Saturday, June 2, 2007

Imagining Italy in Boston

I travel not only to see and experience new places, but also to bring some of that excitement and and freshness into my daily experiences at home, to create adventure out of routine and to loosen the hold of old limiting beliefs and preoccupations. Wanting la dolce vita to linger a bit longer, today I decided to pretend I was still in Italy.

After a lunch of artichoke raviolis, pecorino cheese and a small glass of red wine, I decided it was time to hop on my bicycle. "Normally" I wouldn't exercise on a hot day after consuming alcohol, but since I was imagining I was in Italy, after all, where I had done exactly that just a week ago, I wasn't terribly concerned about being hydrated. If I needed a drink of water, I would find one. I wouldn't let the fact that my bike doesn't have a bottle holder keep me indoors.

I chose Harvard Square as a destination, thinking I might visit Campo di' Fiori, an authentic Italian pizzeria named after the famous Roman plaza, for a beverage or dessert. Cycling through Watertown, I spotted a rubenesque middle aged man on a white Vespa, wearing a matching helmet. After riding alongside cars, forgetting there was a bike path, I made it into Cambridge and locked my bicycle. Campo di' Fiori, in the Holyoke Center, was not only closed, it was out of business. A sign promised that another pizzeria, Oggigourmet, would open shortly.

Disappointed, I headed to the other Italian-esque place I remembered, Toscanini's. That, too, was shuttered, at least temporarily, due to construction on the facade of the building. Remembering that if I were in Italy I would patronize a local, artisanal gelateria, I went into Herrell's. Stepping way out of character, and being slightly outrageous, I ordered a scoop of ice cream in....a cone! I decided not to be so concerned about how messy it would be if I were unable to eat the ice cream faster than it melted.

The chocolate pudding ice cream dribbled quickly in the heat, covering my fingers with brown stickiness. The pathetic napkin was no match for the sweet goo. But I was in Italy, so I didn't care if I looked like a four year old while licking my fingers. Besides, a sink can't be far away. Wandering onto Brattle Street I noticed that the Cambridge Center for Adult Education was open and I stopped in to wash my hands. Conveniently, they had a water cooler and I helped myself.

Refreshed, I popped into Tess, a clothing boutique that has seemed out of reach if not a tad snooty. It was also one of the few apparel shops on Brattle street that was open. The retail landscape had radically changed in my absence - Ann Taylor and Jasmine Sola, stores that had anchored that part of the Square, were empty, either closed or awaiting renovation. But imagining I was in Italy, I didn't care that I was entering Tess with sweaty cycling clothes. Fingering the fabrics, I looked at some of the tags. The prices, no longer in euros, no longer shocked me.