Melbourne in May.
The leafy streets turn all shades of red and yellow and my constant craving – longing for the European seasons – suddenly is satisfied. It’s autumn, here in the Southern Hemisphere, and it couldn’t look prettier.
To me, it started to feel a lot like Autumn a few weeks ago, on a delightfully sunny, yet crisp Sunday. That afternoon, I jumped on a tram directed to Collingwood, one of the city’s most vibrant suburbs. You get a real feel of the area you are in when travelling on a tram – and when art galleries and barber shops slowly started popping up between the endless rows of Victorian townhouses, I knew immediately we were nearly there.
My stop was in Smith Street, Collingwood’s high street. The light had a saturated quality to it, so typical of autumn. On the streets, people were walking at a leisurely pace, coats under arm and scarves casually undone, while soaking in the sun rays.
The moment I landed on the footpath I overheard a lady introducing the area to a group of people she was chaperoning around “prepare for the visual feast ”. It made me smile. She was right, everything on Smith Street looks charming, especially the shabby buildings and the crowds sitting down at cafés, lining up in indie bookshops, digging through stacks of vinyl at the record store and browsing in vintage boutiques.
While waiting for a friend I decided to grab a coffee at the renowned Alimentari, the Italian eatery that has become an institution for hungry Melbournians since it opened 15 years ago. I didn’t even have to look for it, I just strolled along until I was naturally stopped by the intensified foot traffic by their shop front.
Inside, a buzzing atmosphere welcomed me: music and chatter of people sharing earthy meals together, topped off by the sound of constantly working espresso machines and baristas yelling out orders.
Before I could notice anything else though, it was the well-known colours of wicker baskets, artisanal bread, DeCecco pasta and tinned Pelati against a sombre palette of green and marble countertops that hit me. It all felt heartwarmingly familiar – it was the Eggs Benedict and Latte orders that quickly brought me back to reality.
Yes, definitely still in Melbourne.
The interiors were on point: an elegant juxtaposing of traditional 1950s Italy and contemporary elements. It is an open space, with high ceilings and industrial light fittings, the perfect canvas for the rather vast, panelled counters that seem to wrap around the whole place. Every object on the counters seems to be unintentionally placed in the most perfect spot for it: a pile of mismatching plates, a vintage guillotine, jars of pickles, bowls of Gianduiotti and Baci Perugina and the occasional enamelware. It isn’t an easy task, to create such an evocative space that feels so organic and not staged. It is pure genius really.
The waiters were frantically moving the gorgeous bentwood chairs to accommodate new customers, so I decided to have my coffee to go. Also, it might have been autumn already, but I did spot such a lovely little gelateria on the way…
All images Ph Benedetta Martini