Io Adoro

Hello, my name is Arlene Antoinette Gibbs and I have a Sicily problem.

It’s bad.  Every time I go, i wish I could stay longer.  There’s so much of the island I haven’t seen yet, for example the entire West Coast, the interior, and other islands like Stromboli, Lampedusa, etc. etc.

This time I was on the island for a week, Mt. Etna then Ortigia, for vacation (and to celebrate my birthday).

“It’s good to back,” I said to Rosa, the newish manager, when I walked into the reception room at Monaci delle Terre Nere.   Last year I wrote about Monaci and my first trip to the Sicilian mainland for FATHOM.

This time I stayed in the Floreale room.


The bathroom!


Photos: Monaci

The view from my balcony.


Lunch was served by the pool.

The first time I went to Monaci, it was raining and winter so I had no idea how spectacular the views were. The grounds are gorgeous.


The main villa at sunset.  I would like to decorate a Sicilian villa one day.


One morning I jogged around the forty acre property.  Most of the food served at Monaci comes from their organic gardens. There is a huge chicken coop.  I hesitate to call it a coop.  It’s more like a palace as it’s bigger than my apartment. Lucky chickens.

The breakfast spread was serious.  On the other side were eggs, cheeses, salumi, cakes, breads, cereals, and many other things I didn’t have a chance to try.


I had to buy a jar of their honey.  Fifteen percent of the honey made in Italy comes from this small town.


I had some great Sicilian wines.   I love their aperitivi.  Although there were more guests during this trip (the hotel was at full occupancy) fewer people went to the aperitivi. Perhaps they thought it wasn’t child appropriate?


Several rooms, located a few meters from the main house, have been renovated now. The atmosphere during high season was completely different from off-season. There were lots of families and half the tourists were American.

I had a moment with a fellow American guest who was so rude, it took my breath away.  I believe I had a strong reaction to her snub because it was completely out of context.  The vibe at Monaci is very friendly and chill.  The owners, Guido and Ada, are lovely and as are the other people who work there.  For this basic lady to not understand that said a lot about her.

As soon as I sat down with my book by the pool, I got over it.  I was in a beautiful place and no one was going to put a damper on that.

A slight scent of Sicilian jasmine, and lavender filled the air.  There were roosters in the background and sometimes the volcano “groaned”, loudly.  It was very relaxing despite the sounds coming from Mt. Etna.

A grazie mille to Rosa, Sara, Federico, Nujuan, Salvatore, and of course Guido and Ada for helping make this the best birthday ever.

Note:  My room was in the main villa and on the same floor as the kitchen. I’m an early riser, so I never heard a peep from the kitchen or from the downstairs reception area.

From Monaci, I went to Oritigia.  This time I rented an apartment on the other side of the village.  I couldn’t understand why it was cheaper than my place from last year.  It had a terrace with a partial sea view.

It’s because that side of the town wasn’t completely regentrified, yet.

As you can see in the photos below, some of the buildings are derelict and the empty former prison is on the left.  I liked being only two blocks away from the farmers market but can see how that might not be appealing.

I had to work a bit during my vacation but at least I had a view.


Love the old faded tiles on the right.


Before unpacking, I ran out to get pick up some yogurt, wine, and other important things.  All of a sudden I heard my name and it was X, Erica’s daughter.  Once again, without planning it, our apartments were only blocks away from each other.

The tiny piazza in front of my building at night.


The architecture here is incredible.  Remember to look up.


My friends at Casa Mia wrote about Tabaré (Sicilian dialect for tray) and I had to check it out.  It’s a must.


On my birthday we went to Arenella beach.  We got there early and scored great beach chairs, second row.  It was my first trip to a Sicilian beach and I had a great time.  I love how people of all shapes and sizes rock bikinis and Speedos.


Later that night we went to dinner.  In Italy when it’s your birthday and you invite people to celebrate with you, you pay.  It makes sense to me. You’re the host. I have some American friends who really have an issue with this custom but it’s not just an Italian thing. In the Caribbean if you invite people out for your birthday, you pay.  I get it if you’re in your early 20s and you meet at a bar or something. However, by your 40s/50s and up, the whole invite people to celebrate you and then expect them to pay is a little odd to me.


After dinner Erica insisted on treating me to a post dinner drink in the main piazza.  This is probably one of my favorite churches and piazzas in Italy.  It is ridiculously beautiful.


I was worked up about this birthday but in the end, it turned out to be a perfect day.  Thank you, Ms. Firpo and Ms. Arya.

I’ve been back for less than two weeks and I’m already trying to figure out when I can return. I’m tempted to join one of my friends in Rome who has to go to there for work in October.  Seriously.

Photos (except for the first two): me and my iPhone

Of course there was drama.

My friend Marta and I decided to get the heck out of dodge as this heatwave is one of the worst on record.  There are no signs of relief.  I understand week or so with these kind of temperatures.  It is, after all, July in Rome.  However, an entire month of highs in the 90s and low 100s is not a good thing.

Did I mention that I don’t have air conditioning? I cannot keep my windows open at night as my pretty side street is filled with demonstrative high school Italian students, and drunk American exchange students until dawn.

I’m waking up at 4:00 a.m. as it’s impossible to sleep.  One of my clients is started a major construction project this week so I cannot work remotely in the mountains or at the beach as some friends have suggested.

All this say Marta and I were READY to get out of here on Saturday but alas, Trenitalia had other plans for us.

It was one of those classic only in Italy moments.  The train was on time but then got stuck on the track just a few yards away from Termini Station.  There was something wrong with the current.  We couldn’t get off the train as we were on the tracks.  There was no place to safely walk.  They worked on the train and tracks for TWO hours.  Mind you, the train ride to Fondi is an hour or so.

At last, the train returns to the station and that’s when all hell broke loose.  Folks were not happy.  One woman was going off on the police.  I thought if she were in the States they probably would’ve tased her, then arrested her.

It’s funny, when we on the train things were pretty calm.  While there was some muttering, “ma che cazzo sta dicendo” (but, what the fuck is he saying?) when the conductor walked through our car to give us updates, people kept reading or chatting with their friends instead of complaining.

They did have another train waiting for us, on a different track, right away.  Trenitalia employees handed out bottles of water, which I thought was a nice touch.

Finally, we were on our way.  Instead of waiting for the bus (at this point we were starving) we hopped into a taxi mini-van with several other women who were going to Sperlonga.  They had been on the same train as us. When we saw the beach, they started clapping.  We kept cracking up because the driver was having a super animated conversation.

In a bizarre way the timing worked out better for us.  We arrived in time for lunch.  The restaurant, Scylla, was on the north side of the Historic Center and we wanted to be on the south side beach.  To climb back and forth wouldn’t have made sense.  So we sat down, had a lovely lunch, and then braved the sun to walk up and over to the other side.

Everyone was snapping photos of this sign.



I forgot all about the start to our day once we arrived.



Still thinking about this dish.



Sperlonga is a Blue Flag beach between Rome and Naples.



Starting our climb back up to the Historic Center.  I have written about Tiberius’s ruins HERE. It’s a great day trip from Rome.



A quick aperitivi in the main piazza before returning to Rome.  I didn’t want to leave the fresh air and cool breeze.



Fantastic signage.



The view from the bus stop.





A few years ago I wrote about how much I adore the boutique accessories label founded by Andrea Ferolla and Daria Rein, Chez Dédé.

There has been a lot of retail space turnover in our neighborhood.  Antique stores, artisans, etc., are shutting down and Subway fast food restaurants, and other weird sandwich shops are taking over.  There have been some great additions, like the Suppli spot but for every one of those there are four or five  places that leave locals scratching their heads.

Via Monserrato is one of the prettiest streets in Rome.  When I saw the large for rent sign where Ilaria MIani’s showroom used to be, I became very nervous.  What kind of janky business would set up shop on this street?

Then I saw this:



The store had its opening last week. Erica and I walked over and bumped into a bunch of our neighbors. One of our favorite bartenders, Fabrizio from Pierluigi, made the Kir Royales.

Unfortunately, for me, the store is stunning.  I should just leave my wallet there and let them take my money.  All of it.

Erica completely fan-girled LInda Rodin. I don’t blame her.  Ms. Rodin is a style icon for a reason. She was so gracious and didn’t give us the side-eye for geeking out.

I think I need to treat myself to a nice Grand Sac bag for my birthday.  It’s a big one (no, I’m not going to say which birthday it is as I still work in Hollywood).  I haven’t decided which bag yet. The island of Salina is one of my favorite places in the world but I also love the colors/style of the Portofino, Kenya, and Dubai bags.  I haven’t been to any of those places, so I think I should go with the Salina bag.

Below are photos from the opening.  Grazie mille, Daria for the invite!


Okay, I wrote this yesterday with the plan to publish today. I like to proof read before publishing yet, some typos still make it through. Grrrr.

On Saturday my friend Courtney called me and said she had to speak with me urgently on Sunday.  I asked what was wrong. Why couldn’t she tell me over the phone?  I was working all day on Sunday but said I would meet her in the afternoon.  Erica wanted me to stop by her daughter’s lemonade stand. I said I was on my way to meet Courtney but would stop by. I was worried about Courtney.  Erica said she was too and hoped that everything was okay.

I show up at Etablli.  Courtney sends a SMS saying she’s on her way and she asks me to order her a glass of wine. What the heck was going on? Was her news so heavy she needed to have a drink in hand?

She walks in and Erica (!) is right behind her.  They say, “Happy Birthday” and then this happened:


I had no idea they were planning this!  Erica thought I was going to buy the bag before my birthday so she and Courtney went into action over the weekend.  My birthday isn’t until August 26th.

I was/am floored.  I am not an easy person to surprise and they totally got me.  Well played ladies, well played.  I love my bag.

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Andrea is a very talented illustrator.



Linda Rodin. Fabulous.


Erica and Linda.



So true.

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Photos: Me and my iPhone

Finally, my jet lag is over.  It was much worse in Los Angeles and ended shortly before my return flight to Rome.  How wonderful!

The LCDQ Legends interior designer conference is one of the most popular events in the industry. I’ve heard designers call it the Coachaella or the Oscars of interior design.  There were more than ten thousand RSVPs for the three-day event, with designers from over twenty-four states, and one hundred and fifty designers traveling to Los Angele from overseas.

This was my first year attending. It was fantastic. There were Interesting and informative panel discussions, fun parties, and over sixty-seven inspiring window displays.

Not only did I enjoy visiting some of my favorite (and new) showrooms, I appreciated the style of my fellow decorators. Folks were not playing. It does make sense that many interior designers/decorators have a great sense of style.  I forgot how super casual Los Angeles is until I saw someone walk into Urth Cafe in Beverly Hills wearing pajamas bottoms.  I’m talking about the sloppy, comfortable ones you sleep in, not the dressy ones you would wear to a party.

I also had Hollywood film/TV meetings but since this is not a screenwriting blog, all I will say is that everyone is talking about EMPIRE.  We’ll see how this hit show changes the landscape.

There were many highlights and I left feeling very energized (and determined to move to a new neighborhood).

Opening night gala.  My friend Corrina (an interior design junkie) came with me.  It was packed.  The food was delicious.  I felt drunk despite not drinking at all.  The jet lag struggle was real that night.



The official kick off.  The Bloggers Breakfast.  I met Erinn Valencich from American Dream Builders. So nice. Perhaps my experience is not the norm, but I’m constantly surprised by how friendly and helpful people are in this industry.  At the conference I met some serious A-listers and they couldn’t be more down to earth. It’s shocking!

There were many famous design bloggers attending the breakfast but the room was so crowed it was impossible to move around. I found out who was at the event after seeing their Instagram feeds.

Yes, I took a photo of this Italian shower head. I love that other people were also taking photos of faucets and shower heads. I could spend hours discussing such things.



I’ve written about Peter Dunham before. His showroom, Hollywood at Home, has moved to a new location. Beautiful. I ordered some fabric samples for my Anguilla beach house project.



You know how I feel about Peonies.



Peter’s famous Fig Leaf print.



How gorgeous is this dark blue club chair at Mecox?



This table? Perfect for a bedroom, entryway, or a small office.



Everyone was so cheerful.  It really unnerved me. Ha!

This photo was taken at the ELLE DECOR Power Luncheon.  Very pretty and again, great food.



Lulu Powers making Aperol Spritz before the “Entertaining – The Home As A Social Stage” panel, with Susan McFadden, Kathryn M. Ireland, Russ Diamond, and Lulu.

The take away?  Dining rooms are not obsolete, despite what developers of McMansions say. They’re being used differently, less formal.  I agree and wish I had one.



I read Windsor Smith’s new book once I returned to Rome.  I highly recommend adding it to your library.  It was great to meet Windsor and to spend time in the Arteriors‘ showroom.



I love that Arteriors was serving cocktails at 2:30 p.m. on a Friday afternoon.  Unfortunately, I was driving non-stop in Los Angeles.  Still, I enjoyed the festive atmosphere.



One of the most popular events is the Moore and Giles cocktail party, co-chaired by Harbinger LA and the Hearst shelter magazines (Veranda, Elle Decor, and House Beautiful) in the Harbinger backyard.

More Aperol Spritz.  The Italian inspired menu was catered by Lulu Powers and was delicious.



My incredible experience ended with an intimate party at Kathryn M. Ireland’s beautiful home.  I forgot my phone (the HORROR!).

Paloma Contreras of La Dolce Vita blog wrote a post about it.

Ireland has moved her West Hollywood showroom next door to her textile printing shop on Washington street. Outside, it looks like any other nondescript industrial space. Inside, is a completely different story.

I cannot believe it’s been almost three years since I attended her Interior Design Boot Camp.  It was one of the best investments I’ve made in my career.  It was also a lot of fun.





Work in progress.  Hand printed textiles.


Photos: My and my iPhone.

I cannot believe it’s Christmas 2014 already. Where did this year go?

In a sea filled with awful news (I really need to ease up on how much I watch and read everyday), it’s good to be reminded of joyous things.

Last Friday my friend, Gina, invited me to meet her, Rachel, and Elizabeth at their friend Alice’s holiday pop-up bakery.  Alice Is a food stylist and cook.  Her gingerbread cookies were delicious.  I wonder if it’s possible to order some during the off season.  I must investigate.

I loved the simple decorations, the Prosecco, and most importantly, sharing them with friends old and new.



It’s not easy to be far away from my family during the holidays, but I feel very fortunate to be surrounded by an incredible group of friends.

Merry Christmas!!


There has been great deal of press about the new Design Director of Tiffany & Co., Francesca Amfitheatrof.  She is the first woman to have this position at the storied American jewelry company.  The job had been vacant for five years. Ms. Amfitheatrof had some big shoes to fill.

Ms. Amfitheatrof, who trained with a master silversmith in Padua after college, has created pieces for Chanel, Alessi, and Fendi.  She was born in Japan to an Italian mother and a Russian-American father, who was a TIME bureau chief, and grew up in New York, Rome, London, and Moscow.

I love her new collection for Tiffany.  This bracelet is so simple and so chic.


18 karat rose gold bracelet


Narrow Wire 18 karat white gold bracelet


18 Karat gold braclet

I have read some comments claiming that this collection is not all that.  It’s TOO simple, “Hello it’s just a T. My kid could do that.”   I cringe when I hear people make those kind of statements about any kind of creative endeavor.

The simpler something is, the easier it is to mess it up.  Look at Cacio e Pepe, not many ingredients but a difficult dish to execute well.  There are no bells and whistles to hide imperfections.  Every single ingredient has to be of excellent quality.

It’s is the same thing with these bracelets (yes, I just compared high-end jewelry to a simple Roman pasta dish).

You can wear these bracelet with many different styles of clothing.  I think they are destined to become classics like some of Elsa Peretti’s pieces.   The Tiffany T bracelet is the very definition of Stylish Simplicity.

Photos: Tiffany

Anguilla is quite the A-list celebrity/VIP destination these days.  However, the small island has managed to retain it’s relaxed, quiet charm.

My most recent piece for FATHOM Magazine went live today.


ANGUILLA – I wish I could say I have always appreciated this beautiful island. That would be untrue.

When my family moved from New York City to the leafy suburbs of Verona, New Jersey, I knew I had to become a true American teenager. I was hampered by my parents’ insistence on raising their children as if we were a family living in the Caribbean.

My parents are from St. Martin (totally different from the Dutch side, St. Maarten) and both my grandmothers were Anguillian. Whenever we went to St. Martin to stay with my paternal grandparents, we ferried over to Anguilla to visit family and friends. When I was a child it, was fun to hang out with my cousins, go the beaches, and stuff ourselves on Johnnycakes, rice and peas, and salt fish cakes. But as for the stunning white beaches of the island, they were lost on me when I was older. I mean, I was a teenager. Visiting relative after relative while sitting on their verandas for hours drinking Ting was boring.

The final anti-island straw happened one night when I was walking back to my aunt’s house and a mongoose ran across my foot. I was done. I thought, “I could be chilling at the Short Hills Mall with my friends instead of being stuck on this tiny island.”

It wasn’t until my parents moved to back to St. Martin after retirement and I moved to Rome that I began to understand why those trips back home were so important.

To read the rest and see more pictures, click HERE.


The beach at Cap Juluca with the island of St. Martin/St. Maarten in the background.

Photo: Me and my iPHone


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