This is a thought I was having back in London for a long time, but our travels have pretty much confirmed it, and it is that, fifteen centuries after the fall of Rome, five centuries after the Renaissance, northern Italy – and, to an extent, France – still radiates its culture throughout the Western world. Only this time, it’s not about art or philosophy or science, but things that are more subtle – though in the archaeological record, centuries from now, may prove to be the most dominant.
For what is a modern hipster – or a 60’s mod, or a 1800s dandy – if not a wannabe “Continental”? Italy and France don’t need hipsters – they are hip, and always have been. When the archaeologists dig up the ruins of central London or New York, what will they find? Vespas and espresso machines; shoes from Milan and artisan pizza stoves from Naples. It will be as if Rome had never fallen. The “fads” of drinking good coffee and eating good food, that the press likes to write so disparagingly about, are no fads south of the Channel, but a way of life: and even if London one day goes back to its pickled eggs and potted prawns and builder’s teas, Italy and France will remain cool, well fed and handsomely-dressed forever, a ready source of inspiration for another wave of “Continentalism” to strike the Anglo-Saxon shores.