My grandmother was born in Vienna during the First World War, her name was Gemma Holzer. When I was a shorty, she used to tell me stories and she was the one who encouraged me to start reading and writing before I even went to school. But most importantly, she taught me I could do two amazing things: I could dream and sing.
At that time – I’m talking about the early 80s – my father used to travel for work a lot and one day – I still clearly remember that day – he came back from South Africa. I received two stereo cassettes as a present from that trip: one of them was “The Best of Harry Belafonte”, the other was “Paul Anka’s Greatest Hits”. That’s when I fell in love with both music and the English language.
Now, one of the songs I liked the most was “My Home Town”, here’s the first stanza:
“I took a little trip to my home town
I only stopped to look around
And as I walked along the thorough-fare
There was music playing ev’rywhere
The music came from within my heart
How did it happen how did it start
I only know that I fell in love
I guess the answer lies up above”
I know: it’s somewhat cheesy and nostalgic, but that’s the point. I was actually born and raised in Rome, so I don’t really have a “Home Town”, like the one Anka is talking about: a small, familiar little town in which you know everybody and everybody knows you. And yet, I do in a certain way: it’s called “Viepri”. Viepri is a small medieval Umbrian village of 250 souls situated at the foot of mount “Schignano”, on the left side of Via Flaminia, and a gunshot away from the Apennines. Viepri is picturesque, hidden away from modernity, quintessentially Umbrian in its nature, magical and cozy. The people in Viepri are proud and welcoming, but at the same time suspicious of foreigners and strangers and understandably so: Umbria is a landlocked region and time has a strange way to pass in there. Back in the 1980s, women would still go wash their clothes together at the public fountain, people would still gather together to play cards, drink and curse the government and the Lord altogether. They would still, all together, attend church every given Sunday, come hell or high water. The town had a life of its own, it was a living, sentient creature in itself; it had morals, a bon ton, as well as a weltanschauung. Not that the “Viepratti” (the inhabitants of Viepri) would always peacefully get along, but you could have guessed what they would have thought about any given topic, any day of the week. They were like hobbits, in a sense. For a little schmuck like myself, born and raised in the chaotic and perennially controversial streets of the Eternal city, all that was somehow reassuring.
I spent my “happy summer days” (to put with Lewis Carroll) as a child in Viepri and I have plenty of wonderful memories of my childhood’s summer days. I could never put my finger on the reason why this love affair with “My Home Town” ended abruptly with the beginning of my puberty. From time to time, however, I gather the necessary courage and go back to Viepri for a day or two: it’s always a magical experience.
This long preamble was necessary to introduce today’s casual outfit because I call this “My Home Town” outfit. It’s the one I usually pick to pay a visit to my grandma, who sleeps in Viepri’s cemetery.
In similar occasions, you really don’t need to be overdressed. My old friends from Viepri are good-old fashioned countrymen and they will take you hunting or looking for truffles, porcini mushrooms or wild asparagus and they will take you out to bars at night, for a nightcap or two. Ok, let’s say three. Maybe four… in any case, you will have to play cards with them – even if you don’t like it – or bet some money against theirs at a pool game. Worst of all, you could easily end up caught in a bowls tournament before you can utter the word “but”. In brief: you are going to get your hands dirty, in Viepri. And given the proverbial suspiciousness of the Viepratti, you really don’t want to be dressed in a suit, or they’ll treat like they treat any foreigner dressed in a suit: with suspicion. You might think: “what’s wrong with that?” I’ll tell you what’s wrong with that, you won’t be invited to lunch or dinner and that means you won’t taste their truffles, salsicce, porcini mushroom, or even wild asparagus.
However, that doesn’t mean that you need to go back to your own Home Town in a sweatshirt and some used up sneakers: believe me, you can still be stylish while you search for truffles. This outfit is rugged and refined. Mainly composed of MCS items, except for the shoes – those are a pair of leather desert boots with Vibram soles by Joseph Seibel Berlin, the hat, which is from Spada Roma and the sunglasses, a pair of Wayfarer from Maui and Sons. The wristwatch is a Festina, but if you look closely, it would remind you of a Breitling. It is what they call a “tribute watch”. You wouldn’t carry the real thing in the wilderness, would you?
Why did I pick this particular outfit and its color scheme? Well, I gave you the moral reasons, but they couple very well with the practical reasons. You see? Viepri is surrounded by the proverbial verdant hills of Umbria (think about Tuscan hills, make it more primitive and subtract the army of posh Brit invaders in search of their souls), as well as the Macchia Mediterranea (Maquis Shrubland), and – of course – there’s also the Apennines mountains. So, as far as colors go, you always want to match the color scheme of the scenario with which you would be surrounded for obvious optical reasons. With regards to practicality, instead: the Umbrian terrain being usually rough, it becomes wet and slippery with rain, hence the need for anti-scratch, waterproof garments that can keep you warm, while protecting you from the sun and the overreaching branches of the many bushes with whom you’d inevitably make a very close, as well unwanted, acquaintance during your hikes. That’s also why I chose a pair of medium-height and extremely well-made boots with Vibram soles by Josef Seibel Berlin.
Another thing to consider is that the ideal outfit in such conditions would be 100% waterproof, 100% breathable, 100% windproof and that isn’t possible, so, when you are up there in the mountains, you must be dressed in layers which you can peel off or put on, depending on a variety of different factors. The MCS jacket you see in this outfit could be easily folded and put in the backpack, should the need arise.
But I think the two most important items in this outfit are the hat and the sunglasses. The sun up there is a son of a gun, let me tell you – you want to keep it at bay as much as possible.
Technical considerations apart, you want to really know what is most important about this outfit to me? I’m sure my Austrian grandmother would have approved it. And Paul Anka!