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The M Dash

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A Love Letter to Italy and the Sneakers We’ll Wear Next Time We Visit

Whether you’re on an after-dinner gelato crawl in Rome, or just eating a popsicle on your best friend’s stoop in New York, wearing our new KOIOs just makes everything a little more delicious.

By Sofia Rainaldi

I’ve avoided thinking about going back to Italy for most of the last year. It’s where my family is from, where I’ve gotten wonderfully lost too many times, and where I’ve eaten my favorite meals. But with travel restrictions in place and protecting others top of mind, I knew it would be a while before I could visit again. Then I saw our new sneaker collaboration with KOIO, and I damn near booked a ticket. 

The pairs-with-anything, always-comfortable shoes were born and raised in Italy. The craftsmanship is exquisite—it’s what originally drew our Chief Creative Officer, Miyako, to partner with the brand in the first place. Aside from that, they’re also just a beautiful, travel-friendly shoe. So while that plane ticket hasn’t been purchased quite yet, they got me thinking that it seems sensible to have a plan for when I (or you) can wear these sneakers to the motherland—a plan that lets me explore their home country to the fullest. Here’s where I’ll plan on going (and of course, what I’ll be wearing and eating along the way). 

I’ll land in Rome and spend a few days wandering the Eternal City. For that endlessly-fascinating maze, I’d go with the KOIO sneakers in smoke—a delightful light gray. When I wake up jet-lagged on the first day, I’ll pull them on with a skinny but stretchy pant and take advantage of the peace around town before everyone else wakes up. Then I’ll get a macchiato and sit on a stoop, taking tiny, frothy sips and watching the traffic ramp up as the city comes to life for the two-thousandth year in a row. Afterwards, I’ll cross the Tiber into the older medieval neighborhoods that escaped the re-organizations of the Renaissance and get lost in Trastevere. The benefit of this neighborhood is that you can properly double back on yourself about eight times, all the while never running out of hibiscus to smell or new stores to poke around in. Inevitably, I’ll run across a little aperitivo bar and take this as a sign from the universe to sit and indulge. My feet won’t be sore (again, good shoes), but I’ll be thirsty after exploring all day.

Italians are obsessed with craft—from the source of each ingredient to the training and focus required to bring them together perfectly. Sometimes, this focus manifests itself in a pair of incredibly well-made shoes, and sometimes it manifests in a pitch-perfect bowl of pasta. Before I leave Rome, I’ll slip on a brightly patterned dress and track down an unforgettable cacio e pepe. Made with only pasta, salt, Parmigiano Reggiano, and lots of cracked pepper, it can be nothing special if made lazily—but I won’t be here to track down a lazy one. Instead, I’ll make my way to Da Enzo al 29 and wait patiently for a table to open up (I’ll get there at 7pm sharp to make this dream come true). And why not order the carbonara and the artichoke as well? Maybe the arancini, too. And the ricotta. And whatever wine sounds good. And the tiramisu. And!

After I’ve exhausted Rome—the museums, the ruins, the heartbreakingly perfect pistachio gelato—I’ll pick up a sturdy little toaster of a car and start driving. A few hours north of Rome, there’s Civita di Bagnoregio, a hovering oasis of a town that looks more like a Pixar animation sequence than a reality. It isn’t the liveliest corner of the world, but that’s the point. There are no cars in Bagnoregio—just some birds and zephyrs. To reach it, I must park my little toaster and climb up a walkway that isn’t a great fit if you’re afraid of heights. Sneakers are essential here. I’ll pack an easy, soft-as-a-dream dress for a change of clothes and my azalea KOIOs, as they’re a perfect fit for this dreamscape. The just-saturated-enough pink will go with everything you want to wear, and everything around you, as well. Miyako selected the pink shade to be worn as a component of the tonal dressing that works its way into the styling of our brand. They pair just as nicely with the Leslie in pebble as they do with warm cobblestones, terra cotta pots full of basil, and late afternoon sun.

From there, I’ll wind my way up through Umbria and into Tuscany. But first, I’ll hop into elevated shorts and keep the pink sneakers on—they’re perfect for wandering whatever tiny little towns I come across, sampling all the different ages of pecorino, or doing an accidental ten mile walk through Florence (my eventual destination). I’ll end the ten-mile walk at the Uffizi and stare at Botticelli’s Primavera for a while. Of course, I’ll eat as much ice cream/gelato/sorbet as humanly possible, since I will be in its birthplace, after all. Let’s not forget that the Duomo is always farther away than it looks.

Then, I’ll have a decision to make. For some salt air and the perfect pasta alla vongole that comes with it, I can head east to the coast and hop on a ferry to Elba. Or, if I want to truly understand where these chic kicks come from, I can peel off west to the province of Marche. The pebbled leather, the lasts (the molds of the foot that allow the shoemakers to model and work the leather into the ideal shape), and even the packaging all come from the local area. At the KOIO factory, Gianluca (the head lastmaker) and his colleagues have been producing the highest-quality lasts for 70 years. Luckily, they’ve kept an archive of all the different iterations. Because I’m an unapologetic history nerd who loves a good library, I’ll have to explore it this its entirety.

And if I don’t end up getting on a plane this summer? That’s ok—I can make it work. I’ll put on a playlist filled with rippling, sunny songs. I’ll pull on the brightest sneakers in my arsenal and find a picnic blanket, a crisp, cold white wine, something to nibble on, and lots of sunscreen. I can wear some luxuriously easy linen and sip overly fizzy sparkling water. And I can call a good friend with an overactive imagination to join me, then head to any nearby patch of grass and laze in the sun. Tutto va bene.

Written By

Sofia Rainaldi

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