I drop in again on Pauline at Fendi, and after I confess that I'm more or less a professional shopper, she insists, "You must go and see Signora Adriana at La Parisienne!" So I retrace my steps and return to the Piazzetta, to the large, old-world shop that has occupied this corner of the square since 1906.
"We were wondering when you would come talk to us!" says Adriana di Fiore, the second-generation proprietor, beaming as I enter the store. The place is actually a series of rooms displaying everything from those comfy Capri smocks to radically chic, shot-silver hiphuggers. "I have my workshop in Via Roma," she says. "We make things in one day, the way my mother did sixty years ago." Di Fiore claims to have invented capri pants, and who's to argue?"Here is Jackie Kennedy in the capri pants I make," she says, her voice like a tiny bird, turning the pages of a well-worn scrapbook just like the one at Alberto e Lina. "Here is Oona Chaplin, Fredric March, Yvonne DeCarlo."
Suddenly she snaps to attention. A couple of serious customers in the casual garb favored by 21st-century socialites—he's in a Tommy Hilfiger T-shirt, she's in semi-transparent white shorts and a straw hat—express an interest in special-ordering a two-tone chiffon, crystal-buttoned jean-style jacket in just the right shades of royal blue and cherry. Though the exchange takes place in Italian, it's easy to understand why La Parisienne has been in business for almost 100 years. Bolts of fabric are coming up from the basement, and di Fiore has a keen look on her face and a tape measure in her teeth.
I could watch them debate the nuances of silk shades for hours, but the sun is lowering over the Gran Caffè Vuotto, and I need to hurry across the Piazzetta, down Via Vittorio Emanuele, past the Quisisana and over to "Worth Avenue," where a gladstone is waiting to be wrapped well enough to withstand a funicular ride to the harbor, a ferry across the bay to Naples, a cab to the Naples airport, a short hop to Rome, and a 10-hour sojourn in an overhead compartment across the Atlantic. n