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Ask Chris Black: How Do I Bring More Italy-on-Holiday Vibes to My Life?

Photo: Phil Oh

If you’re looking for the most powerful hair dryer or the handiest chef’s knife, those things can be easy enough to find. Other objects of desire are a little more taste-based. What’s the next status water bottle or hand wash, for instance? If you have a burning question about the next fanny pack or Noah rugby shirt, Chris Black is here to answer it in a regular column.

Four years ago, I discovered La Dolce Vita, a book of Slim Aarons’s photographs of Italians luxuriating on vacation. I immediately purchased it, and now it’s what I turn to when I want to relax. I can’t explain it. I’m wondering what other things — coffee-table books or otherwise — I might get to bring more “Italy on holiday” vibes to my life?

Buongiorno! I actually just returned from Florence and Milan. Slim Aarons, the photographer of “attractive people doing attractive things in attractive places,” makes it all look very chic. What you are after, my friend, is relaxed elegance. Something I also crave in my daily life.

‘Capri Dolce Vita’
$85

This book is as beautiful on the inside as it is on the outside. It has all the images you need to help you relax into your sexy Italian-holiday fantasy. The island of Capri, with its vibrant Mediterranean spirit, limoncello, and rugged landscape, was actually a prescribed treatment for a member of the Swedish royal family by doctor Axel Munthe, who thought its clean air could cure bronchitis.

It would help if you made your life smell like a crisp summer morning along the Tuscan coast. Hang these Santa Maria Novella Pot Pourri Scented Wax Tablets in your closet. Every morning when you get dressed, the mixture of buds, leaves, and flower petals typical of the Tuscan hills will transport you to a suite at the Hotel Il Pellicano. La perfezione.

Why not stock your house with all the supplies you would need for a proper Italian aperitivo? It’s just like our happy hour, except exceptionally cooler and with less post-work Patagonia-vest bros. No one wants weird finger sandwiches, but a classic nut mix, small bowl of crispy potato chips, and some olives will pair well with a glass of wine or Negroni. You can even sneak out onto the terrace for a cheeky cigarette. It can be our little secret :)

I’m looking for an inexpensive black sneaker that goes with everything but isn’t a Chuck Taylor. What are your picks?

I am not a big black Chuck Taylor guy either. They look better in white or something fun, like orange or pink. Anyway, I am almost positive my idea of “goes with everything” will be different than yours, but hey, variety is the spice of life! Let me give you plenty to choose from.

These shoes will have you floating. The comfort is unmatched. They will look cool with almost anything. Just don’t try to wear them with a suit.

Novesta is a brand that was started in Slovakia in the 1930s. The Star Dribble Hi-Top is closest in look (and price) to the Chuck Taylor. I like the vulcanized sole and absence of branding.

Adidas Stan Smith
$69

The classic Adidas Stan Smith in black leather is hard to pull off without looking like an 80s NBA referee or disgruntled waiter. But I have faith in my readers! Make it work, king!

If you want to push the limits, these all-black, round-toe, low-top canvas sneakers from Issey Miyake are amazing. Somehow from the future, but also retro. How does he do it?! These would truly work in any situation.

What are the best gray T-shirts (or shirts) to wear while going through a breakup?

Gray is an interesting post-breakup color story as it shows tears and sweat quite well. I would obviously go with black, the color of mourning (“I wear black on the outside, ’cause black is how I feel on the inside”), but it’s your life! Gray it is.

This long-sleeved, soft mélange cotton-jersey from outdoor brand Gramicci has its excellent (and fun) logo on the pocket. Maybe it will cheer you up. You could also keep some tissues in there. Whatever works.

This model from A.P.C. is a little thicker, so it could hold up if you had to wipe your nose on the sleeve while ugly crying in public. I am thinking practically!

Comme des Garçons SHIRT makes a logo-free and well-priced classic model with a ribbed neck. Perfect for your new Raya profile picture.

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Ask Chris Black: How Do I Enjoy More Italy-on-Holiday Vibes?