What does the Fox say? Cala di Volpe



That is exactly the vibe I get when walk into the lair of Cala di Volpe, Prince Aga Khan's playground for the rich and famous.  The entrance alone sets the stage for my three days- sexy,  cozy and casual.  For Forbes, I called it a terracotta sandcastle with curves, and I meant it.  There is something dreamlike and nostalgic about Cala.  Maybe because it reminds me of St. Peter's weekend sunbathing with my ex-boyfriend Andrea and I while chatting up Nesta and Inzaghi the Younger.   Or maybe because its warm tones and beautiful lounges remind me of those 1980s Bain de Soleil commercials.  Or maybe because it is just that - dreamy.

My thoughts?

I love its style, color and its vibe.  The Cala is rustic yet sophisticated.  It reminds me of my imaginary home,  you know the one that is effortless chic, seemingly casual and meditatively colorful.  In brief,  the rooms are comfort caves with a view.  The rooms are decorated with Sardinian imagery, vibrant colors dominated by emerald green.  And almost every room has a terrace.  I could've spent most of my days on my terrace , or  in that cozy bed, if that gorgeous green water wasn't so deliciously inviting.

The Cala's location is fantastic-- it's an easy get-away and get-to.   Just 30 minutes by car from Olbia's airport to the hotel and just far away enough from Port Cervo that you can pretend you are on your own island.   And the little is oasis is set up for food and fun so you really don't ever have to leave.  The Professor's friend Christian runs all the water sports, and he's cute.  The hotel restaurants (the grill!) are obviously amazing but more importantly, throughout the summer they bring in Michelin-starred chefs for Eating under the Stars, and the hotel sponsors both Porto Cervo Wine Festival (May) and Food Festival (September).   If I had to be picky, I would say that only the  bathrooms need a pick-me-up but it did have a five-star hair dryer.  Here's my idea of a weekend in Porto Cervo.

JULY and AUGUST 2015:  Natalie ImbrugliaEarth, Wind & Fire Juy  26 luglio.  Robbie Williams August 13.

Cala di Volpe. Porto Cervo, Costa Smeralda.


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.

Rome and the Worldwide Instameet

This past weekend, we [me and the Professor] had an instameet.

Wha? Ma che ci fai con un "instameet"???

An instameet. I.e. a group of people getting together at a decided location to take photos and then post them on Instagram in an excited, obsessive frenzy, with hashtags accompaniment.  I know, I know. Neither of us are the first people that come to mind with the words "group" and  "organization" [Flashback: insouciant birthday partying, resistant airplane ticket buying, writing habits that often do not include eating or cleaning for days].  But obsessive frenzy? Yeah, I'm that girl. I like passion, I like passionate people and I like how Instagram foments that passion.

Over the past several months, we've had six instameets with a few different hashtags: #instameettheromans in Historic Rome, #eurwalk, a walk around the Fascist era architecture of EUR neighborhood, #colosseumfordays, all about the Colosseum (a tag I hope keeps going for centuries) and #walkroma, the consistent and underlying tag of these walks plus our Ostiense and Ostia Antica instameets and this past weekend's walk at Ponte della Musica in zona Flaminia.  And we've consistently had a great group of people [artists, photographers, journalists, interior designers, students, rocket scientists, pro athletes, diplomats, government lobbyists, mind readers] who have come from all over (Lazio and then some) to walk around and photograph the Eternal City ~ who wouldn't want to?  And on a side note, I'm also a late night "silent participant" of many others instameets, like Hong Kong, Sidney, Venice Beach and London, when insomnia is fuelled by a steep fall down the hashtag rabbit hole, especially the #WWMI8 (Instagram's tag for all instameets that happened this weekend).

I'd like to say that our instameets are a non-stop discussion on photography and its techniques, plus showing off a little cultural heritage, but really they are all about making friends, making jokes and confirming that all roads lead to Rome.  Inevitably, someone discovers that they are  tangentially related to someone else.  In my case, someone a) knows one of my cousins b) has dated/could potentially date one of my cousins c) works/worked with one of my cousins d) has never met any of my cousins  but somehow randomly knows one of my old and forgotten friends from wherever.  Yes, the Rome instameet is a yenta, a matchmaker, a nonna and a nosey neighbor.

If you'd like to be kept up-to-date on our Instameets, enjoy the gallery below (a sampling of this past weekend's #walkroma at the Ponte della Musica and Stadio dei Marmi), send me an email and/or keep your eye on our Rome Instameets here.  For a who's who of our #WalkRoma participants in Instagram's 8th Worldwide Instameet, peruse the photo below (and the foot shot above) and click on it. I've tagged everybody who came with an Instagram profile.  Thank you again, you guys are really great-- can't wait to see you for the next instameet!


Venice Biennale, Rain or Shine

For the past three days, I've been walking around Venice  in rain and shine and sometimes a pair of Converse One-Stars as I soak in the 55th Venice Biennale: The Encyclopedic Palace.  The Arsenale, Giardini and collateral events have been amazing.  And the people-watching has been fabulous.  The rain hasn't held back any fashion- if anything, it seemed to bring out the highest of heels. And even though the Biennale can be all about luxury (Sea Force One was docked and ready for partying), I bumped into Maurizio Cattelan on the vaporetto and Eva & Adele in the Arsenale, again just around town.  No matter what, this year's overall vibe is playful- in art and fashion. Updates and articles coming soon.


Secrets Uncovered and other writing

It is always a pleasure to wake up on a Friday morning to freshly squeezed orange juice, a frothy cappuccino and my writing in print. Today was a double dose of, well, moi.  Earlier in the year,  Discovery Magazine (Cathay Pacific's newly made over magazine) asked me to contribute a piece about underground Rome.  Easy since the Professor spends more time subterraneous than above ground, right?  Since Underground Rome is one of our favorite dates-- and I don't just mean historically-- it was a pleasure to walk through the sites and write about them.  Please enjoy my article Secrets Uncovered-- and thank you, Darius Arya, Paul Bennett of Context Travel, Adriano Morabito of Roma Sotterranea and Agnes Crawford of Understanding Rome for liking all of this as much as I do, and even more.

Wait, before you go, I did mention there were two articles.  #2 is my review of Byblos Art Hotel, Verona, for Oryx Magazine. I  consider Byblos Art Hotel the physical embodiment of my heart's desires-  beautiful contemporary art gallery in a 16th century palazzo.  In pdf/print ready version at Agency Fish/Oryx Magazine website (page 28).

Writing Rome

Sometimes I feel I am constantly rubbing my eyes to remove yesteryear's grimy patina from a Rome that I know exists in the 21st century.  Rome will always be, at least for now, the Rome of contradictions, attitude and inane traditions, but sometimes I think she wants more.  The landscape is changing, both physically and emotionally, which means everyone is going to have a complaint and everyone will have something to celebrate. I take the latter, and that's what I like to write about. Here are my latest pieces: BBC Travel "Rome's new architectural renaissance" and Huffington Post's Friday Night Lights: Eataly Rome.

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.







New York State of Mind

It's been a long time since I have been to New York and I miss it ~ and with Sandy slapping around the East Coast, my heart is particularly heavy.  For those in a New York state of mind, I usually get my daily fix from the delicious photos of Sam Horine, or I take the easy way out and ask The Professor to snap some favourite Italy-meets-The Big Apple shots, i.e, Rockefeller Center, whose Palazzo d'Italia is decorated in relief  by artists Attilio Piccirilli, Leo Lentelli and Giacomo Manzù.   Rockefeller Center has a bitter sweet story where new frontiers where supposed to be realized in an amazing painting by Diego Rivera that was papered over shortly into the project, and the entire complex was art deco glory. Several of the tangently themed reliefs still remain and I am enamored with their for-the-people style and epic names like "Youth Leading Industry", "Commerce and Industry with a Caduceus", and "The Joy of Life".  For other art geeks, look for the Gaston Lachaise relief, as well.

Yes, these recent days have been bitter sweet but my friend B reminds me that there is good to be done.

Where to Donate [from CBS Local, New York]

[Photos by Darius Arya on a cloudy day and from the hip]

Last Night I Hold Aladdin's Lamp: Flying Carpets at Villa Medici

All my life I have always wanted to take a spin on a flying carpet.  I came pretty close to that figurative journey when I lived in Los Angeles- not because of all the drugs  flowing in and out of the city, but thanks to my friend Brooks, a transcendental meditation practitioner since childhood, who spun tales of flying carpets and lovely mantras.  Yes, I relaxed, I became mindful and I just was.  But I never did get to see a carpet fly.

Until yesterday.

A last minute invitation to Académie de France's Villa Medici and I run into the metaphor, meditation and movement I've been looking.  Tappeti Volanti, a multi-media exhibition is the reigning exhibition at Villa Medici, testing out all the literal and figurative permutations of the magical, mystery rug.  Featuring a range of artists and work from early Renaissance painting to 21st century film, the exhibition mixes prayer rugs and Persian carpets with some of my favorites including Carl Andre, Hans Haacke, Alighiero Boetti, Benozzo Gozzoli and Stan Brackhage.  As can only be expected at a flying carpet show, I was captivated immediately by the colors and the diversity of the art work-  music, paintings, film, rugs, and installations- in particular Taysir Batniji's Hannoun, a beautiful and intimate site specific work hidden the far corner room of the show.

Just like the Carl Andre piece (removed earlier this month), Flying Carpets will be grounded on  Saturday, October 21.  Yes, the exhibition closes this Saturday. Why have I waited until the very last week to enlighten you on my enlightenment?  Because my journey has only just begun . . .


My Idea of Fun: Made to Measure

Shoes, glorious shoes! Let's come clean, I am infatuated with sandals--strappy, thongs, wedges, flat, glittery, plain, cork, rubber, leather, cloth, it doesn't matter as long as my feet feel naked and I am in the sun. The singular requirement? A bright colored pedicure.

Living in Italy means I probably have a better chance than most to add to my on-going collection, and being in Rome means I can customize my sandals as if I were in Capri. For more than a year, I've being haunting di San Giacomo sandals , a shop just around the corner from Piazza Navona. And I finally had time to sit down with Veronica and Stefano to pick out my perfect pair.

di San Giacomo sandals are a work of art- a mix of hand-made and made-to-measure. Veronica's husband Claudia designs and makes all jewelry pieces, while Veronica customizes colors and styles, and, along witth calzolaio Stefano, she makes the sandals while you debate whether or not your should buy another pair. The entire process takes about 20 minutes, minus the conversational chatter.

Step 1: I Got Sole: Veronica makes sure my feet fit perfectly in the sole of choice. At present, she has 4 choices: flat, slight heel, wedge and kitten. I choose traditional.

Step 2: Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend- I run rampant through the hand-made jewelry, colorful leathers and chains. Note: style of sole dictates design.

Step 3: Measure Up. Stefano and Veronica measure and fit the thongs to the sole and foot.

Step 4: Hammer Time. The leathers are hammered into the soles and reinforced.

Step 5: Fit me baby one more time. Veronica and Stefano make sure everything is in place and comfortable.

*You know this goes hand in hand with Bikini Etiquette

To customize your own di San Giacomo sandals, skip over to

Via di Tor Millina, 10/11 (Piazza Navona) or Via di Santa Dorotea, 17 (Trastevere), 06-96847938