Tag Archives: Friends

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

Borghetto Flaminio is not as well known as the famous Porto Portese market.  The latter has more furniture but Flaminio is the market to check out for authentic vintage/used designer clothes and interesting tableware.

As with any flea market there could be some fakes, but this market has a good reputation.  Many of the vendors are regulars. If they were selling fake Prada, Gucci, Hermès, etc. the word would get out pretty quickly.

Borghetto Flaminio is tiny. I suggest getting there early. It’s packed with fantastic finds.  I hadn’t been there in years so when my friend, artist and florist Marta, suggested we check it out, I was ready.

A cool tea set from the 40s.



Lovely monogrammed vintage linen.



A taste of Hermès.  This was the most popular vendor in the market.  They also had some drop dead gorgeous vintage Gucci, Valentino, Prada, and Fendi bags.



Love this Murano glass set from the 60s.



Marta was VERY excited about this patent leather Prada bag.


Sundays (except holidays)

Piazza della Marina, 32
Sundays, 10AM – 7PM
€1.60 entrance fee

From mid-September to mid-July

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!!


Why do I miss Sicily?   There are Sicilian restaurants in Rome.

Perhaps this is only an infatuation.  My first trip to Sicily was just last year, which I wrote about in FATHOM.  Maybe the island will lose its hold on me after a few more trips, or years.  We’ll see.

Like the cuisine, the art and architecture of Sicily has been influenced by the diverse cultures of its various rulers.

Every day I stopped by to see the Burial of Santa Lucia, painted by Caravaggio in 1608, located in the Santa Lucia alla Badia church. There is something very special about seeing art in the context that it was created for.

In the early 2000’s many architects and interior designers started to buy and renovate houses in the area.  I kept getting lost in little courtyards and side streets.  There was inspiration all around me and design elements that gave me some ideas for my Caribbean beach house project.

Below are a few of my favorite things:

How pretty is this packaging? I received a gift from this store on my birthday.  Erica’s daughter picked it out.  That five year-old has excellent taste.



As someone who was raised Methodist, I’m still thrown by some of the more intense art in Catholic churches.  My childhood church had stained glass with images of things like Jesus chilling with some shepherds.

Here is the patron saint of Siracusa, Santa Lucia.


Clever use of a satellite dish.


Spiderman on the side of the Municipal Building representing the heroic spirit of the people. I’m trying to find out who the artist is and when the work was installed.

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Cool planter outside a house that faces the sea.

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Rome-based artist UNO and his latest installation.


Also from Rome, Alice Pasquini.  Erica and I went to see her and UNO work on their murals. This is a school in Siracusa.


The new and the old.

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I saw these fishing baskets all over my neighborhood.


Love the door.


And this gate.


This alley showing a sliver of the sea was up the street.

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I’m thinking about my next trip. Maybe I should go to Palermo or Cefalù, or both.

Photos, unless noted otherwise, are by me and my iPhone.

I kept bumping into Erica and her parents at the market.

We do have great markets in Rome but the market in Ortigia is on another level.  I think it’s because the food doesn’t have far to travel.  The freshness and variety is unreal.

I’m still going on and on to Erica about the peaches I had.  I’m sure she’s tired of hearing about them.

I didn’t buy any fish but I did eat my share from the market.  I’m still talking about that too.

A MUST is the shop, Fratelli Burgio, located near the end of the market closest to the sea.  It gets very crowded so be patient.  I hear they have fantastic sandwiches and aperitivi.   The line for sandwiches was long and there was only one person behind the counter.  Poor guy.

I bought some Pachino sun dried tomatoes in olive oil there.  At thirty-two euros a kilo they were not cheap but were worth every single euro.

A bowl of said tomatoes.  Pachino tomatoes are grown only on the Southeastern coast of Sicily.



The fishmongers were quite lively (and flirty).  I was too shy to snap a photo of the very attractive gentleman who called me Ms. New York.





Baked ricotta cheese at Fratelli Burgio.









 Photos: Me with my iPhone



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