It’s a Canterbury Tales thing. A whole mess of pilgrims shuffling round Europe, telling bawdy stories, looking to score fish and chips. There goes the Friar across the South Downs, seeking warm, flat beer, beguiling the Wife of Bath with the burr of his cassock. The Nun’s Priest’s sucking Spritz al bitter through a straw with the Summoner behind the bike sheds. Each new day sees them darkening the door of the Pardoner.
January 2016. Team Table is burrowing into the buttocks of the Olde World, plotting a course through England, Holland and Italy. A map of their meanderings recalls Caesar’s march through Gaul, with little loops over Schipol and Heathrow due to congestion. Along the way our Pilgrims are granted refuge, variously, in 16th century English timber-framed houses, a Renaissance villa outside of Padua, a narrowboat on the Regents Canal, couple of ground floor apartments in Venice and Amsterdam and a little house in Culemborg. They play Pooh Sticks in the Hundred Acre Wood, climb Monte Pirio with Friulian wine and four glasses, commune with Petrarch’s mummified cat, pick hazelnuts, acorns and bayleaves, spill Campari in the canal at San Trovaso, find an open pharmacy at 7.30 on a Sunday evening in Abano Terme.
But lest anyone mistake this for recreation – fleeing the bony grip of Delaware County winter to swan around the Euganean Hills like Helena Bonham Carter heaving in a bodice – think again. Hard labour. Oscar Wilde breaking rocks in Reading Gaol. There was difficult food to be digested, strenuous parlor games; and relics to be sought out and brought home.
To that end:
ARQUA PETRARCA OVEN MITT. The very item used by the Father of Humanism to wrangle lasagne al forno out of his toaster in 1369. Folklore has Petrarch spending long afternoons in the kitchen; recipe testing, weaving wreaths from olive branches, trying to rhyme loggia with ambrosia. These mitts would have spared him burned fingers; an important issue when you’ve got another 100 sonnets to compose to the object of your unconsummated love. Wear them and you too may feel ‘Thus possed to and fro / Al sterelees withinne a boot …’
$15 per mitt
BIALETTI DAMA STOVETOP ESPRESSO MAKER (from Venice). Designed by Pino Spagnolo, who brought soft curves to everything from speedboats to lemon squeezers. Locals claim it’s the best. Still makes coffee with ‘inimitable aroma and taste’, but adds a frisson of moda Italiana. Etched with the timeless phrase Omino con I Baffi which has something to do with mustaches, we’re not sure what.
$45 – 3 cup / $55 – 6 cup
VISGRAAT DARK BLUE BLANKET – 100% cotton, 100% Dutch. Herringbone weave. Can be used to block the wind whipping up one’s gusset off the IJsselmeer, for cradling a nice broodje gezond with some hagelslag and appelstroop at Wijk aan Zee, or just wrap it casually round your neck like a sjaal as you pedal giddily down to Waterlooplein.
SÄKERHETS TANDSTICKOR – forgive the absence of umlauts: your favorite Swedish matches are back in the big size only. If you want to burn shit, these are for you.
SANT’ ANTONIO CANDLES from Basilica di Sant’Antonio in Padova. Strictly limited edition these, due to baggage allowance. Anthony of Padova is the Patron Saint of Lost Things. So if you have issues with car keys, sunglasses or spouses, you might want to grab one. The candles come from a spot close to the reliquary, where the desiccated tongue of St Anthony forever sits waiting to lick something. The Basilica is one of eight shrines recognized by the Holy See. By purchasing a candle you can knock it off the list, leaving only seven steps to Rapture
BAY LEAVES FROM VILLA DEI VESCOVI – not for sale, but come, scratch and sniff.