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Over the summer my friend Annie invited me to spend the weekend at her in-laws.  They live in Fiuggi.  It’s only an hour south of Rome but at least a good ten degrees cooler.

I happened to visit during Fiuggi’s sagra.  It was outstanding.  When a large group of people started to do the Electric Slide, I fell out.  Seriously.  Here I was in a small hill town in the middle of Italy (I saw only one other black person there) and folks were doing this:

 

Another highlight of my weekend was our trip to Castello di Fumone, (aka Castello di Longhi).  The tour (in Italian) was very interesting.

The castle was built sometime between 244 – 455.   The name means “Big Smoke.”  The area was very strategic given its high elevation.  Large smoke signals were released to warn towns and cities as far away as Rome about invaders.

In 1584 Pope Sixtus V asked the noble Longhi family to take over the upkeep of the castle.  It had fallen on difficult times.  They did and brought it back to life.   Members of the family still live in the castle.

Castello di Fumone has one of the largest roof gardens in Europe and the views are spectacular.

There were many design elements for me to savor.  Annie probably got sick of me not keeping up with the group because I was too busy taking photos.

How gorgeous is this decorative wall painting? It represents the Longhi family’s crest and colors.  I could see a very cool wallpaper inspired by it.

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You know one of the buyers at Restoration Hardware has a photo of this chair on an inspiration board.

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Castello di Fumone was in the news after Pope Benedict abdicated his papacy.   He was the first pope to do so in seven hundred years and only the second pope to abdicate.

The first pope to resign was Pope Celestine V.    He was captured and locked up in a tiny cell in the castle by his predecessor.  He died ten months later at age eighty-six.

Annie and I could barely fit into the cell.  I pictured this old man sleeping on cold stone floors.   I guess his fate was better than the man who was buried alive in the castle walls.

Thanks to my excessive photo taking, I miss part of the tour in the archives room.  It was for the best.  Annie filled me in later.

In the 1800s Marquise Emilia Caetani Longhi had seven daughters.  She and her husband then had a son, Francesco.  His sisters, worried that they would be cut out of their inheritance (everything would go to the male heir), slowly poisoned him to death.  Nobody knew how he died until years later when one of the sisters confessed upon the death of her parents.

It is said that the ghosts of Francesco and his grieving mother can be heard wailing throughout the castle.

His body and some of his personal items are kept in a wooden cabinet.

Warning:  Photo of a mummified toddler below.

This freaked me out.

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Portrait of Marquise Emilia Caetani Longhi

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I thought after hearing about poor Francesco, that would be it for gruesome stories and we could return to a discussion about all the incredible art.

That was not the case.  I noticed a well when we first walked into the castle.  I asked Annie about it and she said all would be explained later.

Apparently, back in the day brides had to see the Baron of the castle on their wedding night.  If they were not virgins (how the Baron would know/find out this information, I have not a clue), they would be thrown down the well.  WHAT IN THE WORLD?!

IMG_3738 There is a lot of history (and shenanigans) inside the walls of this castle.  Thanks, Annie for the organizing the trip!

 

 

Last month, my friends Erica and Darius hosted another Instagram, “Meet The Romans” meetup.  We started very early (to beat the heat) in Ostiense.

A few weeks before I was out jogging toward the Basilica of Saint Paul Beyond The Walls, when I noticed a very striking bridge.

I found out at the Meetup that this bridge only opened a few months ago.  Construction by Rome’s Solidus, S.r.l. began in 2010.

It was named after Settimia Spizzichino.

On October 16th, 1943, the Nazis walked into Settimia’s home on Via delle Reginella.  She was 22.

Settimia was first sent to Auschwitz with her mother, two sisters, and a brother.  They died in the gas chambers while Settimia was subjected to Dr. Mengele’s “experiments.”   Later she was transferred to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp.   Many of the prisoners died during the long walk and Settimia nearly starved to death.

Finally, when she was 24, Settimia was liberated from the camp by British soldiers.  She returned to Rome, where she found her father and two sisters who had survived the death camps.  She weighed less than 70lbs.

She spent the rest of her life educating young people about the Holocaust. She died in 2000 at 79.

I thought there was something evocative about this bridge even before I knew the name.  The lines are so simple, clear, and yet majestic.

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What a week.

Just when you think Italian politics couldn’t be more confusing or bizarre, they are.   I have no idea what is going to happen now.  Maybe we’ll have new elections.

The Pope said good-bye yesterday.  The city is packed with tourists who came to see him for the last time.  Cardinals are flying in for the conclave and there are journalists in town from all over the world.

Work-wise, things were hectic. I’m not sure how it’s Friday already.

Yesterday, Domenico and I drove up to Tuscany to visit the job site and to meet with our client who flew in from Germany.  Normally, we would stay overnight but we decided to make it a day trip and left Rome at 6:30 a.m.

It was a very long day.   At one point my brain said, “BASTA!” and refused to cooperate.  It was around the time I was asking the contractor questions in Italian and then translating his answers into English.

On the drive back home, all I could think about was taking a long shower, getting in my PJs, and then watching Law and Order SVU reruns on Fox Crime (I have a thing for Detective Stabler).

I wish I had a shower like this:

A shower at MonteverdiUnfortunately, I do not.

The shower in the photo was designed by Ilaria Miani for Monteverdi.   Monteverdi is a group of rental villas and a hotel in the small village of Castiglioncello del Trinoro in Tuscany.

Stunning.  I hope to check it out sometime later this year.

In the meantime, Stabler and I will be relaxing this weekend.

Buon Weekend!

In 2011 the Italian fashion label Miu Miu started Women’s Tales, a series of short films about women directed by female directors from all over the world.

Their most recent short was directed by Ava DuVernay.  Ava won the best director award at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival.

Here is more information about Ava’s short from Miu Miu:

The Door, by Ava DuVernay, the fifth Miu Miu Women’s Tale, is a celebration of the transformative power of feminine bonds, and a symbolic story of life change. The symbolic centre of The Door is the front entrance of the protagonist’s home. As she opens it to greet a friend in the powerfully framed opening scenes, she is shrouded in an oblique sadness. “In the film, characters arrive at the door of a friend in need, bringing something of themselves,” explains director DuVernay. “Eventually, we witness our heroine ready to walk through the door on her own. The door in the film represents a pathway to who we are.” Clothing is also a symbol of renewal, each change of costume charting our heroine’s emergence from a chrysalis of sadness. In the final scenes, she takes off her ring, pulls on long, black leather gloves, and walks, transformed by the emotive power of the clothing, through the door.

Not a word was spoken, but Ava told a beautiful story.  For some reason, I didn’t recognize Gabrielle Union at first!

The Door combines three things I’m passionate about, dècor, film, and fashion. Several of the pieces in the short need to be in my closet and hello, that house!

I’ve seen many films with “a glass house in L.A.” set design but this one really captured that L.A. loneliness vibe.  I loved it.

I was recently hired by the very talented architect Domenico Minchilli to work on the interiors for a home in the Chianti region of Tuscany, Italy.

Words cannot adequately express how excited I am about this project.

Chianti, Tuscany

Chianti, Tuscany

We have a mid/late Spring deadline.

One of the bathrooms post demolition.

One of the bathrooms post demolition.

Early on, I started to pull images for an inspiration board on Pinterest. Some of the images came from books in my library, photos from my travels, or from my favorite websites. Originally, I had over sixty-five images. It was a great visual tool and helped me see the big picture. I kept that version of the board private so I could show Domenico what I was thinking.

Once I had a clearer idea of what the client wanted/needed for their home, I put together a mood board in Photoshop for each room. There has to be a separate post about Photoshop… DRAMA.

Fabric for sofas and chairs.

Fabric for sofas and chairs.

I had written a much longer post but deleted it. It was way too sappy.

However, I will say I’m thrilled to be working with such an incredible group of people and that 2013 is off to a great start.

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