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Rome

Buon giorno!

Life has been nuts these past few weeks between signing new clients and moving. I still have twenty-five boxes of books and magazines to unpack.

I hope to publish a post on this blog the first and third Wednesday of the month, at least. I need get it on a schedule or else it will end up like Jeb!’s presidential campaign. Seriously, what’s happening there? He must be very annoyed. This is one of most unusual American presidential races I’ve ever seen, but I digress.

While Rome is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, finding a hotel here can be tricky especially once you get out of the five-star range.

I tend to prefer smaller boutique hotels, so I was excited to check out Rome Luxury Suites on Via Babuino. I was invited, along with a few other guests, to tour the hotel followed by an aperitivi on the new rooftop. You know how I feel about terraces, more on that later.

The location couldn’t be better. Via Babuino is in the Trident area, close to the Spanish Steps and Piazza del Popolo. The sidewalks were recently widened. During the day there’s a lot of pedestrian traffic as this street is a popular high-end shopping destination. At night, it’s quiet. There are no bars, or clubs.

The hotel has twenty-four rooms. They are stylishly decorated without being too “done”.  On some floors it’s possible to connect rooms, creating a private suite. Perfect for a family.

This is a great place for someone who likes the idea of renting an apartment but would like the services of a hotel (concierge).

One of my favorite rooms was the Babuino Suite which has its own balcony.

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Now back to the roof terrace. It’s available for guests only. This was my favorite part of the hotel. I know that’s not logical but what can I say? I love a good roof terrace.

For more about the hotel (they have two other locations in the neighborhood) you can check out their website HERE.

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!

 

 

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!

 

 

 

 

 

First, I’ve just returned to Rome from a business trip to the States and the Caribbean.  Below are some random observations:

Los Angeles traffic continues to get worse. How is this possible.

Target is great.

J.Crew.  What is happening? I’ve been a fan since the 80s. Something is amiss.

Why is Ben and Jennifer’s former nanny in the press so much? What is her end game? Reality show?

Speaking of reality shows, what the heck is Hollywood Cycle?

Ina Garten.  Adore.

Guy Fieri. Why so many shows, Food Network? Why?!

My friend Erica posted this TIME magazine article that said Americans dressing like slobs equals freedom.  Perhaps I have lived in Italy too long or I am turning into my Caribbean parents because I think that’s absolutely ridiculous.  Freedom? From what? The tyranny of Dior?

The GOP debate. Fascinating.  Trump was peak Trump.

The flight attendants on Air France were very friendly and cheerful.  It’s a long flight from St. Martin to Paris (8.5 hours).  Meanwhile, the American Airline attendants on the Miami to St. Martin flight (only three hours) not so much.  Why?

Portions in America are too big.  I couldn’t finish a single meal.

The newish Restoration Hardware showroom in West Hollywood is odd. I don’t get it.  Is it just for the trade? Who thought it was a good idea to have a 40,000 sq ft store where you have to buy everything online or from the catalog? The scale is huge. How can any shopper, who doesn’t live in a castle, envision that massive furniture in their home?

It would never occur to me to combine these two things:

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Second, in the past I have written about my Ferragosto issues.  Despite living in Italy for seven years, I was very American when it come to vacations and/or taking a break from work.

I said, “was” not “am.”  Finally, this year I get it.  I cannot wait for August 15th.  Truly.

My trip was intense.  I recently signed a Los Angeles based client and flew to Los Angeles direct from Rome. I have NEVER in my life been so happy to sit in a freezing cold plane for a thirteen-hour flight.  The six week heatwave in Rome was warping my brain. There were rumblings about Alitalia striking that weekend.  Thankfully, they didn’t and I got an upgrade to Business Class.  Nice.

That upgrade made a huge difference.  I had horrible jet leg during my trip to Los Angeles back in May.  This time it was much better.  I think it also helped that I walked to the Century City Mall shortly after arriving and stayed up until 10.30 p.m.

While I was running around Los Angeles with my client, I had deliveries and construction happening in Rome for another client.  Given the nine hour time difference, things were a little hectic.  I was only in Los Angeles for a few days and on my client’s schedule so I didn’t see many friends or “do meetings”.

Then I fly to Miami.  It was my first trip to the city.  I need to return and see more of it.  I really liked the vibe. I stayed at the Viceroy which was fantastic.

Unfortunately, the design district is shrinking after LVHM bought out several blocks.  It was still a productive trip. I sourced some great items for my Anguilla project.

From Miami I flew to St. Martin.  I said hello to my parents, and the next day took the ferry to Anguilla.

After all the flying, unpacking, repacking, shopping, meeting with contractors, painters, carpenters, project managers, receiving texts from clients in Rome about things we need to do ASAP, etc. etc., I hit the wall on Saturday.

While packing (again) I watch Flipping Out.  Can we talk about this show?  I have so many questions.  I wish Bravo aired in Italy.

I’m not complaining but a very strange thing happened during this trip.  I do not feel guilty about looking forward to August 15th. Not one bit.

Of course I’m not going completely cold turkey. There are quite a few back office things I need take care of during the break and meetings I must attend.

I bought a stack of shelter magazines in the States and the book The Bee Cottage Story.  I’m going to cut way back from the Internet and chill. I know September is going to be off the charts busy.  Everyone returns to town and I’m looking for a new apartment.  The latter will be an interesting process.

I may not be able to Dolce Far Niente for two weeks but can try for at least two days.  To prepare I need to put together a killer playlist which will include one of my favorite summer jams from August 1990.

Buon Ferragosto!

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 to 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.

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

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Still thinking about this dish.

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Sperlonga is a Blue Flag beach between Rome and Naples.

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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.

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

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Fantastic signage.

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The view from the bus stop.

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