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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.

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!

 

 

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

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!

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:

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YAS!

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!

EDIT:

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:

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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.

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Linda Rodin. Fabulous.

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Erica and Linda.

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So true.

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Photos: Me and my iPhone

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