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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.

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The views were spectacular.  Sunset.

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

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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?”

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Seriously, NOBODY was around.

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The top of this well, stylish simplicity.

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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.

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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.

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Martina pours some Prosecco.

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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.

 

 

I’ve read about La Bandita, a country house near Pienza and have seen photos of it in various shelter magazines/design articles.

A little over a year ago, John Voigtmann and his wife Ondine Cohane opened La Bandita Townhouse converting a former convent in center of Pienza into a 12-room boutique hotel.

My friend Gillian and husband stayed there recently.  She told me I had to see it in person.  Gillian knows my taste and said I would love it.

She was correct.  I know people are sick and tired of decorators using words like swoon! obsessed! and dying! when describing interiors.  However, let me say, I swooned when I saw my room. I was obsessed with the design of the kitchen and was dying over the views.

I’ve written before about the mix.  It’s something you see frequently in French and Italian interiors.  It’s not easy to pull off.  Sometimes the space is too modern for the architecture and it feels cold.  Or the design is so faithful to the past, it’s dated.

Working with Florence based architects, Arianna Pieri and Ernesto Bartolini of DA.Studio, John and Ondine have created a lovely space. In a hotel, all the beauty in the world doesn’t mean a thing if the service is awful. It was fantastic and I will write about a post about that and Pienza soon.

I absolutely adore this type of décor.  The same architects worked on Monteverdi with interiors by Ilaria Miani.

i found out that one of the main resources for La Bandita Townhouse was the store Barthel.  No wonder it spoke to me as we sourced most of the items for the bathrooms in our Tuscany project from Barthel.

This was my room, number 12.  I arrived late afternoon.  The amount of light during the day is unreal.  I love that they retained the stone wall.  The view from the tub was sick.  The Ortigia products were a nice touch, as were the free water and soda in the mini-bar.

In my next apartment I would like a canopy bed. The colors, the lighting, the bed linens, I really didn’t want to leave this room after two days.

I have to ask if they have a room with a desk, because La Bandita is a perfect spot for writers.

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Tears of happiness when i saw this huge shower stall.  I really need to move.

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Gorgeous.  The main hallway is the first thing you see when you walk thru the door. The convent dates from the 1400s.

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Again, stone walls.  A lot of natural materials with pops of orange throughout.

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This kitchen is everything.  In the States open-plan kitchens are preferred but not in Italy (or the Caribbean).  Notice the overhead window over the bar?  It drops down.  Once you close the door on the left of the bar, you have a closed kitchen that lets in light.   A friend of mine, who lives in a loft in Rome, did something very similar.  It’s a brilliant idea.

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An old map of Italy in the library/lounge.

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I was very excited to see so many classic LPs in different genres. I could’ve stayed up all night listening to music.  I still have some vinyl and for my next apartment (I know, I know) I will buy a turntable.

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You know how I feel about books and magazines.  It was freezing outside.  It was nice to curl up on the sofa and just chill.

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John is former music industry executive.  Some of his gold records sit on top of the bookcase.

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Aperitivi time!

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John has said he and Ondine wanted to create a beautiful, comfortable hotel where people could come to relax and enjoy Tuscany. They have. La Bandita is a special place. I cannot wait to return during warmer weather so I can eat outside on their fantastic terrace.

Photos: (except for the one of the kitchen and of the bookcase) me and my iPhone.

Click HERE to see more from La Bandita’s great photo gallery.

La Bandita Townhouse

Corso Il Rossellino, 111
Pienza (SI) 53026
Toscana, Italia
Tel +39 0578 749 005
info@la-bandita.com

 

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.

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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!!

 

Recently AWAR (The American Women’s Association of Rome) had the privilege of taking a small (only twenty members) private tour of Bulgari’s Heritage Collection.

I RSVPed the minute I read the invitation.

I haven’t been inside the store since the Peter Marino renovation.  One morning, when I was jogging up Via Condotti on my way to Villa Borghese Park, I’m positive I saw the architect walking out of the store.  Who else would be wearing that outfit at 8:30 in the morning, in Rome?

Bulgari was founded by Sotirios Bulgaris in Rome one hundred and thirty years ago. The Heritage Collection is a celebration of this history.  There are over six hundred unique pieces.  The jewelery, watches, accessories, and drawings were curated during years of research and archival work.  Bulgari has been buying back importance pieces from auctions and private collections.

While Bulgari is part of the French high-end global powerhouse LVMH, the DNA of the company is Roman.

DOMUS means home in Latin and that space (located on the second floor) is where you will find pieces from the Heritage Collection.

The store is gorgeous.  Marino, inspired by the Pantheon and other Roman masterpieces, modernized the flagship store without stripping it of its history and charm.

The foyer on the first floor. Nods to the Pantheon in this circular space.

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The back stairs that lead to Domus.  That pattern.

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This floor and that table.  No words.

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Here’s a picture I took of the floor so you can see the intricate tiling.  Stunning.  I gasped when I saw it.

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Caterina Riccardi, Bulgari Brand Heritage Special Projects, explains the connection between the Heritage Collection and the Eternal City. Ms. Riccardi was the Via Condotti store manager for over thirty years.  Her tour was excellent, informative and entertaining.

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This sapphire necklace was bought from a private collector in the States.  Be still, my beating heart.

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Richard Burton once said, “The only Italian word Elizabeth knows is Bulgari.”   Burton gave Taylor this sapphire and diamond necklace  and ring for her fortieth birthday.  Actress Jessica Chastin wore the iconic necklace at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival.  She was the first person to wear it since Taylor.

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From 1960, a gold watch bracelet with diamonds and rubies.  I do not like snakes but I’d make an exception for this one.

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This is just a little taste of the incredible pieces in this collection.   I was inspired by the colors, the designs, and the craftsmanship.

By appointment only. To reserve a visit, contact: DOMVScondotti.visits@bulgari.com or +39 06 688101

First three photos: Bulgari.

Other photos:  Me and my iPhone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For me the day after Thanksgiving has nothing to do with shopping. It means I can start playing Christmas carols.

This probably comes as a shock to people who don’t know me well, as I appear to be a person who loves to shop.  It’s even part of my job.

However, the whole Black Friday thing always left a bad taste in my mouth.  While Short Hills Mall is one of my favorite places in America, I’d rather listen to Izzy Azalea on a continuous loop than go there on the day after Thanksgiving.

We don’t have such a thing in Italy and I don’t see it happening anytime soon.  The concept of standing/waiting in line is completely foreign, even in places (like the post office) where we’re supposed to.

One thing that is also popular here, are street lights.  This week crews were putting them up all over town.

In my neighborhood, Campo de Fiori, we have these:

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I adore the simplicity of them.

Now, I’m off to play some of my favorite holiday jams.

Buon weekend!

 

Dolce & Gabbana have been knocking it out of the park.

I did read one review from a UK fashion critic who complained that D&G were tapping the Sicilian well too often.  She was RELIEVED to see that their S/S 2015 was influenced by Spain.

Hello, Spain ruled Sicily from 1516-1713.  This is still a Sicilian inspired collection.

There were a lot of bold red dresses and fitted black ones, but this black and white dress is one of my favorites.  Of course, I could never wear it as I’m too short and my breasts are too big.  But I love it.

The trim is beautiful.  I could see using something like it in home décor as well.

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Photo: Dolce & Gabbana

Buon weekend a tutti!

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.

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Photo: ortigiasicily.com

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.

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Clever use of a satellite dish.

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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.

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

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The new and the old.

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I saw these fishing baskets all over my neighborhood.

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Love the door.

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And this gate.

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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.

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