Cannes, from red to black and white

Cannes.  Simply saying the word conjures up the color red, a gorgeous and vibrant crimson sparkling with glitterati and paparazzi.  I'm talking about the red carpet at the Festival de Cannes, the nearly two-week long film festival where celebrities strike poses and poseurs try their best to become celebrities.  Walking the red carpet at Cannes is more than an experience, it is one of the Bucket List Bests, falling in rank with The Met Gala, the Oscars and the Venice Film Festival, where everyone is looking at everyone else, or better yet - what they are wearing.

Flattered by the invitation from San Pellegrino, I quickly thought "I've got this".  Remember, in my past life living in Los Angeles, I talked the talk and walked the walk on few red carpets including from limited release films like Evelyn to blockbusters like Die Another Day.  And in most of my walks, I took a nonchalant glam attitude since I had a bit of experience beingfront and slightly off-center as guest and personal assistant to an A+ actor.  Of course, I thought I knew it all for my walk down Promenade de la Croisette.  

The Festival de Cannes is nothing like Hollywood.  It's a busy French beach town when not festival season [vaguely reminiscent of Atlantic City], and when the Festival is on, well, it's an all day/ all night scene.  My hotel JW Marriott was beach-front la Croisette, in other words, prime real estate for celebrity sightings.  Upon arriving, I bumped into director Paolo Sorrentino and later Roman Polanski in the elevators.  One night, I popped a few bottles of Franciacorta with Italian super chefs Gualtiero Marchesi, Carlo Cracco, Davide Oldani and Andrea Berton, and the next day, I literally felt into Robert Pattison when heading out of the hotel to lunch at Nespresso's sur la plage pop-up.  Illustrator and beauty blogger Stephanie Rousseau brought me into the Chanel Suite at the historic Hotel Barrière for a little touch up, where we chatted with Ekaterina Samsonov, having no clue that we were about to see her on the big screen later that evening. 

I know you're thinking what I was thinking.  What was I wearing? Thanks to San Pellegrino, I had not one but two struts down those famous red threads- Friday's intimate evening screening of The Great Italian, a one-hour long docu-film about Chef Marchesi, and then Saturday's closing screening for You Were Never Really Here directed by Lynne Ramsay, starring Joaquin Phoenix and Samsonov, later winner of Best Screenplay and Best Actor.  I was nervous and had no idea, so I put myself in the hands and eye stylist Simona Scaloni of Nice To Dress You who picked out not one but two Le Petite Robe by Chiara Boni, a duo of fabulous, formfitting and distinct dresses- fun and frilly one-shoulder peach number, and elegant black column.  Perfect.

Even with Friday's screening as practice, a professional make up session and a gorgeous dress, I was not ready for Saturday's red carpet walk.  Cannes streets were flooded with thousands of incredibly-dressed people who wanted to know who we were just as much as we did too.  As we headed to the entry area, we were bombarded with faux paparazzi offering to take photos (at a price) and crazily-dressed Cannes fans asking for a ticket or two.  Stephanie, I and fashion writer Sophie Fontanel entered the cordoned-off red carpet just as there was a surge - thousands of clicks and strobing flashing, and that's when I realized that I had absolutely no idea what was about to happen.  Escorts nudged us forward as photographers stopped us and people pulled at us to see who were were. The entire walk probably took under three minutes but time stood still for at least two of them, especially that last minute when Joaquin Phoenix made his appearance and the carpet stopped.  We flowed upstream to our balcony seats, and shortly upon Phoenix entered the theatre, driving the audience wild. The lights dimmed, a hush took over the hall and we knew the show was about to begin. But then again, it had already started. . .

Would I go back to the Festival de Cannes? Yes. But I'd wear more color, more flair, and bigger hair.  If you're looking to top off your bucket list, a red carpet walk should be penciled in. Here's a black-and-white glimpse at a weekend in the red . . .

#Girlisthenewtime, a women-only Empty event at La Galleria Nazionale for Museum Week

Girls, girls, girls....  What happens when a gang of girls hang out at in an empty art gallery?  That's the question we threw out for Museum Week 2017 at La Galleria Nazionale, in a collaboration instameet #GirlisTheNewTime with myself and GirlsInMuseums.  We brought together approximately 16 women whose single prerequisite was passion for the arts and giving them full reign of the museum including Conversation Piece (the latest exhibition) and behind-the-scenes of Body to Body, a capsule show focusing on 15 female artists' perspective on feminism.  

What is the purpose of the Empty, you may ask? For me, any opportunity to bring people inside an Italian museum, gallery or cultural site is an opportunity to inspire dialog that spreads outside of the museum and inspires visitors to come back inside.  Italy has an incredible wealth of cultural sites, but many get an unwarranted wallflower as more popular museums (hey, Uffizi and Musei Vaticani) are bucket list must sees.  I am to change that, or at least make a little dent by bringing Italy's museums to your small screens.

As a participant, I tend to take a roll of art voyeur and I've noticed in my photos that art work takes center stage and the viewer is simply a supporting role.  It makes sense, I love art. (And, Yes, I will lurk for what seems like hours by a favorite painting or sculpture, waiting to catch the right moment).  For #GirlIsTheNewTime, I set out to be, well, decisive and take individual (or small group portraits) of each participant where I would capture the vibe of each woman, and let art work - whether partially in frame or out - be a cultural background.  I wanted to force dialog between myself and each participant, a technique I've honed over the years of being extremely shy.

A week dedicated to women and museums is not enough.  Nor are Emptys, but I do think continuing the dialog on the importance of women in the arts is fundamental, and even more so, the dialog about the female communication.  Do I think that the dialog that women have with art is any different from that of a man? I couldn't tell you, I am so XX, but I do think the dialog among women is complicated.

Scroll down, catch up on all the scenes from #GirlIsTheNewTime in Instagram and in my VSCO journal.  Thank you to all the participants who patiently allowed me to push them around the galleries in search of a great vibe.

Wanna join us? For more info, here's where and how I started in 2014 and how it has spread from La Galleria Nazionale to Milan's La Triennale and GAM, back to Rome and the Vatican. Email me at

My 5 Tips to Surviving a Sweltering Summer in Rome

It's 8am, the sun is shining hot and the barometer is reading 30 C/86 F.  Welcome to Rome in the summer where mid-morning feels like high noon in the desert and walking on those beautiful sampietrini (black basalt cobblestones) feels like traipsing across hot coals.  By mid-June, the Eternal City literally becomes the Infernal City, a Dantean hot spot of high temperatures and lots of bodies get a glimpse of every historic and cultural site in the city.  Romans have known since antiquity that there are only two options to survive in the summer- either close the shutters, turning your home into a dark cave, and stay inside from 11am to 3pm, or else, pack your backs and relocate to the beach [or mountains] from as late as July 1st through September 1st.  But that's not going to cut it, you've got places to go and churches, archaeological sites, museums and restaurants to visit.  Here are my five tips to beating the Roman heat.

1.  Rise and Shine

I'm up every morning by about 6.30 am, an unnatural and ungodly hour to rise but I do so because summer sun comes in high and strong (we don't do caves), and we like to take advantage of the city in the early morning.   At 7.30am, Rome is still somewhat empty of tourists so I get a front row spot at the Trevi Fountain, and snap an empty shots of the entire Piazza Navona.  Just before it's 8.30am opening, I'll swing over to the Pantheon so I can have that look up at the Oculus all by myself.  But those are just the basics.  If you want to spend time in must-see sites like the Roman Forum, Colosseum and St. Peter's Museum and Dome that require tickets, set your alarms and plan to arrive at the site by no later than 15 minutes before doors open (8am or 8.30 depending on the site).  Each site require visitors to queue for entry in outdoor spaces-  piazzas and areas that offer absolutely no shade and whose lines can be hours-long waits, and by midday, sites like the Forum and Colosseum become Petri dishes under intense sun.


Top of the Dome, St. Peter's, 8.15 am, June. Look closely at the piazza- no one is waiting in line... yet.

2.  Give Yourself a Break.

Romans are absolutely right. By midday, you need to give yourself a break and ricaricare, recharge or better yet replenish all those electrolytes you lost just by walking down the street.  To the Roman, this means a long lunch,  a few hours indoors, or preferably both.  I know, I know, you are here to see the sites, not sit around or stay inside, so here's my pro-tip: plan to visit Rome's not-to-miss museums during the midday break.  Here are my favorite air-conditioned art spots: for Baroque artGalleria Borghese (reservation required) and Palazzo Barberini (park yourself on the velvet divan in the Grand Salon and look up),  for ancient Palazzo Massimo and The Capitoline Museums,  for modern and contemporary: La Galleria Nazionale.  N.B.  This does not include churches as clergy and staff take a lunch break too.


3.  Go Underground.

I'm lucky, I live with Darius, uber-archaeologist who thinks that the best kind of date means a trek a few meters below ground level to ancient Rome.  Sexy times include investigating Roman insulae, Republican temples, imperial cisterns, Christian catacombs, pagan necropoli and even a 2500-year-old public sewage drain all for the love of antiquity.  Over the years, I've realized that there is nothing better than a trip down under- plus a great pair of shoes.   There is an underground site open every day of the week, so you can jump into a cooler climate for a few hours every day.  My latest line-up: Domus Aurea - Nero's Golden Palace with its kickass VR, old faithful San Clemente is always a crowd pleasure with its multilevels, the somewhat overlooked Citta dell'Acqua and any catacomb- lately I love Santa Domitilla.  Pro Tip for the church goer- ask any priest at any centro storico church if there is something below the pulpit, and you'll find a fewRepublican-era buildings or an imperial temple.

You gotta go under-  the layers of Santa Domitilla.

4. Night Vision.

One of the most important lessons to learn in Rome is that just as the city was not built in a day, nor do you have to see it all in a day.  That's why night visits were created.  Rome has an incredible cityscape of ancient monuments, Renaissance palazzi and Baroque domes, gorgeous as much in an inky navy blue evening, as in daylight.  Over the past few years, cultural sites have finally caught and opened theirs doors to unforgettable evenings.  Why walk with the masses to the Sistine Chapel when you can have the Vatican Museums to yourself- and have an aperitivo in the Cortile della PIgna? How about a walk around the Colosseum and its underground chambers? Personally, I'm all about the flashback experiences at the Fori Imperiali where animated projections are set to melodramatic musical scores as you walk through history , and the evening visit to Castel Sant'Angelo never ever gets old.

5.  Grattachecca.

In the summer time, it snows in Rome. And by that I mean grattachecca, the onomatopoeic solution to surviving the Roman heat, and everyone's favorite treat.  Not to be confused with granita, Italian ice found at the local gelateria, grattachecca is a cup full of hand-shaved ice flavored with fruit syrups and preserved cherries or fresh lemon juice and pieces of coconut.  Ingested quickly, it is a ferocious brain freeze.  Savored over an afternoon walk, it is a hand-held cooling system that can change your attitude as quick as it changes your body temperature.  Where can you find one? Walk along the Lungotevere - the street-side sidewalk that borders the Tiber river - from the Ara Pacis to Isola Tiberina and you'll bump into a green chiosk lined with bottles of syrup and manned by two grattacheccari- one person for shaving the ice and the other for flavoring it. FYI- Grattachecca is usually a cash-only operation, so remember to bring spare change.  For more- here's my map of grattachecca spots in Rome

Darius is faithful to tamarindo and orange with cherries. I am a lemoncocco kind of girl.

A Fashionable Packing List for the Venice Biennale

This article originally appeared in Fathom on April 28, 2017.

Highlights from the most recent Biennale. Photo by Erica Firpo.

Every other spring, the contemporary art world flocks to Italy to celebrate art, dance, architecture, cinema, and theater at the Venice Biennale. Fathom contributing editor and Biennale regular Erica Firpo gives us a peek at what she's packing in her suitcase.

VENICE – Flashback to the 1999 Venice Biennale, a time where I spent many months covered in red powder. Anne Hamilton, an artist representing at the U.S. Pavilion, made a crimson snowfall cascade down the walls for her installation Myein, and it was my job, as the Peggy Guggenheim Collection assistant, to make sure the powder and everything else flowed smoothly. There was nothing glamorous about the long hours, often spent alone, in a bone-chillingly cold pavilion, occasionally greeting guests and explaining the installation — but the full immersion into contemporary art was unforgettable, and every 24 months, I return to the Biennale for that very same pleasure, though now as a journalist covering the art.

Over the decades, the press preview for the exhibition has evolved from a quiet industry event for artists, gallerists, and journalists to 72 solid hours of art and hobnobbing with the Pantheon of Glitterati — art, fashion, literature, and film folk from all over. As soon as I arrive in Venice, I have to be ready for nonstop exhibitions, openings, and cocktail parties. Style, efficiency, and fun are my goals — and the same can be said for anyone visiting the Biennale. My suitcase is a balanced mix of form and function, organized Matryoshka-style. Here's a peek inside.

Mophie Juice Pack Air

The Biennale is more than an all-day affair — I'm out the door by 8 a.m., photographing Venice street scenes, perusing every pavilion in the Venetian Arsenal and gardens, visiting collateral events, and partying late into the evening. The Biennale doesn't just kill my feet, it quickly and painfully kills my phone, a.k.a. my life source. Because there is nothing worse than trying to find a free outlet in Venice, I always bring an extra battery pack, and lately it's been a pretty rose gold case that snaps right onto my phone. If I'm feeling extra gamey, I bring two. ($100)

Insta360 Nano Video Camera

The Biennale is not just freeze frame art, it's panoramic performance. For the rare times I broadcast on Facebook Live, I love giving the full 360-degree experience so viewers can choose what they want to see. ($199)

Kasia Dietz Nice Clutch

My handbag has to be stylish and easy to carry. I love Kasia Dietz totes for her choice of vintage fabrics, which are perfect for the exhibition's artsy vibe. I also make sure to have one of her clutches, for a quick switch to evening glam. (€70)


Opening Ceremony Silk-Satin Bomber Jacket

Venice is tricky. Misty mornings burn into hot days, while evenings are chilly and humid. The only solution is a satin bomber jacket and the reversible nature of this one makes it easy to do a quick outfit change. ($525)


Moleskin Ruled Reporter Notebook

The first time I ever purchased this notebook was in Venice, and I have carried one in my handbag ever since. The hard cover makes me feel like Lois Lane scooping the art world. ($13)


Hydaway Water Bottle

I don't like feeling the weight of a water bottle in my purse, but I don't want to be dehydrated either. My solution: a lightweight, collapsible water bottle introduced to me by my friend Livia's 90-year-old nonna. ($20)


Tom Smarte Panama Fedora

Most of my time is spent outdoors, walking from one exhibition to the next. I love a good hat with a little charm to protect my face and lift up my outfit. ($449)


La Roche-Posay SPF 50 Sunscreen

My London BFF introduced me to the French sunscreen. It's light, non-greasy, and the best way to protect my skin from the Venetian sun, which never seems as potent as it really is. ($34)


MSGM Jumpsuit

I love Italian brand MSGM and would wear anything they put in front of me. The fun, striped number would work well for artsy selfies at cocktail parties. ($700)


Tod's Tattoo-Inspired Sneakers

If there is one lesson it has taken me a while to learn, it's that style should take second place when it comes to shoes for an event like the Biennale. Comfort is everything when you're standing on your feet all day. Thank god these sneakers are chic. ($845)


Herban Essentials Peppermint Towelettes

You definitely need antibacterial hand wipes. Added plus: These smell amazing. ($7)

Olloclip Core Lens Set

I use this set of lenses to up my Instagram story game and love playing around with the fisheye and wide angles. ($100)

Celebrate Spring In Rome Like A Local

This article originally appeared in Forbes Travel on April 21, 2017.

There is nothing quite like springtime in Rome. Once the days begin to warm up, all life moves outdoors. By mid-April, the Eternal City shines with festivals and events honoring Rome’s traditions, both old and new.

From the historic center to the Olympic Stadium, piazzas, cultural centers and more host interactive exhibitions and performances that represent multifaceted Roman culture. With so much culinary and cultural merriment, you’re guaranteed to have a good time.

Late April
Warm-weather festivities kick off with Natale di Roma, the three-day celebration of the city’s 2,770th birthday from April 21 to 23. Experience Rome like never before as the Circus Maximum becomes a playground once again for emperors and legionnaires in a series of re-enactments, including epic battles, gladiator fights and lessons in Roman culture through cuisine and craft.

On April 23, the historic center steps back in time as Piazza Venezia becomes center stage for Gruppo Storico Romanos triumphant march down Via dei Fori Imperiali, where more than 2,000 re-enactors from the Roman Empire will meet for a grand display of regal pageantry.

Take a break from that action with a journey to the secluded Roseto Comunale, the city’s rose garden, which opens its doors for its annual rose show on April 21. The free garden party, which stays in bloom until June 18, brings together more than 1,000 variations of roses from around the world.

For something a little more modern, head to Testaccio’s Città dell’Altra Economia on April 22 and 23 for ReVision’s World Wide Wall, a combination free exhibition, marketplace and hangout where more than 100 street artists will showcase their finest pieces.

Still, the most delicious way to welcome warm weather may be with a spoon in your hand. The Festival del Gelato, a three-day tasting celebration bringing together Italy’s best gelato makers, takes over the Pincian Hill from April 29 through May 1.

The month starts off electric as Villa Medici presents the Yoko Ono and Claire Tabouret show “One Day I Broke the Mirror,” a multi-sensorial contemporary art exhibition that invades the palaces and gardens of the historic Renaissance villa from May 5 to July 2.

From May 10 through 21, Rome serves up the Internazionali BNL d’Italia tennis tournament. The Italian Open (as it’s more commonly referred) is where you’ll find Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray and Venus Williams battling it out inside the Olympic Stadium courts while the surrounding grounds come alive with pop-up restaurants, tennis clinics and exhibition games.

Tickets can be purchased at entry, but because the venues are relatively small, it’s best to score good seats in advance.

Looking for a great brew to go with those backhands? Head to Testaccio. From May 18 to 21, Città dell’Altra Economica will host craft pours and street food at the Spring Beer Festival. Expect more than 40 Italian and international breweries to be represented.

Get back in the saddle from May 25 to 28 at Piazza di Siena, Rome’s annual equestrian exhibition in Villa Borghese. The four-day event is highlighted by an international show-jumping competition and ends with the mounted Carabinieri display, a regal parade of Italy’s mounted military police.

End the month on a high note at Rome’s three-day electronic music festival, Spring Attitude. The undulating MAXXI Museum will host the annual avant-garde experience, where acts like Nathan Fake and Princess Nokia will perform, from May 27 to 29.

When in Rome, Don't Cheer at the Wrong Soccer Game

This article original appeared in FATHOM on March 30, 2017. The First Soccer Game is a rite of passage for every Italian parent and child. Erica Firpo schools her daughter in the sacred sport.

ROME – There comes a time in every (Roman) child's life when a parent must have The Talk. A long and meaningful conversation about one's place in the world, and how that world's epicenter is the Stadio Olimpico, Rome's field of dreams.

In a soft voice, the conversation begins with color, a poignant preamble about the beauty of orange and red, with a casual mention of a slight disdain for boring baby blue. Heads nod in agreement as The Talk turns into A Dramatic Narrative — the rags-to-riches story of a young boy with a golden foot, and how that foot has traversed field after field and adversary after adversary to win the scudetti badges bestowed to series victors as well as hearts across the world. There is a reverent pause in homage to that young boy, who is now the captain of his hometown team, that incredible team known simply as AS Roma — city champions, underdogs, fighters.

Promises are made to always believe — through rain and shine, good and bad — that Roma is the best team in the world, a team that will always love you and never leave you. And to never, ever, ever root for their blue cross-town rivals, Lazio*. When the Roma scarf is gently wrapped around the child's neck, the rite of passage has been completed.

"Mamma, quando andiamo allo stadio?"

Shit. My seven-year-old has asked me the one question I had hoped and prayed never to hear. Mommy, when are we going to the stadium?

To be clear, I love calcio, the sport Americas call soccer. I love watching the World Cup and always get a front row seat in Campo de' Fiori during the Euros. I marched through the streets of Rome to celebrate the 2006 World Cup win. My beloved and worn-out Italia jersey is 15 years old, and I still wear it for every game the Italian national team — the Azurri — plays. And I have no stadium fears. In fact, I put in a lot of quality time in the tribuna (the best seats in the house at any stadium) during the 2005-2006 season, albeit begrudgingly, because my then-boyfriend was a historic (and histrionic) Laziale (Lazio fan).

These grandmas know the score.

I have pretty good idea of how (and when) to take a child to a game. I didn't want to hear that question because I love Juventus, the Turin team from the north.


  1. Romanist (student of ancient Rome)
  2. Member of the Roma football club

I blame school and her older sister for creating this die-hard Romanista. In first grade, she started collecting figurini, the Panini Serie A album with adhesive players card stickers. By second grade when she only wanted Roma players, the collectibles weren't enough. She wanted to see a real game.

As any good mother would do, I sucked it up and got tickets to the Stadio for a Mother's Day game — the ultimate symbol of maternal sacrifice. With deliberate reason: In my opinion, every true fan should have at least one chance to see their favorite player on the home pitch. In her case, it was Mr. Golden Foot himself, Francesco Totti, who, at almost 40 years old, was not guaranteed to return for the 2016-2017 season**.

Yes, I had been warned about taking a seven-year-old to the stadium. It's dangerous! The fans are crazy! Yes, I was aware that we were two females alone, and only one of us old enough to legally drive a car. It's a den of testosterone! The fans are crazy!

A superfan in the making.

So I made sure we did it right. A few days before the game, we headed to the official AS Roma store in our neighborhood to pick out a tuta (an official team outfit of shirt and pants), in spite of having been told there was nothing for women. We also bought a sciarpa, a silky, long neck scarf emblazoned with SPQR and AS ROMA in big letters, to accent my conveniently Roma red blouse. We looked the part and easily blended in with the seas of orange and red as we walked around the stadium grounds.

Once in the stadium, all we had to do was find our seats — a breeze, as ticket holders are only allowed access to their assigned seating section. I made sure to purchase seats in the mid-field Tribuna Monte Mario section, the one for dedicated Roma fans, and not the crazy Romanisti seats. The vibe in the tribuna is considered calm (okay, it is for a football match), making it the best place to sit with children. On our left was a father-and-son combo (one of the many; there were not so many daughters), also on a first-time-at-the-stadium, rite-of-passage game. On our right were a pair of nonne, experienced Romanista grandmothers who led all the cheers in our section. Knowing that the snack bar lines would be crazy long (and who wants to wait for bad snacks when the ball is in play?), we brought our own panini and purchased a cold drink of the stadium vendors. Effortless.

The experience was amazing. Roma dominated the game. Totti waved to us. De Rossi was as fine as he always is (the players are the best part of the game). My seven-year-old told me I was the best mamma in the history of all mothers. And I actually teared up while singing hard to Venditti's Roma Roma Roma.

When we returned home, I promised her more games for 2016-2017, and she told me it was okay if we went to the next Roma-Juve game. Together we set up a small altar to AS Roma, Totti, and his wife Ilary in a corner of her bedroom. That night, she made a wish that Er Bambino, the Golden Foot, would last just one more season so that we could have another Best Day Ever.

*That other team in Rome.

**If there is any reason to go to a Roma game, it is Francesco Totti. The Roma captain is still playing his heart out. If you're in Rome this season, make time to catch him in a game, because while it's unclear when he will retire, it's expected to be May.

The Factory: Milan's Pirelli Hangar Bicocca

Don't laugh, but Milan is my Breath of Fresh Air.  My Mind Clearer and my Get Back to Reality. As much as I love Rome and its ever-permeating chaos, every now and then,  I need to get of my head, literally and metaphysically, and I need Milan like some people need that morning meditation, coffee, workout, cigarette or shot.    Just 2 hours and 55 minutes on the FrecciaRossa and I've got my fix.

Grab your Milan map and head seven or so kilometers slight northeast of the Duomo.  Likely a lot of the city's outer-lying neighborhoods, Bicocca is a Vonnegut setting -  town build up up on the remains of Borgo Pirelli (Pirelli Town), Italy's early 20th century City of Industry. Back in the day, Bicocca was the headquarters and hub to some of Italy's top automotive and mass transit companies- tires, trains, engines, cars, war machines and more made the hamlet an industrial landscape of  factories, warehouses, and workers' housing.  80 years later, the landscape has evolved into Tetris of low, red brick building, midsize angular hangars to form a mini, gridform city of administrative and financial offices, factories, state university, shopping malls and Pirelli Hangar Bicocca.

Only in Milan would you find an incredible art foundation on the grounds of a tire factory, especially when it is one of the world's largest.   10,900 square metres of exhibition galleries with a  California campus vibe mixed with brick warehouses and concrete gardens, Hangar Bicocca is the Pirelli's love letter to site specific art installations.   Comprised of three buildings - the Shed (a series of connected, low brick buildings), the Navata (an amazing and huge hangar), and the Cubo, Hangar Bicocca is free-entry, interactive art space for permanent and temporary exhibitions.  All projects are large scale, and meant to be experienced not just looked at, aside from Efemero, a mural project by Brazilian artist Osgemeous on the external facade of the Cubo.  And Hangar Bicocca is a combination of interior and exterior spaces, whose enclosed garden is playground (on any day there are school visits),  social scene (the caffe has an outdoor seating area) and post-apocalyptic Instagram background - Fausto Melotti's enormous La Sequenza (1981) - a sequence of oxidized iron sheets 22 metres long, 7 metres high and 10 metres wide surrounded by tumbleweeds - is a permanent resident.  The other permanent resident is    Anselm Kiefer's The Seven Heavenly Palaces, an interior landscape within the Hangar landscape and a walk around Kiefer's pysche through seven fragile cement towers and five, large scale mixed-media paintings.


Appearing every now and then in the dark hued palette of greys, whites and black, are uniformed members of Hangar Bicocca's pit crew, young art monitors wearing Pirelli red jackets with the clever hashtag #arttothepeople, treading on trend as much on Borgo Pirelli's famous 1943 workers' strike.   Off to the side of the shed is Dopolavoro, a beautiful caffe restaurant with chalkboard walls and open seating that seemed as much the hip meet up as the perfect business lunch spot.  It is-- the menu is seasonal,  Italian regional and organically curated by chef Lorenzo Piccinelli.  So yeah, this is how I get my contemporary fix... Milan + art, with a glass of Arneis and tartar.


Pirelli Hangar Bicocca

Via Chiesa 2 (+39) 02 66 11 15 73

Thursday through Sundays, 10 am to 10pm

Free entrance

What's Going in Rome - January through March

If you haven't been following me on Twitter and Instagram, you probably haven't caught my 8 am soap-boxing where Darius and I free-form overshare to our hearts' content about how amazing it is to experience Rome in the early morning hours.  We go on and on about how the city is ours because no one - except a smattering of rushed parents, busy bar guys, precocious lawyers,  on fleek cleaners and chill security guards- is around.  Big tour groups? Not until post-9am.

But the truly best time to visit Rome is right now, aka, those very chilly, sometimes rainy post-vacation January to Valentine's weeks when the city is cold and quiet all  day long.  Forbes Travel Guide asked me to share What We Adore About Rome Right Now - here's my reboot on what to do in Rome:

The Ancient. 

Right now is the time to visit all of Rome's ancient sites. Personally, I'm a big fan of heading underground.  It's already cold so why not go subterranean and subzero. But in January and February, I'll go with Darius 's Anytime-of-The-Year Go-To spot: Roman Forum .   We're at the very nadir of the tourism lull, which means little to no lines to queue, especially when it rains.  If the sun is shining, you'll get that epic selfie.  January and February can be slightly schizophrenic weather-wise, and if you're lucky, you'll have that once in a life-time snow day in the Roman Forum. Tip: make it a point to visit our friend Werner's restorations at the ancient Church of Santa Maria Antiqua for the exhibition “Santa Maria Antiqua between Rome and Bisanzio” (ends March 17).

The Arts.

I am so happy it is cold.  There is a lot going on, and getting inside is the only way to escape the weather. My first stop would be Artemisia at Palazzo Braschi.  In brief, it's a collective of 30 of the 17th century artist's major works, plus some scenery by her contemporaries. I've been three times to the exhibit since it opened, and I don't think I can get enough of watching her sly look as she slays Holofernes. (Ends May 7).  I'd follow up Artemisa with some more very visceral work that brings you right up to the 21st century- Anish Kapoor’s Exhibition at Museo d’Arte Contemporanea di Roma.  As I wrote in my previous post, Indo-Brit artist Kapoor gets under your skin with 30 provocative pieces, from paintings to monumental sculptures (through April 17).

Er Pupone

This could be it.  This could be the very last season of Er Pupone - Francesco Totti with AS Roma. Rome's golden boy of the football (ahem, soccer) pitch and Italy's Golden Footis also approaching his golden years, so there is speculation that these could be very well be his last appearances on thefield.  A tribuna ticket for any of these upcoming home games at Stadio Olimpico — Sampdoria (January 19), Cagliari (January 22), Fiorentina (February 7), Torino (February 19), Villarreal (February 23, European league), Napoli (March 5) and Sassuolo (March 17) — is now more important than ever. And if you just don't get football, grab a ticket for Six Nations Rugby.  This year, Rome’s Stadio Olimpico hosts three matches as Azzurri, Italy’s national team, battles Wales (February 5), Ireland (February 11) and France (March 11).

What We Adore About Rome Right Now, originally appeared in Forbes Travel, January 10, 2017.

Anish Kapoor in Rome

Carne Trémula.

The name of Pedro Almodovar's 1997 film is running through my head as I walk through a ground floor gallery , navigating fleshy red sculptures, monumental canvas and pvc architectural pieces, and vicious paintings/vivisections. This is what it must feel like to be inside a body, or more likely inside Anish Kapoor's brain, the artist whose eponymous exhibition at the Museo d'Arte Contemporanea Roma (MACRO) is making half the guests shy away or inspiring a series of selfies (it's a thing. Kapoor's art makes a great selfie backdrop, subject or frame).

I love it.

Kapoor is a pretty brainy Indian-British artist, whose sculpture and paintings are best described as boundary-testing and bombastically biomorphic. Using material includingdirt, fiberglass, resin, canvas, steel, pvc, silicon, wood, wax and paint, playing on themes such as trauma, transformation, size, sexuality and emptiness, an single piece by Kapoor easily dominates the space around it.  For the MACRO, Kapoor is showing 30 works of art (from 2005 to 2016), which beautifully fight for attention in a lone, white gallery.

"This is not art, this is science!", shouts my eight-year-old and tireless colleague who has worked with me side by side for the past eight years, shuffling and hustling across Italy at every kind of exhibition possible- antiquities, Baroque masters, architecture.  She is impressed and at the same time disgusted with Kapoor's work.  Animal hides hang like paintings (or is that the reverse?) and paintings seem to cavern into discombobulated body parts.

She tells me prefers his solid sculpture, both large and small.  They are happier.  But it seems that every piece makes hersmile as she cracks up at the names.  Hunter. Flayed. Unborn. Hung. Inner Stuff. First Milk. Disrobe. Stench. Curtain.  They sound like a forensics report.  I'll admit I cringe a little as I peer into what looks like the cross section of biopsy.  When I lean in, I get lost in the depths of crimsons and vermillions.  Every piece by Kapoor traps you inside with deliberate intensity and meticulous beauty.  And shown together in a collective, the 30 pieces show off the bicameral mind of the artist. Hot and cold, solid and fragile, big and small, reflective and porous, durability and decay.  Duality at its biggest and best.

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Processed with VSCO with n1 preset

Oh yeah, now I get.  Kapoor is playing with me, the viewer, and he's playing with time.  I have to come back.


Through April 17, 2017

Priceless Cities Rome, an evening at Colbert

A few years back,  Mastercard created and launched a city-centric series of special events -  Priceless Cities giving any Mastercard holder (as long as they are signed up to the program) first-come access to invitation-only, once-in-a-lifetime events curated to their city of choice . . . in other words, behind-the-scenes at performances, private museum visits, Michelin-star dinners, et cetera*.  With more than 40 cities on the list, it's easy to predict the line up: stateside it's New York, Los Angeles, Miami, San Francisco and more, and around the globe it's incredible metropolises like Cusco, Bogota, Mexico City, Sydney, Moscow, Paris, Munich and Rome. Rome's inclusion comes as no surprise, because it's Rome, the best city in the world, and by its very definition, "priceless".  It was about time I popped into an event, and the timing was perfect.

Lately, the Professor and I have talked ad infinitum about how we are in dire need of a change of scenery and a cocktail.  We've come to the academic conclusion that we've exhausted our time at our local haunts so much that even they probably would love for us to get out as well.   A visit to Villa Medici has long been on my list, especially since the villa rebooted its basic bar into Parisian cafe/bistrot Colbert,  so when Colbert appeared on Priceless Cities' list, I knew it was fate, or better yet, a great excuse to set foot in the bastion of Frenchyness.


Villa Medici  is my great escape-  an incredible 16 villa above Piazza di Spagna that, thanks to Napoleon, lets me live out my Franco-fantasies.  The villa is a masterpiece, built in 1564 and eventually acquired by Cardinal Ferdinand de' Medici in 1576.  Its hallowed ceilings have Zucchi frescoes, the exterior back facade has bas relief copies of the Ara Pacis, there are fountains, a garden maze, a hidden studiolo, just to name a bit of its decor.  In 1803, Napoleon moved the French Academy to the Mannerist villa, and ever since the Academy hosts artists in residence and curates a progressive/agressive program of performances, concerts, film screenings, and exhibitions year round.... not to mention public visits to the historical villa and gardens.   It. Is. Magical.

And so is the window seat at Colbert.  Nope, our priceless evening was not about the Villa but about Colbert during its closed hours.  Getting there was half the fun, we walked through the main entrance and up a marble staircase to one of the Villa's famous chiocciola -spiral staircase - to the southern wing.  When we arrived, lights were low and it felt like that inky evening sky was rumbling through Colbert's halls- a beautiful space of high ceilings with faint tracings of frescoes, bare walls with an occasional reproduction of an ancient statue, and my window with a panoramic view of Rome from San Pietro to the Vittoriano.  Aproned waiters brought us amuse-bouche and aperitivi, while the Professor took over a salumi buffet by Fiorucci.   We took advantage of the low lighting and table, and talked to no one but ourselves. . . the perfect evening out.

For more about Priceless Cities in Rome and Italy, take a look here.

* Most events require advance reservation and, from what I've seen, have costs as low as 10 euro to events for Platinum Cardholder only, so even I have no concept of what that value would be.