Perfect Fit: Cool Blue Jeans Found in Amsterdam {Shopping}

Amsterdam's denim appreciation fair, Denim Days. Photo courtesy of Denim Days.

Who knew that Amsterdam was a hub for denim aficionados? Erica Firpo, Fathom's Rome-based contributing editor, shopped hard (and happily) for the blues.  Fathom May 2018.

AMSTERDAM — I am going to be honest. In all these years in Europe, including the requisite study abroad months of debauchery, I never experienced Amsterdam. Nope, I never met up with all my college friends for a long and deliberately forgotten weekend, and sorry, Professor Minott, I never bought a ticket just to see my coveted Dutch Masters. For some reason, I am missing the genes that drive one to The Netherland’s naughtiest city which almost everyone whose adolescence pre-dates Weeds and legal dispensaries has.

Maybe I don’t have the genes. But I did get the jeans.

Design vibes at Hotel Pulitzer. Photo courtesy of Pulitzer Hotel.

Backstory: It’s late November and my friend Sarah decides it’s about time I see the Night’s Watch in person. She also needs to top up her CBD oil supply. We decide to go Dutch, splitting the trip down the middle, including our king-sized bed at Hotel Pulitzer, the most stylish labyrinth I’ve ever seen.

The canal-side Pulitzer is like a very cool Escher painting, a composite of 25 townhouses restored to show off their glorious 17th and 18th century architecture. (And yes, the original family was related to the prize-giving family). You get the vibe as soon as you walk in: the Pulitzer is saucy. Dark indigos and an open lobby area stretch to a garden and more canal houses, with gorgeous design furniture and clever contemporary art inspired by Dutch masterpieces. Ground level, there’s the gorgeous, Scandi-chic restaurant Janz and very sexy Pulitzer bar. The Extraordinary suites are hot, in particular, the music collector’s suite which has a wall of wacky 1970s, ‘80s and ‘90s record covers, but we climb our way through a wooden stairwell to a canal-facing suite on the top level of one of the original townhouses. Cyclists pass below, it’s raining, and I could leave it at that — but we have plans.

Da Straatjes shopfronts. Photo by Erica Firpo

It’s good to have plans in Amsterdam, and even better to forget about them, which we learn as soon as we start walking around the city. Amsterdam is like an organized Venice, neighborhoods around canals and canals around neighborhoods. The Da Straatjes (the 9 streets) easily becomes our neighborhood, and we only leave it for the Rijksmuseum and Boerejongens. The 9s is a busy area, packed with strident bicyclists, unaware tourists, school children, and residents. Design shops, vintage shops, and food shops are tucked away on cobblestoned streets. Sarah and I decide we’re coming back to upgrade our lives (and I do just a month later). We want cool, Dutch designs in our homes from the amazing furniture to the Cool Club playing cards. We want to be styled by any of Amsterdam’s designers, from Dutch streetwear to Netherlands minimalism. We want cat socks and personalized perfume. But more than anything, I want to be decked out in denim.

Amsterdam is one-third of the denim city triumvirate, along with Tokyo and Los Angeles. Beautifully curated denim boutiques are everywhere. So many labels are born and headquartered here; the city hosts Amsterdam Denim Days, a jeans-centric fair, and Amsterdam is home to the world’s first Jean School. Jean-lovers, bookmark this Denim map by Amsterdam Denim for where to find the best of the best in Amsterdam.

Scandi-style means denim-on-denim. Photo courtesy of Denim Days.

Aside from the jeans, my other favorite finds in Amsterdam:

Athenaeum Boekhanel, not in the 9s, but that doesn’t matter. This is could be the best magazine shop in Europe. Hundreds of publications from standard newsstand fare to those gorgeously-produced and hard-to-find ‘zines.

Mendo, the ultimate art/coffee table book shop with every single beautiful art book you have ever coveted: Taschen SUMOs, Phaidon food books, limited editions, everything. Apparently, you can order the entire library of books in one click on their website, no questions asked. I can’t even fathom that possibility.

Coffee-table books to bring Amsterdam vibes home. Photo courtesy of Mendo.

Cowboys2catwalk for Acne Studios, Comme des Garçons, Lemaire. Yes, it’s high-end fashion but it’s all about the selection.

Frozen Fountain, an Amsterdam-townhouse stripped down and filled with design furniture, knickknacks, games. All are incredibly stylish.

Lekker, eye candy for cyclists. Retro-inspired luxury two wheelers and plenty of accessories.

Rain Couture, because it rains a lot in Amsterdam. No surprise that the inventive Dutch have made good-looking, well-priced rain coats for all seasons, of course.

Bar Centraal (not even remotely near the 9s). My friend Sarah is a natural wine fanatic, and she should be because she’s a sommelier who organizes wine adventures (among other things) in Georgia and Rome. Bar Centraal was the only place we could not miss — a tiny local bistro bar, the menu is modern Dutch tapas with lots of great natural wines.

For a better versed Amsterdam, the peripatetic Frankie Thompson narrows down her home base in a series of city-centric articles on her site As the Bird Flies.

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 . . .

Spending Two Perfect Days in Athens

The article originally appeared in Forbes Travel.

Photo courtesy of Starwood Hotels Worldwide.

Athens is called the “Cradle of Western Civilization” for good reason. This city has more than 2,500 years of history under its belt. In its heyday, the Greek metropolis spawned cities, democracies, philosophies, art movements and much more.

Today, Athens is the kind of place where you could spend days soaking in its antiquity or enjoy an afternoon getting lost in its contemporary culture. Whichever direction you’re pulled in, we have the itinerary to ensure a 48-hour experience worthy of the history books.

Day One
Drop your bags at Hotel Grande Bretagne, an elegant 142-year-old property in the heart of the city. Once you’ve changed into comfortable walking shoes, make the 15-minute journey past Syntagma Square until you’ve reached the archaeological area. You’ll be at the base of the Acropolis, history’s most epic mount.

You’re going to want to do it all during your stay, of course, so purchase the multi-attraction pass ticket, which gives access to the Parthenon, Temple of Olympian Zeus and all of Athens’ archaeological sites for five consecutive days

After all of the walking, you’ll have worked up an appetite worthy of the gods. Head down the Acropolis and back toward Syntagma for an outside table at Tzitzikas & Mermigas. This laid-back modern taverna has an outstanding appetizer lineup of tzatziki, soutzoukakia (meatballs in tomato sauce) and more, so fill up.

When you put down the saganaki (fried cheese), it’s back to Hotel Grand Bretagne for a timeout at the GB Spa, a spot offering a classic delight of saunas, Turkish baths, a pool and treatment rooms.

Hotel Grand Bretagne courtsey of Starwood.

Once you’ve rested up, put on the finest resort-chic outfit you’ve packed and grab a cab to the Acropolis Museum for a night visit. The gorgeous, all-glass building sits face-to-face with the Acropolis, reflecting the glowing Parthenon in its glass panels.

But beyond its physical majesty, the landmark also holds a substantial Greek art and sculpture collection. Not to be missed are level one’s Caryatids, six female figures that held up the Erechtheion on the Acropolis, and level three’s Parthenon Gallery, a beautiful display of the frieze marbles and casts. The entire floor is built to the exact dimensions and orientation of the Parthenon’s cella.

Before leaving, make sure to get a drink on level two’s terrace, which has a front-row vista of the Acropolis.

For dinner, take a cab to Piraeus, Athens’ port city for fish. Like many major ports, Piraeus is a charming chaos of restaurants, nightclubs and fast-food shops. Have the hotel concierge book you a table at Varoulko, a chic dockside restaurant in the Mikrolimano marina, the smaller and slightly less chaotic port in Piraeus.

The maître d’ at Varoulko will call you a taxi. Try to get back to Syntagma Square just a few minutes before the hour to watch the Evzones, the changing of the Presidential Guard, a five-minute display of pageantry. (Tip: Though this changing happens every hour daily, a special ceremony, with official uniforms, occurs on Sundays at 11 a.m.)

Day Two
Say good morning to Greece from Hotel Grande Bretagne’s rooftop. There, you’ll find the most beautiful Acropolis morning view as well as a delectable breakfast buffet. Feast up, as you’re in for another walk through history.

This time, you’ll start out at the National Archaeological Museum, which sits just two metro stops from Syntagma Square. This attraction features the country’s finest collection of antiquities — most notably, a larger-than-life bronze Zeus.

From the museum, head to Ancient Agora, a sprawling site that was the city’s original meeting square. You can walk around temples and trek in the Stoa of Attalos, a monumental, two-level building that stretches roughly 380 feet.

For lunch, enjoy a bite at Quick Pitta, a relaxed gyro spot, just outside of the archaeological site in the Monastiraki neighborhood.

After lunch, be sure to stop by EMST, Athens’ new national museum of contemporary art. To be frank, the space can be walked through relatively quickly, but a visit gives you an idea of what is going on in creative Greek and international circles.

Stroll back in the hotel’s general direction to the nearby Kolonaki neighborhood, a vibrant area filled with boutiques and cafés. Our favorite right now is i-D, a store that curates a dynamic collection of clothing and accessories by Greek designers.

Stick around after you’ve finished shopping. By 9 p.m., Kolonaki square transforms to a bustling center of cocktail bars, shops and eateries. Pedestrian street Tsakalof is a standing-room-only thoroughfare that has everyone vying for an outdoor table or stool. But, at some point, even those eating wind up at Minnie the Moocher for a cocktail closer to the evening.

How to Have the Perfect Holiday in Dubrovnik

This article first appeared in Travel + Leisure, January 2016.

This coastal destination is famous as a Game of Thrones backdrop, but there's far more to explore in this ancient walled city. 

Medieval architecture, cobblestone streets, and a panorama of Navy blue seas are the daily background of Dubrovnik, the coastal city in southern Croatia. In the warmer months, the charming walled town gives a sly wink and opens its arms to those looking for a private getaway more affordable than Saint Tropez, Forte di Marmi, or the Costa Smeralda in Sardinia. And in the winter months, after the crowds depart, the Old Town quiets down but offers no less to curious travelers. Here's how to best enjoy it any time of year.


Walk the walls: The medieval fortress makes for a memorable morning workout. The stone ramparts, gates, bastions, forts, and towers that they connect span nearly 6,400 feet (1.2 miles). From every point, the walls give visitors a glimpse into the city's construction and centuries of defense. When you're ready for a break, the St. John's Gate has a small juice bar and leads to the Maritime Museum (don't miss your Instagram-worthy chance to stand next to those large anchors), while the Revelin tower has a nightclub open in the evening. After you've walked the perimeter, take a ride on the local cable car to see what you just walked.

Near the city's Pile gate, the Franciscan Monastery is a feat of Romanesque artistry. Its cloister, with arches and 120 columns, musters mid-14th century charm and nostalgia, and the same goes for its museum collection of paintings and relics. The Old Pharmacy, the third oldest in the world, has been selling its tinctures and potions since 1317.

Get down with Game of Thrones: While the Old Town and its walls may be the site of King's Landing and Cersei's walk of shame on the show, the nearby Trsteno Arboretum has played backdrop to some of the Lannisters' finest moments. The early Renaissance botanical garden has a world-class collection of plants and trees, including 500-year-old oriental pines, and sits cliff side for the perfect sunset moment.

Tour the city: The Old Town may be tiny, but feels larger than life with Aljosa Lecic, a private guide from Calvados Club. One of the city's more prolific guides, Aljosa can wax poetic, political, and philosophical, while sharing locals-only tips and sidestepping into the music school where he trained as a child.

Swim: A dip in the Adriatic is meditative and most likely healing, thanks to the perfect combination of temperature, cleanliness, and salt. The city is surrounded by beaches, but there is nothing like the water-level promenade of the Hotel Excelsior.


Bota: Hidden behind the city's Cathedral, Bota and its Alice in Wonderland-worthy seating puts a spin on Croatia's world-famous oysters by mixing them up with a sushi menu. This is a far cry from traditional Croation fare.

About a 15 minute drive from the old town, Pantarul is a mod farm-to-table restaurant putting a contemporary vibe on traditional Croatian recipes.

Victoria's ivy-covered pergola overlooking the walled city and the surrounding blue expanse has sunset on lockdown, and then some. Chef Roberto Chavez presents a masterpiece of Peruvian-Adriatic fusion. Get here before Michelin does.


Buža Bar: This "hole in the wall bar" may be on everyone's list, but don't overlook it: The cascading cliffs on the edge of the city's ramparts are sunset-perfect. When the season cools down, book a table at D'vino, a small wine bar with a focus on Croatian wines and cheeses. A street-side seat at any cafe on the old town's Stradun (the main road) is great for people watching.


Like many historic centers, Dubrovnik's is lined with souvenir and trinket shops, but they deserve a visit so you can see what the bayside city is known for: crafts like lace and embroidery. Men's store Croata is the source for the traditional Croatian neckties that changed men's fashion forevermore. In the town square, Gundulićeva Poljana, there's a morning market of artisan food items like cheese, honey, jelly, lavender, and locally made souvenirs.


There are several hotels centrally located in town, from the luxury 19-room Pučić Palace, which sits front and center in Gundulićeva Poljana. Just a ten minute walk away is the elegant Villa Orsula, a 1930s-era mansion with terraced gardens, seaside views, and 13 rooms.

Erica Firpo is based in Rome and writes regularly for Travel & Leisure. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

U-bahn stories, underground font in Berlin


Futura. Verdana. Blackletter. Humans. Helvetica. Copperplate. Futura. Verdana. Blackletter. Humans. Helvetica. Copperplate.

All I see in Berlin are letters.

One ride on the U-Bahn turns into an afternoon of name-that-font on a timely transport of typeface. As I pass by each stop, I recite names of font I just saw. I am like letterpress Arya Stark.

Futura. Verdana. Blackletter. Humans. Helvetica. Copperplate.

There is something meditative about sitting in a yellow subway car, waiting for the doors to open to find an unexpected font long forgotten and preferably with umlauts and eszett.

I do this for a few hours.


I know, I know. You are thinking "Gutenberg, girl. Get it?" while I'm crossing my fingers, hoping that my metro card hasn't expired.  There can't be more of this. But it keeps going.  And there is no logic. San Serif, serif.  All caps. Caps on first and the rest lower case.  Black on white. White on black. Stencil on tile. Metal on marble.

I run up for a breath of fresh air, some sun shine and a glimpse of the city.  Berlin is bright and blue. Construction cranes are looming over most of the city in a slow motion ballet of building.  Everything is neue.

Futura. Verdana. Blackletter. Humans. Helvetica. Copperplate.


Dedicated to Brooks and Cary Ocon of Aardvark Letterpress, who will probably never read this.

Want more Berlin U-Bahn type? So do I. Check out UrbanSketcher's lovely post and Kate Seabrook's Endbanhof photography series where she documented the entire U-bahn.

Hot Pockets: Enrico Cerea, The Best Italian Meal You'll Ever Have is in Switzerland

Hot Pockets is my series of chef interviews for this blog and other publications.  My interview with Enrico Cerea of Da Vittorio originally appeared in Fathom in October 2014.

When we think of St. Moritz, we think of luxurious lodges, flashy furs, and snowy finery. We don't often think of Italian food. The Cerea family, owners of Michelin-starred restaurant Da Vittorio in Bergamo, Italy, is changing all that. Fathom contributing editor Erica Firpo fills us in on the restaurant's new Alpine satellite, which is helping turn an ostentatious ski town into a hidden food paradise.

ST. MORITZ – According to my husband, Darius Arya, there is only one reason to go to St. Moritz. Food. Don't get me wrong, he's an avid skier (off-piste, I might add), but lately his obsession with the tiny Engadin valley town is its restaurants, pastry shops, and pubs.

St. Moritz is home to some 90 restaurants, of which at least four are Michelin-starred, as well as an annual four-day Gourmet Food Festival where top chefs take a break from their own restaurants to show off some flare. Mark your calendar for January 26 - 31: The 2015 festival will star some of Britain's top chefs to celebrate their discovery of the Swiss winter getaway.

Bottom line, from fondue to foam, St. Moritz is a foodie enclave.

When Darius proposed a ski vacation, I laughed. I don't relax in less than 70-degree ambient temperature, and the kind of sports I like give an overall tan. But when he mentioned that St. Moritz is a snowballing supernova of ski and cuisine, I thought it was about time I dusted off my earmuffs, hopped that fabulous red train that runs through the Bernina Valley, and make my way to Da Vittorio.

If St. Moritz is an exploding galaxy of amazing food spots, Da Vittorio is its Red Giant star. The outpost of historic Da Vittorio in Bergamo, one of Italy's eight Michelin three-star restaurants, opened at the Carlton Hotel in December 2012 and captured a Michelin star in November 2013. Not too shabby for a seasonal restaurant.

But Da Vittorio isn't simply a restaurant — it's a family empire. The Cerea siblings — brothers Enrico, Francesco, and Roberto and sisters Barbara and Rosella — have taken their father's Bergamo restaurant and expanded into an all-encompassing philosophy, institution, and school, or, better yet, a cult where food is God and God is good.

I met up with Enrico and the St. Moritz team to talk about the Cerea food philosophy and what to expect in St. Moritz.

What is Da Vittorio?

Da Vittorio is a family restaurant started by my father, Vittorio Cerea, in 1966 in Bergamo. He was more than just a buona forchetta (literally a "good fork"). He was a self-taught chef who just wanted to share his passion. In 1970, he received his first Michelin star, in 1996 his second, and in 2010 his third. My siblings and I continue his legacy and love for cooking by overseeing a large, family-style team of approximately 140 people who work together at our restaurant, pastry shop, and catering company at the Dimora Boutique Hotel in Bergamo, and now at Da Vittorio's new location in St. Moritz.

So what is Da Vittorio St. Moritz?

Da Vittorio St. Moritz is slightly different from Bergamo. The clientele is more relaxed. They are on vacation, and that's reflected in the menu, style, and atmosphere. My brother Roberto and I alternate between Italy and St. Moritz, where we have a team of eleven people, including chef Luca Mancini. He's been working with the Cerea family for six years, and in 2012 he was voted Northern Italy's Number One Emerging Chef. Since 2012, he has spent the winter season in St. Moritz and the summer in Bergamo. We bring our more experienced chefs to St. Moritz and introduce and train new chefs in Bergamo.


What can we expect at Da Vittorio St. Moritz?

We focus on Italian dishes, such as our paccheri (Da Vittorio's signature dish, a simple pasta elevated to a meteoric level), and we are proud of regional and local traditions and products (like Bergamo's sciur, a very piquant aged blue cheese covered in red fruits). All of our produce, meat, and fish come from Italian suppliers who we have worked with for decades and know personally. We pick and choose what we want, and it is shipped the next day.

Enrico seems to spend most of his time traveling back and forth between St. Moritz and Bergamo to talk with family and a team of more than 100 chefs and local producers. Everything on the table comes from decades-old relationships with Italian-based farmers and fishermen. The St. Moritz team represents practically every region of Italy and is made up of top sous chefs and students from Bergamo. His sommelier is a walking encyclopedia of beverages and chocolate.

And the cuisine? It's almost ironic that I traveled out of Italy to experience what could be considered a basic pasta dish. But it blew me away, as did everything else that was on the table.

Trains: Dreaming of Bernina Express

I woke up again this morning with a vague feeling that I had forgotten something.

It happens every now and then, and I usually attribute it to pregnancy brain or just blame Los Angeles and my early 2000s style when rolling was just as much an accessory as stilettoes to the tank top and jeans uniform.

The more I think about it, I wasn’t forgetting anything. No, I was feeling bits and pieces of a dream that was fuzzy and out of shape. I push into my head and find myself on a train in the Swiss Alps and putting notebooks in a backpack.

And quickly the dream comes back to me, I am on this train trying to get myself to do work (homework?) and reminding myself of all the other classes (vector algebra, medieval history, philosophy?) that I had signed up for but never completed. Somewhere I insist that I completed everything and would have never signed up for an upper level Algebra class. But my dream is relentless and pushes my into another subconscious where I am in a large test room, confronted by professors, admissions officers and guidance counselors who show me lists of work I still have yet to complete.

I touch the edges of the folders they hand me and now I am feeling the dream.  I have deliberately ignored all of this work and maybe I have lied (to myself, to others.  I don't want to believe but it's in front of me.  But I am well aware of lucid dreaming so  I look down at my own hands for a reality check and am pushed back onto the train, shoving notebooks in a backpack, nervous because there is something I am forgetting…

Trains. I have always loved rail travel, especially long distance and over night trains. It’s no surprise that I should find myself on one but in this dream, why with a backpack full of notebooks for classes and programs I am not doing?  The train I am on is the Bernina Express, the beautiful red train with the large glass windows that takes you from Tirano, Italy to Chur, Switzerland. In real life, I coveted that train for years and finally had a chance to travel on it this year. Yes, it was everything I wanted- - gorgeous views, spirally tracks, amazing mountains, narrow ravines, turn of the century stations, and so dreamily warm inside, thanks to all of the light. In my dream, the train is still warm and well lit, and that is why I am not angry ...

Dream interpreters will tell you that being on a moving train signifies personality growth, a movement toward better life. Add my re-occurring unfinished mystery dream, and perhaps I am moving toward better acknowledgement of the things I avoid, things I don’t want to do, places I don’t want to be.