I don’t know what triggered the memory of London trip to come to my mind this week, but it was sweet and nostalgic. I arrived in London in the early ‘80s all dressed up like an Italian model, constricted in the latest fashion trend dictated in Italy, soon to find out that London is about freedom of expression. Something I was not familiar in Italy, my homeland. If fashion for instance says this year the color black is in fashion, like an army of obedient soldiers, everybody will wear black whether it looks good or not, then black will show up even in home accessories, kitchen ware, (I hated the black plates when they were indeed in fashion), bathroom and bed linens, illumination and everything else.
In London all this doesn’t exist, everyone wear what they want. Carnaby St. was the center of revolutionary fashion from Mary Quant’s mini skirt we are still wearing today 50 years later to the underground music of the Rolling Stones when they played at Marquee Club and where the swinging London lived fun days. I shopped in Carnaby St. and got rid of my traditional clothes forever!
I was pleasantly enthralled with the street life and entertainment I had never seen in Italy up to that moment, except for food markets. At Covent Garden, the man in chains was really intriguing. In a minute time and without anybody’s help he untangled himself from the chains he had wrapped around his body. Street players and minstrels filled the air with fun, laughs and madrigal music from ancient England. Life in London was much more colorful in my eyes than the life I was accustomed to in Italy. Oh, how I loved the freedom in London!
Nowadays in Italy many things have changed, there are a lot of street events, entertainments, art exhibitions, music, flea markets, you name it they have it. The city administrators have realized that creating street events would increase store sales and help growing the economy, thus copied our neighboring countries and made their own street fun.
Back in England, one night at 11:00 o’clock, I crossed on a pedestrian zone with a red light. All of the sudden I heard the whistle of a Bobbie who scolded me for crossing with the red light. Where did he come from? The street was deserted, I was the only one there. I did it many times in Italy even in the traffic and nobody cared, I could not understand why I deserved a ticket and a ticket I received.
Upon my return home, trying to tell my co-nationals in Italy to respect city rules, to respect city vegetation, learn to eat different food, or dress to suit own personality was a huge undertake.
I traveled England by sleeper train from London to Scotland stopping at major places. Going toward Scotland, I fell asleep passed my stop and I didn’t get off at Inverness. When I woke up the train was at a full stop in a station.
I didn’t know where I was, for sure I must have ended up in the wrong place, I thought. The train keeper came and offered me breakfast. I was at the last station where I needed to be, they let me sleep for a while and then woke me up with breakfast of my choice. I was mesmerized of the gentle treatment I received from British people.
The England trip opened up my mind. It was my first time visiting an Anglo-Saxon country, up to that moment I had traveled in Mediterranean countries similar in customs to mine, where life is laid back, tomorrow is a better day, rules are merely suggestions and dressing up, no matter how beautiful and elegant it may be, it is always very constrictive. I was forever changed and I welcomed the changes.
What experience changed you? Ciao,
Valentina will host one or two trips a year to Italy with the intention of showing Italy with the eyes of a designer born in those parts and let people experience the ”wheel of emotions” don’t even know exist. She will take her groups to the non-commercial Italy, areas not beaten down by massive tourism. Valentina will guide the tours through art, architecture, food, shopping and special adventures organized for people who want to live it up! Check out her books on