The (sun) Rise of Roma Termini

Hello, sunshine.

A few months back, I was running through Rome's Termini train station to catch my regional train to Terni (a 1km sprint to maledetto Binario 1 est) when I stumbled onto a functioning escalator unbelievably headed upward to a mezzanine level- a curvacesous, all-white wonderland of food shops and glass windows.  Everything was illuminated.  Everyone was stylish. And everyone had a chair or stool to sit on.  Trainspotting heaven.   Welcome to La Terrazza.

Train stations come in all shapes and sizes, and I love them all- the vintage style of Los Angeles's Union Station, the seaside view at tiny Taormina-Giardini,  the looming arches of St. Pancras and everything about Milano Centrale.  And I love trains, tracks, conductors and travelers.  But most importantly, I love having a place to sit so that I can take it all in.  I can like Termini for those beautiful Rationalist arches of slick travertine (on its lateral sides), but I can't say I love it.   There's never beena place to just to stop and take in the station, unless you count the rooftop terrace at the Radisson Blu across the street.

Passengers want more from a station than a pop-up Magnum shop while dodging the ground floor's random sights and smells.  We want to be able to enjoy our wait time, maybe ingest something more than a cappuccino, and we want a view.  With a panoramic glass wall that looks out on to the platforms, Termini is definitely giving us something to look at.  To make it a bit more delicious, La Terazza has line up of fooderies like Ham Holy Burger, Fattorie Garofalo (mozzarella) and La Crostaceria (fish).  Finally, Termini is ready to take itself seriously.

In other commuter news:

  • Walk down via Giolitti or head to Platform 25, and you'll find yourself standing in a monumental room ofgorgeous Fascist-era bricked vaultes.  Mercato Centrale is another "best of" Italy food superstore, like Eataly, but with far more emphasis on eating in, not taking out.  The clever diner will head up to the third floor alcove to check out Oliver Glowig's La Tavola.
  • For the frequent travel, down the Trenitalia App. It has changed my life.  Great design and easy to navigate. And just plain easy for purchase. I've bought and changed tickets within five minutes of departure.

La Repubblica and me, Italy's digital media influencer

Meet me in Mexico City

Mexico. 27 Cultural sites, six natural sites, 1 cultural/natural site, eight intangible Cultural Heritage sites.  23 sites to be considered to the list.

These are the basic UNESCO numbers, and believe me, there is so much more, that I immediately learned when I landed in Mexico City for a three-day project I cavalierly entitled: #MeetMeInMexicoCity.  Yep, I was walking around the world's 19th largest city thanks to a last minute invitation from Alitalia  to board its inaugural FCO-MEX non-stop flight with a bag and the answer to its single question:  What would you do in 72 hours in Mexico City?

The question blew my mind.  My only knowledge of Mexico, much less Mexico City, is relegated to  a beautiful long weekend in Holbox, the brief Diego/Frida coverage in my modern art history recitation, a love of Spanish-language movies, and the sounds and images of my friend Milena.  In other words, I know postcards and film clips.  So to answer Alitalia’s question: Eat, Kahlo, Pyramids.

Given an entire alpha global city (which counts nearly nine million inhabitants across its 573 square miles, not to mention a total of20 million in the greater metropolitan area), I realized some kind of guidelines would be needed and thought about UNESCO's ongoing list of cultural and natural heritage sites.  As above, Mexico has 34 sites, with five of those cultural sites in and within one hour from Mexico City.  All I needed was a plan and transport while intangible heritage, which includes indigenous art, music, markets, festivals, ceremonies and food, needed just a little foot work.

Mexico City. Is. Amazing.  From Tenochtitlan to today, Mexico City is a beautiful adventure in color, sound, taste and history.  It was like standing in a wrinkle in time where history, art, culture and architecture overlapped and folded into each other.  In three days, I had delicious different regional cuisine and ate every kind of Vitamina T - tacos, tamales, tlacoyas, and tortas - I stood in front of a huge Diego Rivera mural at the national university on the same day that I climbed 2000 year old temples in an archaeological site, I danced to mariachi on a floating garden, walked around an international shrine, watched Aztec dancing, stood in the center the one of the biggest squares in the world,  and caught up with Frida and Luis.  My three day wrinkle in time wasa crazy and colorful rhythm of movement, imagery, scents and sounds.  I want more.

The 34 properties in Mexico on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

More #meetmeinMexicoCity at my StellerStories

Special Thank You to Alitalia and VisitMexico.

BBC Localite, Rome and Me

BBC localite
BBC localite

I am proud to be part of a great team of journalists, bloggers and social media influencers as BBC Travel's Rome #bbclocalite.  For the next few months, I will be sharing 21st century Rome through my eyes on BBC Travel's Instagram and Twitter profiles.  We have a great team in London, New York, Munich and Paris, all ready to share our cities with you.  Just follow the tag #bbclocalite and make sure to reach out to say hello!

Piazza di Spagna + more: Rome shopping update

[April 28th Update]   Every time I walk through Piazza di Spagna, I smile. The area is finally getting back to its old school vibe as a fashion-lover's mecca. Many of the chintzy shops have disappeared (and no, I don't feel sorry because you can find most of them on Via del Corso and Via dei Giubbonari) and some of fashion's most fabulous are finally taking their rightful places on the square.

And it's about time.  Piazza di Spagna needs to be stylish, hell, Rome needs to be stylish, so yes, I'm all for newcomers Loewe, Acqua di Parma, Pucci, Longchamp, Versace and even Sephora and Nespresso, as well as the coming soon line up of Valentino and Chanel to take a spot in Piazza di Spagna. A new Diesel shop will have a corner, and though I am not 100% thrilled, maybe I can only hope it will have  Chanel and Valentino.

It is hard to believe there is so much turn over and new things happening in Rome's shopping sector. Last year, H&M took over Benetton's flagship on via del Corso, and  a new Armani and renovated Bulgari appeared on via dei Condotti.  Likewise, there is a new Miu Miu and and the "luxury cosmetics" shop Oro Gold. I haven't popped in yet, but I am a bit curious.

Via del Babuino, a street I have often equated to Madison Avenue, is a constant game monopoly-  it still has the staples like Chanel, Gente and Valentino but some of my favorites (like Eleonora have left), making room for Moschino (who windows are always amazing), Fabi (shoes), Boggi and Herve Leger, along with Roy Rogers (?). Around the corner, Via Margutta, Tunisian designer Alaia surprised us all by opening two level shop could just be the only stand-alone boutique in Italy.  Down the road is brand-spanking-new Dalidà, a kind of concept store with a high concentration of shoes from different designers.

Down the Street: Via Borgognona [UPDATED] When asked what my favorite shopping street is in Rome, Via Borgognona is usually the first name out of my mouth.  Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know, the best and beloved shopping streets in Rome are: Via dei Condotti and Via del Babuino (wallet and crowd permitting), Via del Corso ( crowds and kitsch) and Via del Governo Vecchio (uniquey-boutiquey).  But for me, it's always been quiet Borgognona and rumor has it, Borgognona (pronouned Bor-goh-nyo-nah) is about to become the next shopping street in Rome.

Running between the very busy area of Piazza di Spagna/Via del Corso, and Via Frattina/Via dei Condotti, Borgognona is a haven of quiet and class, known for historic Nino (an excellent Tuscan steak house), Renè Caovilla (fairy-tale worthy shoes),old school Eddy Monetti and Brighenti, a personal favorite lingerie shop, and even its very own Gucci boutique, whose specialty is bags and discretion.  Over the past few years, more and more boutiques have snuck onto the street like Ermenegildo Zegna, Moschino and Emilio Pucci -- only to be recycled into blockbusters such as Stella McCartney, Blumarine, and Iro - fabulous French clothing duo.

Other new entires include  Il Bisonte- gorgeous leather bags, Les Copains (in the place of Moschino, which is now on Via del Babuino), Lanificio Colombo- cashmere sweatersFausto Puglisi, and food spots-- Tartufi and Friends  LaDuree and Ginger-- all which all to a great line up that includes Balenciaga, Malo- the delicious cashmere connection, Brunello Cuccinelli- Umbrian country luxury, Nika Nika a mini-concept store with very cute knicknacks and clothing, Sportmax , (MaxMara more "sporty" line if possible), and Marina Rainaldi (impressive because I have always felt that brand was a bit staid).

Renovations, Surprises, Rumors and Coming Soon [Updated] 

Christian Louboutin set up a shop in Piazza San Lorenzo in Lucina, which will also soon [to me, it looks like a matter of days] Rome's first Saint Laurent boutique.  Other recent surprises and rumors include  Coin's amazing reincarnation on Via Cola di Rienzo, and a soon-to-be Rinascente on Via del Tritone, which could be in response to the rumors of a possible Excelsior somewhere in Rome. Supposedly, Fendi is switching things up by moving to EUR, yet retaining the Largo Goldoni location for its furrier.

*Yes, more to come regarding the other triangle Via dei Banchi Vecchi and Via del Governo Vecchio.

December at Piazza di Spagna.

L'Altra Ego

The relation between what we see and what we know is never settled~ John Berger

It's all about ways of seeing.  Not a day goes by when I don't tap into my overstuffed bag of alter egos.  Rehab rockstar, benevolent despot, shoulder-pad-wearing-big-haired tough cookie mom and Hoagie-lovin' girl from Philly have been constant companions in my daily routine to help me understand my writing and get me out of the confinements of my own personality.  It's like my mother's trick of looking at her paintings upside in the reflection of  a mirror-  in order to see better, you have to change your perspective or better yet, get out of your own head.

It seemed fitting that since I have been in a slump (maybe it is just my posture?) that I would head over to MACRO (Museo di Arte Contemporanea Roma) for a walk through its latest exhibition,  L'Altra Ego.  Photographer Marco Delogu* collaborated with artist Giosetta Fioroni to celebrate her more than seventy years as an artist, and upcoming 80th birthday, with a series of playful portraits where Fioroni is coated in make up, masks and costume.  The images are beautiful, shocking, ugly and fantastic- seemingly speaking to every one of my alter egos with questions like how pretty is ugly?  How comforting is stark? And what are you trying to find?

Way of Seeing:  #artwatchers  on Instagram.

*Serendipity: I randomly walked into another tiny Delogu show a few weeks ago - La Natura della Notte, very painterly photographs of nighttime landscape. Galleria Il Segno (Barberini). Ends before November 29.







Veni, Vidi, Bici Chic

Bicycle chic. It's every where and not just Copenhagen. Last month's  International Furniture Fair in Milan debuted new bicycles, and also Fix Your Bike , a kind of Pimp My Ride for pedalers. Horst A. Friederich's book Cycle Styleis all personal style while biking.  Locally, Dolce & Gabbana and Davide Cenci feature bicycles as window display protagonists.  And it should be expected that Italy, producer of amazing cycles and fashion, would have some of the most stylish cycles and cyclists.

Good looking bikes and looking good while biking is nothing new.  But lately, all this bike chic seems to coincide with this past weekend's Cycling Safe campaign in Rome, London and Edinburgh.  At this point, pro-bicycling doesn't mean the Tour de France.  It means a conscious program of making an urban environment safe for cyclists. Over the weekend, Rome was overflowing with bikers celebrating bicycle safety and the need for better legislation and conditions, not just in Rome but throughout the country.

Like most of you, I threw off the training wheels decades ago and have constantly reinvented my bicycling personality to suit my needs:  super-cool banana seat rider, wanna-be-bike-courier, sporty girlfriend bumbling mountain biker, Santa Monica weekend-beach-warrior, I-just-left-Los-Angeles enviro-biker, fashion-first cyclist and most recently don't-f*ck-with-me mamma biker with mini-me in the back.  No matter what the personality, it's all about being able to ride safely.

You don't get it?  Do me a favor and rent a bike for the weekend.  In Rome, head to Collalti and gear up your bike personality.  Then get back to me about bike lanes, bike laws and bike safety.

Eye Candy:  Cycle Chic and Italian Cycle Chic

Looking Up

I am standing  in the Saint Francis Xavier chapel in the right transept of the Gesù, aka: first "baroque" church, 1584 and Jesuit HQ.  To be honest, I have never found the chapel very interesting aside from the arm of the saint showcased in gilded splendor as the chapel's centerpiece. The painting in the altarpiece is painstakingly dark and its subject matter ~Death of St. Francis Xavier~ seemed to be a rehash of the typical saint story: missionary work, fever and death, depicted as deceased saint with angels above.  The transept was designed by Pietro da Cortona which should alone merit ten minutes of inspection but the chapel's gilded decoration has always been a bit too heavy for my head.  In other words, I usually do not give this vault the time of day.

I look up.   No, I do not have a change of heart.  Nor am I blown away by Giovanni Andrea Carlone's beautiful frescoes.  The gilding is far too distracting for my mind. Instead, I am looking for a crab upon the suggestion of a friend who stumbled across the St. Francis Xavier tale.

Legend: while sailing the straights of Malacca and caught in a tempest, Francis prayed to God but dropped his crucifix into the sea.  When Francis and crew finally reached land, a crab appeared holding the lost crucifix to Francis who blessed the animal thus creating a new and rare breed of cross-marked decapods.   I spot him in the vault (can you?)-  suffice to say, a crab appearance in high art makes me chuckle.

St. Francis Xavier eventually became the patron saint of sailors and sadly, this morning becomes the day of the  Costa Concordia's evacuation and capsize.  Over the next two weeks, I  peruse newspapers hoping to find news that lost passengers are found, environmental ruin will be avoided and proper blame/punishment/aid is instituted.  And more and more, I read about disaster tourism- a kind of travel rubbernecking where tourists pose for photos while emergency units scramble to help.  Human nature?

Se Non Ora Quando*

*If not now, when?

Finally, hundreds of thousands of women and men of all ages converged in piazzas across Italy to support of women and in protest of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and his almost-laughable-if-he-were-not-running-a-country reign.  Se Non Ora Quando is the primal scream of women across the country who are beyond sick of not just Silvio but the completely contradictory and imbalanced treatment of women in the work place, work force and beyond.

It's about time.


Piazza del Popolo, Rome