle Grazie. The bridge on which we embrace is the oldest in Firenze and the only one spared from the destruction of the Germans during World War II. Although a series of several bridges existed previously on this site, the current design dates back to 1345. On our evening passeggita, we tread on stone that has borne witness to centuries of Florentine mysteries.

The secret passageway above our heads forms part of the Vasari Corridor which also runs through the nearby Uffizi. I imagine Duke Cosimo I de' Medici, who commissioned the route's installation, admired the Arno through the passage's east-facing windows. Did he reflect on the memories he shared with his first wife as he traveled between the Palazzo Vecchio and the Palazzo Pitti? Although Eleonora di Toledo was born in Spain, she embraced Firenze and her active role as consort. As the first lady of Firenze, she supported many causes including the arts and the establishment of churches. She also took an interest in increasing the profits of the Medici estates. Cosimo left the woman that bore him eleven children in charge as regent during his absences. Eleonora died before the corridor came into existence, but I wonder if Cosimo was reminded of her most while standing at the center of their city.  
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The view westward from the Ponte Vecchio

M.J.C.

29 April 2017

Firenze in the Morning

I open my eyes and ears to the hum of the Italian conversations taking place in the nearby piazza. The shutters in the bedroom block the outside light, but I sense it is late morning. I hasten down the hallway to the panoramic window in the living room and open the shutters. My Florentine spirit awakens under the Tuscan sun.
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M.J.C.

25 April 2017

Evenings at Taverna San Trovaso

The ground floor of Taverna San Trovaso (Calle Contarini Corfù, 1016) had a ceiling that looked as if it had once served as an underground tunnel connected to the adjacent waterway. The tables and chairs were wooden, aged by the hands of the diners that brought the atmosphere to life every night. A.C. and I requested a table for two, and we were seated just before sunset on the ground floor of the pink-tinted building with green shutters. The proximity of our location to the warm kitchen made it ideal. I imagined wine and Margherita pizza would magically appear before me minutes after the waiter relayed my order to the chef. 

 A.C. stepped away from the table momentarily, and I admired the rustic walls with their glowing lamps and framed photographs of Venetian scenes. A blissful smile spread over my face, and the American couple at the neighboring table took my expression as a sign that I was open for conversation with people I did not know. They admitted they were Southern, and the blonde-haired woman asked me if my husband was Southern too. As a proud Northerner, I was perplexed by the question and provided her with "no, he's not" as an answer. My best friend returned, and the pizza arrived after a few meaningless minutes of chatter with the nearby strangers. The dark-haired man and his wife allowed us to enjoy our dinner undisturbed, and we focused our private conversation on the pleasantries of our current city. 
The following night, A.C. and I were led up to the second floor of the establishment. The ceiling was modernly flat, and the interior was painted contemporary shades of white, tan, and purple. Small chandeliers hung from above, and beige, silk shades decorated the tops of the open windows. Framed, Venetian-themed photographs were suspended by strips of satin mounted to fixtures at the tops of the walls.

I missed the warm wooden and brick surroundings of the level below, but the superior food, delicious wine, and humorous waiter made up for the new setting. I spotted Zac Efron - light brown hair and blue eyes - serving food across the room. A.C. assured me that Zac Efron did not moonlight as a waiter. And besides, if he did work here, maybe he was trying to escape the paparazzi and did not want anyone to know. 

At the conclusion of our second night at Taverna, we headed toward the steps that descended to the exit on the ground floor. The painting at the top of the steps tilted in my direction as I drew near. My eyes widened, and laughter from the joyous wait staff erupted. The falling frame was the signature trick of the restaurant and was played on dinners who ordered too much wine and thought Zac Efron was hiding in Venezia.   

Evenings at Taverna San Trovaso

M.J.C.

24 April 2017

Gondolier Stripes

If I ever get to know a gondolier on a personal level, I hope he/she will let me admire the multitude of stripes in his/her wardrobe. I come to Venezia to see the fashion show of blues and reds that travel through the waterways. I see styles that would be suitable additions to my collection worn on the rowers that pass. A top with lines is an element of my everyday uniform, and there is no such thing as owning too many.
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M.J.C.

23 April 2017

An Afternoon on the Grand Canal

Towering lines of row houses border the narrow streets. Sensing the way to the Grand Canal, we wind our way through the passages. When I see the teal water ahead, I quicken my steps in the direction of the wooden dock. I wear a striped tee shirt over a black A-line dress, the blue lines echoing the aesthetic of a gondolier’s uniform. I sit at the end of the dock, my navy canvas shoes skimming the water. A.C. catches up and replicates my sitting position. The boats on the canal rumble south toward the open lagoon. A driver docks his red vehicle at our feet. We offer to watch his prized possession until his return. He agrees with a laugh and a wide smile leaving the keys in the ignition. The Venetian dashes off in his sunglasses. When he returns ten minutes later, he hops into his sleek boat with the agility of a runner leaping over hurdles. We watch him merge into the line of traffic on the clear water and wonder if an American drivers license is sufficient to rent a boat in Venezia.
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M.J.C.

13 April 2017

Penn in April

The warmest weather of the year arrived on Penn’s campus this week. Many young women misinterpreted this occurrence as a sign to materialize their distastefully-short, summer shorts from the depths of their wardrobes. Benjamin Franklin did not bless the University with sand and a large body of water. Therefore, beach-related attire, including flip-flops, should not be worn on Locust Walk. May I suggest dresses of reasonable lengths as a far superior option? They are effortless and especially minimal when worn in the sun without a jacket or cardigan. 

Penn Summer
M.J.C.

10 April 2017

Excursions to Brooks Brothers

The Brooks Brothers Philadelphia store was the site of my most efficient shopping experience. I had written to our contact T.J. requesting that a few items be placed on hold. A week later, my husband A.C. and I pulled on the dense, silver, Walnut Street door in hopes that my letter had been received. 

On this Sunday afternoon, L.S., who wore a knee-length, tunic dress and riding boots, retrieved our clothes from the hold closet. She led us to the fitting room foyer that was carpeted in blue and green plaid. Majestic, navy walls bearing the repeating icon of a golden sheep suspended by a ribbon encased us. The framed, vintage American flag with thirteen red and white stripes and thirteen white stars dominated the wall to the right. A.C. and I took up neighboring fitting rooms. 

We spoke through the slits in our wooden doors. I asked to see the gray polo I had picked out on the person it was intended for, and A.C. obliged. The charcoal of the shirt complimented his dark eyes and sleek, brown hair. The blue, gingham, A-line skirt I had first seen online and which I now wore complimented my hourglass shape. It would be the most-utilized skirt of the summer. 

We changed back into the clothes in which we had arrived and assisted again by the dark-haired L.S., conducted our transaction at the bar that was the checkout counter. T.J., who had recently entered the scene wearing a blazer, sweater, and round glasses, was wrapping purchases for another customer. As we said our goodbyes, I vowed to request items in advance by writing ahead of future visits. 
My most complicated shopping experience occurred three and a half years earlier at the London Brooks Brothers shop. It was 8 November 2013, the day J.Crew opened on winding Regent Street. I arrived at number 165 shortly before hundreds of celebratory balloons were released from the new store's doors. I wore a few of my favorite J.Crew elements: a navy Schoolboy blazer, a Vintage cotton T-shirt, and a pink, pleated skirt. My chunky, cap toe, Etta heels clicked on the checked pavement as I crossed to the west side of the street. I felt American in the glow of the store’s overhead lighting and in the midst of the music that reverberated between the two levels. Golden balloons, each resembling a single letter of the alphabet, read "Hello London" and bobbed against a black background in a wide window. 

As the spirit of my home country possessed me, I was led in the direction of Brooks Brothers, one of America’s oldest clothiers, at number 150. I crossed back to the east side of the street and entered the open foyer of the shop. I felt myself falling to the floor in slow motion, landing on my hands and knees, my bottom facing the door. Why am I down here when I am supposed to be up there? Why am I staring at this doormat, and when was the last time it was cleaned? A single step that blended into the color of the street was the culprit. I was rendered immobile for what seemed like ten minutes but may have actually been only one. 

Two employees assisted me in seating myself in a chair from which I had a pristine view of the morning traffic on the shopping district’s main street. A man in a navy blazer with gold buttons that matched mine reunited me with my heel that had detached from my foot during the fall. There would be no shopping today. After a fifteen minute rest, I was able to embark on the journey home via the red, number 94 bus. It was Friday, but I did not feel the presence of the weekend as I climbed into my down-filled quilt. My right ankle swelled to the size of a medium melon, and I was confined to my apartment for three days.

M.J.C.

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