We're back from our Roman Holiday, from living La Dolce Vita, and despite not bumping into Gregory Peck on the Spanish steps, or frolicking in the Trevi fountain, we had the time of our lives. Three weeks, three girls, eight cities, a lot of churches, a lot of walking, a brief jaunt to the beach, being serenaded by gondoliers and getting an unhealthy addiction to aperol spritzes.
There were highs- walking into Saint Mark's in Venice for the first time- and there were lows- travelling to Naples by sleeper train in a carriage of complete crazies. what did we bring to Italy? Apart from some poor Italian phrases, we packed up a whole host of frocks and set off on our Grand Tour.
We went even further back in time than usual when thinking about this trip. Following in the footsteps of the twenty-something men of the 18th and 19th century, we travelled around Italy and took in all the cultural greats; we travelled from Venice to Rome with several stops in between. Everybody from Lord Elgin, who, you might know, was famous for shipping the Elgin marbles from the Parthenon in Athens to London, to Byron and Keats, the latter who died in Rome aged 25. These tours, usually post university, were meant to further a young man's education. Through Italy, stops such as Venice, Rome, Florence, and Pompeii were all included on the tour. In fact, Venice was considered the cultural centre of the Grand Tour, so there was no better place to begin.
So, after that little spot of history, I bet you want to see what we wore, don't you? Well, in the blistering heat, tight, restricting outfits were just not possible. The fact that women wore corsets in these climates is completely unacceptable to me. However, what did work were 1940s blouses and loose skirts- a little like how you would imagine a middle class evacuee to dress- and of course, fifties dresses with their wide, cool skirts. However, conservative dress was a must for most places, and those long skirts were wonderful for covering knees, though cardigans were always packed to be thrown elegantly over our shoulders. I would recommend taking a selection of beautiful silk shawls, as they could be used to cover up and still keep you cool! Catherine spent her days with a classic cloche hat perched firmly on her head, a holiday essential!Though make up usually melted off, neither of us had the heart to abandon our red lipstick, so even on the hottest of days we kept resiliently topping it up.
A LOT of people stopped us and asked if we were part of Downton Abbey. One poor bloke got his eras mixed up and kept shouting: '1970!' every time he saw us (oh the shame!). One man, who looked about 300, cycled up to us and recited W.H Auden's The Truth About Love, because, according to him, such quintessential English girls deserved poetry in their lives. Italy embraced our love of vintage. Whilst we may not spend hours setting our hair and wearing fascinators "just because", it was amazing to have people from a different culture recognise the nostalgia that goes into our everyday lives and what we wear. That's all we aim to do, and boy did we do it in Italy!
Our route: Venice-Padua-Verona-Florence-Manarola-Lucca-Naples/Pompeii-Rome