Tag Archives: Italy

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


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.


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.


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.



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


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


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






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:


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:



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

Earlier I wrote about the interior design of La Bandita Townhouse.   Clearly the owners, John and Ondine, have put as much thought into the service as they did into the décor.

From the first email to book my room, until the day I left, the service was (as the young folks say) on fleek.  This is something I do not take for granted.  Unfortunately, too many people have no idea what it means to work in the hospitality business. Why they would open or work in a hotel/restaurant/spa, etc. is beyond me.

Pienza is small hilltop town with a population of approximately two thousand people.  It was the birthplace of Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini, who would become Pope Pius II. Piccolomini rebuilt the entire village, starting in 1459, after he became Pope.  He saw it as a lovely Renaissance retreat from the Papal capital.  In 1996 Pienza was named an UNESCO World Heritage Site.

It’s a perfect base from which to explore this region of Tuscany (with a car).  Montapluciano, Siena, and other towns are close by.  If you’re a Pecorino cheese fan, a visit to Pienza is a must.

Since I was only staying for two nights, I didn’t rent a car and spent most of my time close to the Townhouse.  It was FREEZING.  I’m not exaggerating.  I haven’t been that cold since my days at Syracuse University.

I was elated to see these fire pits around town.  I love how in this country even a simple and functional thing, like a fire pit, is well designed.  I mean, look at the darn logs.  Did the person who built the fire make sure they were “just so” or what?  Also, as I said before, it was beyond freezing.  Who has time to worry about aesthetics in sub-freezing weather?   If the logs were janky, would the fire builder be called out?

I truly appreciate this attention to details.



The views were spectacular.  Sunset.



Sun rising. View as I started my epic walk three and a half-hour walk.



Remember this road from the movie GLADIATOR?  No, I was not entertained. I was a little freaked out because I didn’t see a single person for kilometers.  I started to think, “what if a wild boar attacked me? Nobody could hear me scream. Where the heck is the next farm house?”



Seriously, NOBODY was around.



The top of this well, stylish simplicity.



Pieve dei Santi Vito e Modesto Church.  It was built sometime during the 11th and 12th centuries.   Notice the distinctive carvings above the door.  Several of these small country churches were built above Etruscan sites and used some of the same imagery.



I had a fantastic dinner at the hotel, after I defrosted.  The restaurant is open to the pubic (you need reservations).  Chef David and his sous-chef, Jacopo, knocked it out of the park.



Martina pours some Prosecco.



During high season, Pienza is very popular with tour groups.  This charming video about La Bandita and Pienza helps explain why.

A big Thank You to everyone at La Bandita.  Sometimes it’s not so easy to travel alone and they made me feel at home.

Photos: Me and my iPhone.



The American series AMERICAN DREAM BUILDERS started airing this week in Italy on the channel LEI.

Hosted by Nate Berkus, it’s a mash up between EXTREME MAKEOVERS and TOP DESIGN.  I have always wondered about the reality of the former.  They do a lot of structural changes.  How well was the construction, plumbing, and electrical work executed when they have only a week to demolish and rebuild?  Could the owners afford the increase in property taxes?  So many questions.

One thing I really like about this show is that two teams work on two houses from a similar era and/or style.  It’s compelling to see how the teams agree (or not) on an overall aesthetic for their house and then how the individual designers design their rooms.

There is a mix of designers, contractors, and landscape architects.  Of course, there are some strong personalities.  Reality TV would be boring without them.

We are three episodes in and so far it’s fantastic.  The show is entertaining and educational.  Décor is very subjective but it’s interesting to hear the judges explain why they believe a room doesn’t work.  Sometimes it’s a design issue.  For example, the team did not address the layout issues.  Other times, it’s about the décor.  Those debates get heated.

I cannot wait to see who wins.  There are some very talented designers on this show.


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