Contesto: Italian, Context.
Carrera marble and cobblestones. They were here long before you and will outlast you by centuries. Marcus Tullius Cicero, Michelangelo Buonarroti, Giuseppe Garibaldi - men of immeasurable talent, honor and character have wandered down the same ancient, ivy-shaded alleyways, seemingly frozen in a just-right state of beautiful decay. This is Roma. There seems to be an unspoken deference paid to those who came before and the Eternal city they left for our senses to see, taste, smell and feel.
Nowhere is this more clear than on the short walk from Giolitti, Roma's oldest gelateria, to Cruciani e Bella in the Piazza S. Lorenzo in Lucina. Austere figures in deep navy suits, solid navy ties and polished black shoes clutching cakecones filled with colorwheels of delicious gelato avoid the shade that the walls of the solid, unchanging palazzos provide, unfazed by the intense June sun as they meander to and from the Senate. Like the architecture and sweltering summer heat, these men, their penchant for formal clothing (and taste in ice cream), seem not to have changed much in the 10 years since I was last a resident of this city. Dignity, propriety and elegance are a constant state of being.
Danilo Cruciani's small but wonderful shirt and tie shop has been a similar constant for many of these aforementioned Romans and the travelers that instinctually identify with them. In the summer of 1994, my father wandered through its doors fresh off the plane, carrying an Alitalia lost luggage ticket and in search of a clean shirt. What he found, along with the shirt he required, was a gregarious shopkeeper who had just returned from a vacation in Vermont, his home state. He walked out the door forty five minutes later with three shirts, four ties and a new friend that he would visit each time he came to Rome until his passing four years ago.
Though it had been five years since a member of the Ciongoli family had visited Danilo, his eyes lit up as I reintroduced myself. "Ciongoli! From Vermont, e vero? How are your mother and father?" After thirty minutes of chatting, absorbing and picture taking, I left with a beautiful tie and a better understanding and appreciation of the contesto that defines this wonderful city. I look forward to the time when I can give that tie to my own son and walk with him from Giolitti, fragola e limone in hand, to visit Danilo. I have a feeling that he will be there and that he'll be glad to see us.
Signore Cruciani on a rare casual day.