Parasol Party and Hats

24 Jul

So, here’s the thing. This summer I’ve spotted a new trend. Chinese parasols.

You read me right. I said: Chinese. Parasols. Basically a larger version of the paper thingies that come in your tropical cocktail.

Don’t ask me to explain the trends, I just report ’em.

So this summer, in lieu of the ubiquitous bubble guns and red-eyed pscyho cats (please see #2), our street vendor friends have changed their inventory and substituted aforementioned useless items with highly practical (except when it rains) florescent-colored Chinese paper umbrellas. And the tourists are buying them up. And using them.

BOH. (If you’re just joining us, this slang term means “who knows” in Italian, and I use it all the time. You should too.)

Anyhoo, so where was I? Oh yes, parasols. I’m thinking, personally, I can’t be bothered to walk around holding a paper umbrella to protect my delicate skin from the sun. I much prefer what I think is an easier solution, and doesn’t require any florescent colors. Hats.


Not to be confused with capelli (note: one p), which means hair. See, I don’t get along with double consonants AT ALL in the Italian language, which is why I have been known to call cream “pana” (something that doesn’t exist) and known to call penne pasta “pene,” something which certainly DOES exist, albeit not in a restaurant dish, pleaseconsultyourItaliandictionarybecauseI’mnotgoingtotypeitonmyG-ratedblog.

Hats are an essential item for me in the Roman summer sun. Remember my trip to Amarena Chic last year?

Well, this year I upgraded. I went to an ACTUAL HAT SHOP. On Viale Trastevere there’s this hat shop that I’ve always been so intrigued by, and finally I just took the plunge and went in to ask about a hat in the window.

The sweetest lady in the world runs the shop. (What? You didn’t know that’s an official title? Sweetest Lady in the World? She works at this shop, I’m telling you.) She explained to me that her father-in-law ran the shop starting back in 1920-something—I forget the exact year; please, forgive me, I know not what I do. They sell Borsalino hats, which are so incredibly vintage and wonderful.

I asked about said hat in window and the sweetest lady in the world asked me what size hat I wear.

What size hat?


Since she is the SLITW, she helped me out by asking, “Well honey, what size does your dad wear? Usually kids wear the same size as their dads.”

Um, my dad? A hat? Not exactly. It would have fallen off while he was parachuting, piloting, running off to work in the Middle East, or some other such nonsense (currently in Kabul, hi dad, please come home in August as promised).

“Ok, well then, let’s try this. 57. It’s a medium size.”

Perfect. 57 it is. As in the Three Little Bears. Not too big, not too small. Just right.

I found an article here that talks about the shop, called Gagliardi e Mari, and revealing that the SLITW’s name is actually Adolfa, and her daughter Velia helps out. Not only is it a hat shop but they also have an entire hat repair hospital of sorts, where you can have your hat washed, ironed, re-shaped, and basically put back good as new. Now tell me, do you know of a shop where you can have this done? I love Rome for these things.

I got to prance around Rome for like two weeks with my new size 57 hat from Signora Adolfa before my total clutziness took over and I got this incredible black ink stain on the hat. Don’t ask me how it happened. It just did. The hat was sitting on the dining room table, the pen jumped it, and the rest is history. I was born with the clutzy gene, I accept it as in: “Dear God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.” I am serene. Note the half-moon shaped scar around my eye. I got into a fight with the corner of a table in 11th grade and, obviously, nine stitches later, lost. The Navy hospital doctor, as he stitched my eye up, said, “Well, there goes your modeling career….har-de-har-har.” Not so fast, buddy! Little did you know that 15 years later I would have a blog! MUUUUHAHAHAHAHA!

Am I so very retro in my new hat? Despite the big black ink stain which I tried to conceal here?

So, that’s when I found out that Alessandro’s grandfather used to buy hats from the SAME store. What? Well thanks for telling me! And so, Nonno Vincenzo had given a hat to Ale and he never wore it. Double what?? So I said, pass that baby down to me, would you please?

Turns out, Nonno Vincenzo was a 56.

The realization is that I have a bigger head than my son’s great-grandfather. Oh my.

Little Vincenzo decided he needed to get in on this action (he is oh-so “please mommy don’t forget that I am the center of the universe therefore you must include me in everything you do”) so in honor of Bis-nonno Vincenzo, we tried to do a mini photo shoot with “the hat.”

How does this thing work??

Yes, people. This is the face that makes him smile. If you see me around, this is probably the expression I will have. There is no shame here. I have a five-month old.

Folks, if you find yourself in Trastevere and in need of a hat (and who isn’t in need of a hat, honestly?), I highly recommend you go see the sweetest lady in the world. She doesn’t even have a credit card machine (“too much of that new-fangled technology…” Ok. She didn’t really say “new-fangled.” I don’t even know how you’d say “new-fangled” in Italian. But I’m sure that’s what she meant.) But there’s an ATM right next door so you should be fine.

GAGLIARDI E MARI, viale Trastevere 109, tel. 06.58333206


13 Responses to “Parasol Party and Hats”

  1. Miss Expatria July 24, 2008 at 3:15 pm #

    I think I would actually use a parasol. Simply because my gay mafia would expect me to.

    I have Google stalked almost everyone I know.

    Love the hat!! Get a tiny plastic poppy to cover the stain.

    Is it wool?

  2. Lisa July 24, 2008 at 3:34 pm #

    When we were there in March, the street vendors were selling weird doll things that made jabbering noises. Cannot imagine who would want them. EXCEPT for the fact that they apparently conveniently turn into umbrellas at the first sign of rain–at least if you’re a street vendor. Maybe the parasols do, too.

    BTW, those mini-fedoras are all the rage in California (Hollywood and parts south). Especially in brown. Go figure.

  3. finnyknits July 24, 2008 at 3:46 pm #

    AAAA!!! I love it! I love both hats (hot!) and that Vincenzo *just had* to pose with you.

    Plus, can you believe, I’m just now learning what that scar is on your eye? How long have we been friends and I never knew? Anyway – careful!

    I agree with Expatria – get a flower or broach to cover that stain if Adolfa can’t get it out.

    What is it about Rome that makes people buy hats? If you recall, that’s when I bought my fabulous hat and I’ll tell you, hardly ever get the urge here.

  4. nyc/caribbean ragazza July 24, 2008 at 4:39 pm #

    I love your hat!

    re: the parasols, at least they don’t make noise like some of the other “wonderful” items the street vendors sell.

  5. SunnyInspiration July 24, 2008 at 4:48 pm #

    Omigosh! He’s so cute!! (I’m so curious now which guy I need to find through the parasol blog. hehee) Glad you’re posting more regularly again! ~D

  6. janavi July 24, 2008 at 6:06 pm #

    I’ve been using Chinese parasols for a long time. I gave up on hats because they flattened my hair so much. And I’ve googled ex’s tho I’ve always felt I was being pathetic.

  7. Janet July 24, 2008 at 8:24 pm #

    Ohmygod, Shelley, I so love your entries. You have gotten to be an expert storyteller! Please don’t stop!

  8. Barry July 24, 2008 at 9:47 pm #

    That is a great story and charming pics.

    I would love to find myself in Trastevere again. We visited Rome for the first time this past April and my wife and I both bought hats…something I never do. It is a leather Vere Pelle (size 60), made in Firenze, and I can be seen modeling it here:

    I like your blog and will miss it when you move back to the USA.

  9. Angelatini July 24, 2008 at 10:43 pm #

    Parasols have long been a part of rockabilly culture, and a lot of the girls use them. I was cursing myself for not packing one on my visit to Milan in June. GOD it was hot. At least I know somewhere is smart enough to sell them in Italy for those who are white as paper. hahaha


    p.s. how DO you handle the heat in Rome?

  10. Sara, Ms. Adventures in Italy July 24, 2008 at 11:02 pm #

    I am missing my hats right now – it’s windy in SF and I can barely see with my hair blowing all around ๐Ÿ™‚ Where’s the pic of you and the parasol?

  11. Shelley July 25, 2008 at 8:05 am #

    Miss: Yep, it’s wool. It’s actually called “lana fresca” or something like that, “cool wool.” It’s not too bad despite the summer temps. Right now Rome is sooooo perfect. This is the best summer ever, the air is cool in the mornings, not too hot during the day… I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it lasts until the end of August.

    Lisa: Yay, I’m trendy! I had no idea. I used to work with UC students and that’s how I would keep up with things but now I am very out of the loop. As for the jabbering dolls, I’ve unfortunately never seen them, but sounds like it all comes from the same warehouse. Ever see the little Smart cars that make all kinds of noises, flashing lights, horn honking, etc? They put them in shoebox lids to demonstrate their incredible powers of bumping off of things and turning around. I swear to God I have come *this* close to buying one on several occasions.

    Finn: Can’t believe I never told you that story! There was a football game and I had my cheerleading outfit on (yes, people, I was one of them… sorry to disappoint) so with the blood all over the place it looked like some B horror pic. Awesome, let me tell you. When I came staggering in to the nurse’s office I scared the living bejeezus out of the kids faking a cold to get out of science class.

    Arlene: Thanks! Oh, and I had forgotten the noise making devices. Like those stupid clicking things. What ARE those? My aunt bought one when she was here. I’m sure it’s driving everyone nuts in Washington state.

    Sunny: Now you know (via email). Do you remember him??

    Janavi: We can be pathetic together. At least I feel like I’m not the only one now.

    Janet: You are too sweet! I am going to see if I can keep up posting in English when I move to the States, although a lot of it probably won’t interest English-speaking folk (I plan to comment on all the things that Italians find interesting/odd, etc about the States. Things that we tend to take for granted and don’t find odd.)

    Barry: I knew I wasn’t the only one who liked to model Italian hats!!

    Ange: I don’t. I suffer. SUFFAH. I’m telling you!

    Sara: MISS YOU!!!!!!!!!!! I might just take a pic with a parasol, but only because YOU asked me… I wonder how much those puppies cost? What’s your guess? 5 euro? Think I could bargain them down??

  12. janavi July 27, 2008 at 2:40 pm #

    In NY the parasols only cost about $5

  13. Angelatini July 29, 2008 at 4:20 pm #

    I was dying in the NORTH in June. I can’t imagine Rome. My heart TOTALLY goes out to you. Hey! If you’re moving back to the Seattle area please let me know if you’d like to get coffee! My fiance (from Milan) will likely be here and be my husband by that time. He enjoys your blog, as well. And I am sure he wouldn’t mind speaking Italian amongst all the Americanos! ๐Ÿ™‚


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