Archive

Me Myself and I

I would say Happy New Year, but it’s already January 21th.

After living in the Historic Center on Via del Pellegrino for seven years, I have moved to a new neighborhood. I now live in Parioli.

To say this is a big change would be an understatement.

One of the biggest changes was moving from a furnished apartment to an unfurnished one. I was very fortunate that my former landlady had a great eye but I’m excited to finally have my own furniture.

Finding an apartment that was unfurnished was not easy. Smaller apartments tend to be furnished and in Italy/France if your place is unfurnished it usually means you have to buy a kitchen as well. I didn’t have the time or the budget to build a kitchen.

I lucked out in finding a place that was semi-furnished; meaning the kitchen was already installed.

I’m still getting settled. I have no Internet. Who knows when it will be installed? Could be next week, could be next month. I’m zen about the whole thing as I realized flipping out on Vodafone would not make things move faster.

For over twenty-five years, I have lived in homes with white walls. I decided to get out of my comfort zone and paint my front hallway a dark blue. Here some pictures that inspired me to get my Steven Gambrel on.

A sea of blue in Mr. Gambrel’s West Tenth Street townhouse.

 

A deep blue foyer in Paris.

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Photo: Elle Decoration via Habitually Chic

 

Jeannette Whitson’s library which created quite a decorating stir.

 

I went with Farrow & Ball’s Stiffkey Blue.

 

I will post some pictures as it comes together. Who knows when it will be done? Story of my life.

Wait a minute.  How is it Christmas Eve already?!

It’s a miracle that I’m still alive to write this short post. The farmer market was madness this morning.  I was there at 7:45 a.m. and the nonne were out in force.  One nonna and I almost got into fisticuffs over tortellini.

The past few weeks have been pretty crazy at work so I haven’t been as Christmasy as I would like.  I’m going to start right now (better late than never) with a favorite.

I hope your holidays are wonderful.

 

 

 

 

The wonderful women at Italy Casa Mia asked me to write a guest post about where to have delicious cocktails in Rome.  It was hard work, very difficult research.

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Photo: Gina Tringali

However, somehow I was able to complete this assignment.

Quite a bit of ink has been spilled recenty regarding how the cocktail scene has improved in Rome. I don’t know what it was like before but I agree that yes, it is possible to have a cocktail in Rome. Anyone who tells you that the only thing to drink is wine or an Aperol Spritz (not that there’s anything wrong with either of them) is incorrect.

While a great bartender (or mixologist as they’re called today) is key, the atmosphere is just as important. There are some spots where the drinks are good but I cannot get into the vibe and/or décor.

Of course this list is very subjective. Below are the places my friends and I tend to go to time and time again. Not on the list are a few bars some of my younger friends love. To paraphrase Lethal Weapon, “I’m too old for that foolishness.” This is a grown folks list.

First up, in alphabetical order, the hotel bars. I’ve heard that back in the day (perhaps 2003?) the best chance for a decent cocktail was at a hotel bar but the prices tend to be higher.

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This hotel opened two years ago on the gorgeous Via Giulia. A former convent, the tiny downstairs bar is seriously sexy with its dark greys. They make a great French 75. In warmer months, head upstairs to the lovely rooftop terrace.
Note: On weekend nights, the bar gets very crowded. There’s usually a line (and a list) to get in.

To read the rest of my list, click HERE.  Buon drinking!

 

 

I’m not sure why I started blogging ten years ago today.

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The blogging world has changed a great deal since my first post POST.    Back then nobody was making money from blogging.  It was way to communicate, connect, and create.

I rarely read old posts.  Some make me cringe (and not just because of all the typos), others make me thankful I got the heck out Los Angeles, and then there are the posts with the hilarious comments.  The randomness of the posts is bizarre.  One post would be about some serious foreign policy debate and the very next day I would write about an annoying Black Eye Peas song.

At first I used a pseudonym and didn’t tell anyone, outside of close friends, in Hollywood that I had a blog.  Like many other long-time bloggers, I don’t delete old posts…even the embarrassing ones.  These posts are a snapshot of what was going on in the world and/or my life at the time.

There’s much debate about the future of blogs and blogging.  Who knows what will happen. I do know that readers are turned off by constant shilling.

I’m glad I started a blog a decade ago.  Through it I found my voice again and met some great people (several who are close friends to this day).  I wouldn’t have moved to Italy without that blog.  My life would be completely different.

Yes, the title is a question not a statement.  This is a road my entrepreneur/freelancing friends and I are trying to navigate.

I was thinking about this while walking home after meeting up with some girlfriends.

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They are a dynamic group of women.

However, one thing I have noticed time and time again (especially when I worked in Hollywood) is that so many of my female friends tend to downplay their success.  They say they’re lucky or get embarrassed when talking about their accomplishments.  Meanwhile, my male friends and colleagues would proudly discuss their success and many would take credit for things they didn’t even do.

Perhaps there is a fine line between bragging and just stating the facts.  What is it?

Is being too humble holding us back?  I’m not saying we need to go to a Trumpian level of bloviating but the constant self-deprecating, aww shucks thing needs to stop.

Even my friends who were born with a sliver platter, hustle.  True, their family’s influence helped them get in the door but they stay in the room because they’re great at what they do.  Luck is only a small part of their success.

Recently, the very talented Felicia Sullivan asked me to be part of a series she’s writing on successful female entrepreneurs.  At first, I wondered why would she want to interview me.  My friend Erica knocked some sense into me and I did the interview.  Then she told me I had to Tweet about it a few times over the next few months. I haven’t. Why not?

The fact that there’s a popular hastag called #humblebrag speaks volumes.  Why be passive aggressive?  A agent friend in Hollywood told me that there’s nothing wrong with with tooting your own horn as long as you also toot the horn of others.  Nobody wants to see or read a feed that is me, me, me, 24/7.

When I think about the self-promotion that turns me off, it’s because the person only talks about themselves. Always.

So I say go ahead and tell the world about the great things you’re doing. How will people know unless you have a publicist? Maybe some people won’t think these things are that great, special, or interesting. That’s okay.  It’s something you’re proud of.

I’m going to work on my own self-deprecating responses.  I now know I won’t succeed if I only dwell on negative things or what I haven’t accomplished yet in my career.  As 2015 draws to a close, I am thinking long and hard regarding how speak about my work and my business.

And yes, I’m going to retweet this interview:

When I first visited Rome in 2008, Arlene took me to the most incredible Italian restaurant–one I would never have found on a map. We were introduced by a woman who was interested in adapting my memoir for film. Although the project fell through, I’m thankful for having met Arlene and for our long-distance friendship since, punctuated by my occasional visits to Italy.

I admire Arlene deeply, embarrassingly so. She left a job, country, and life in pursuit of something other. She wasn’t tethered to age as a means of trapping one in one’s vocation, rather she set out to find her place in the world. Up until a few months ago she was a successful writer/producer and now tell stories in another form: interiors. I love women with verve, women who take risks, break ranks, and live without apology. Arlene is all of these things, but in the end she’s a truth-teller. I only hope to be as successful as I move through my acts. Let her story inspire you. –FS

When I first met you, you’d recently emigrated to Rome from the U.S. Truth be told, I admired you, how brave you were to leave a successful career behind for something other. This was a time before we’d read articles about expats and second acts. Your career has spanned politics, film and entertainment—but tell us how you returned to your first love: decorating. Why did you leave producing behind?

Arlene Gibbs: What timing. Until two months ago, I had two careers going on, screenwriter/producer, and decorator.

When we first met, I was writing full-time and developing a few projects as a producer. Everyone told me it would be impossible to be a screenwriter/producer based in Rome (especially without a trust fund). Even after our movie Jumping The Broom was released, and importantly was a hit, I heard the same thing. Nothing changed. Nobody cared. It was a “niche” film. When I pointed out to a producer friend that there were plenty of successful British screenwriters who worked in Hollywood but lived in London, I was told, “Yes, but they are British, white, and male.”

To your last question, it took me forever to see the light. Earlier this summer, one of my dear friends, who lives in Rome, said that the universe was screaming at me and I was ignoring the signs. This friend is usually not that crunchy. I needed to heed her advice.

Then I read this quote from JJ Martin, an American fashion and design journalist who lives in Milan, and everything clicked.

The best advice I’ve ever received was to look at everything that comes your way as an opportunity. Do not underestimate the power of chance and fate. Do what you love, what opens you up, not what closes you down, and makes you act like an asshole. Be responsible, be loving, be caring. That’s what I advise to anyone starting out. If you truly love fashion, it will come to you.

She’s talking about fashion but it could be applied to any creative endeavor. I wasn’t an asshole when I worked in Hollywood, my former assistants still speak to me, but I was not myself. I became a very bitter person.

I was recently hired for a decorating project in Los Angeles. It was my first trip back since making my big decision. It was a great experience. I returned to Rome feeling positive instead of depressed.

The rest of the interview is HERE.

Thanks again, Felicia!

 

 

 

 

 

Hold up, how is it October already?  One of my friends in the States was complaining about seeing Thanksgiving decorations already.  I guess we should be grateful they weren’t for Valentine’s Day 2016.

I have started my apartment search.  It’s, well, a trip.  I don’t know what some of these landlords are thinking. The bathroom situation is not good.

I’m having a hard time finding smaller apartments that are unfurnished.  Most of the apartments in the neighborhoods I’m focusing on were built for families.  I don’t need a huge apartment and as a small business owner,  it wouldn’t be financially smart to take on that kind of monthly expense.

I hope to find something this month. We’ll see.

I took a quick business trip to Milan last month.  I got completely lost searching for a to-the-trade vintage furniture store.  Once i realized I was very close to the new Prada Fondazione, I had to check out Bar Luce.

Bar Luce was designed by film director Wes Anderson.  Anderson has directed several short films for the fashion house.

It’s 1950/1960’s Milanese style with a touch of Anderson’s quirkiness.  Opened everyday from 9:00 a.m. – 10:00 p.m., Bar Luce is the prefect spot to have coffee or aperitivi.

There are so many wonderful design details in this space.  I really need to return and spend a afternoon there, reading and writing.

ADORE these lights.  If I find an apartment with an ingresso/foyer that has overhead lighting, I’d love a fixture like this.

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The dark wood helps anchor all the pastels.  Without it, perhaps the décor would be too twee.  Pink and green are fabulous together. Back in college I used to have a rugby shirt with those colors. One day while walking across the quad, an upperclassman asked me if I were an AKA.  She said, “you do wear a lot of pink and green.”

I did.  Not because I belonged to that sorority but because I wore a lot of preppy clothes in the 80s.

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I didn’t have a chance to see what tunes were on the jukebox.

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One of my favorite Wes Anderson films. I must buy the soundtrack.

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I wonder what flavor the pink cake is.  So pretty.

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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.

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The bathroom!

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Photos: Monaci

The view from my balcony.

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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.

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

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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.

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

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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?

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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.

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Love the old faded tiles on the right.

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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.

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The architecture here is incredible.  Remember to look up.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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