TRAVEL

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.

Romanista

  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.

Sign of the Times: An Eclair

 

This is a sign. More like a sign of the times.  Back in the day, I used to wander around Rome in search of a chocolate eclair.  It was my thing.  Or more like a self-placed, huge-ass chip on my shoulder.

Just to clarify: I knew I wasn't in France, and as a rule of thumb, I don't believe in nutella, so don't even attempt to assuage me with cornetti al cioccolato aka nutella.  I just wanted an eclair once in a while and I went looking for them.

So yeah, I was that girl who paid the entrance fee to Villa Medici just to go to the caffe (no eclairs).  And I hung out around Palazzo Farnese to follow around the Ambassador de France's chef. (He makes his own.)  No dice.  There were no eclairs in Rome, until last Sunday.

Caffeteria, Piazza Sant'Eustachio

Pasticerre: Michela, whose eclair artistry came from a few years in London at the Ritz and Bulgari Hotel.

 

The introduction of the eclair to Rome's sweet scene is a far better harbinger of things to come than the cupcake craze of a few years back, an era in which quicky/crappy gelaterie and ersatz paninoteche flooded the streets of the centro storico and all we could look forward to was the gelato popsicle.  That craze meant less quality across the spectrum-  from food to clothing to exhibition curation.  I spent more time shaking my head at all the black-and-white tiled paninoteche and the Brandy Melvilles.  To flip a Dickens quote, it was the worst of times, it is the best of times.

I am not going to argue that lackluster has died out, but I've noticed there is more of an investment in the recent openings in the center.  It started with some restaurant renovations and has traveled all the way to art, most notably with Lorcan O'neil moving to the Campo de' Fiori area.  It's almost as if there is a return to old school-- by old school, I mean what was once is now.  And before you get all up in my face about the real Rome,  take a 7:45am walk with me around the center.

Back to Caffetteria, also known as that other caffe in Piazza Sant'Eustachio  which the Professor fondly remembers for its ceiling mirror, is a reboot on the old-school Roman caffè~ i.e. gorgeous bar, beautiful pastries, velvet indoor chairs, painted wall-paper, and great outdoor seating.  Menu is pretty good too~ 2,70 euro for a cappuccino al tavolo ain't too shappy when it ain't shabby.

 

 

 

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.

Leftovers

{Septemer 2013} To be honest, I don't particularly like photos of myself but here are some photos of, well, me, X and my mom by photographer Parker Fitzgerald.  Parker was in Rome working on a project for Kinfolk Magazine, and while we did not make the final cut, the three of us had a great time cooking together.  

Update: For more Parker Fitzgerald photography on life in and around the kitchen, please take a look at the lovely shots of Elizabeth Minchilli, and peruse the Kinfolk Table Cookbook. I haven't had a chance to see it myself.

Mille Miglia and Me!

Hurrah, it's May! My favorite month in Rome because I get to live my grease monkey fantasy when the Mille Miglia rally rolls into the city.  Hundreds of beautiful vintage racing cars from 1927 forward right at my doorstep.  I know, I know,  I've talked about it for years and finally, I'm not just sharing the news that The Race is on in Rome tonight, but I get the chance to share my love of bodies, exhausts and racing colors up close and personal.  Tonight, the Professor and I will be front row as the cars  pass across the piazza in front of Castel Sant'Angelo, and early Saturday morning,  I'll be following the race back to Brescia.  Catch me if you can!

 

Here I Go Again: Fendi Experiments

Here I go again on my own,

going down the only road I've ever known . . .

~Coverdale/Marsden

Ever since I saw Fondazione Fendi's latest experiment Transit of Venus, I've been singing Whitesnake's anthem "Here I Go Again" (Saints & Sinners, 1982).  I don't know why I correlate an '80s anthem to a 35-minute performance piece about an astronomical rarity, but I think I can make it work.

Since 2005, Fondazione Fendi has been hosting annual, often times semi-annual, experiments [1] in Rome's Antica Mercato del Pesce (near Circo Massimo) --  in other words, semi-private art events where a very well dressed audience is indundated, bombarded and sometimes oversaturated by the aggressive, shocking, offensive and beautiful of sound, images, film and live performance [2].  And I love them. Waiting in line outside the Antico Mercato del Pesce is like watching a very slow moving fashion show.  It's a Fendi event so yes, everyone dresses amazingly, and may just be the only time to see the Roman Fabulous wait in line.

Inevitably, Fendi's experiments feature projected paintings of women [3], nudity, live nude women and overt or subtle references via imagery and performance to creation/procreation/abortion.  However, it should be noted that Fendi is definitely not femme-centric as equal visibility is given to men- nude or not, athletes, actors and artists alike. This year's Transit of Venus seems to be slightly more femme-centric than past experiments as the performance is inspired by the celestial path of Venus [hint, hint] as it passes between the sun and the earth in one of its rare transits.  As usual, Fendi (thanks to curator Raffaele Curi) takes us down a very obscure path [4]  .  Without giving away the plot, planetary analogies come to life in the form of balls [5].

  1. Whitesnake's song title "Here I Go Again" literally defines the frequency of Fendi's Experiment- once or sometimes twice a year, and hopefully "again"
  2. Whitesnake's epic video for "Here I Go Again" featured the enviable performance of scantily clad Tawny Kitaen flipping back walkovers atop the hoods of two parked Jaguars (automobile). Back in the day, they [Kitaen and video] were considered shocking, aggressive and beautiful.
  3. see above
  4. The lyrics to "Here I Go Again" are about the unknown path that our unsung hero is about to undertake, and just like the drifter,  the audience doesn't know where they are going and keeps "searching for an answer" to Curi's impossible-to-predict experiments.
  5. Much like the balls and orbs that run rampant through the octagonal marketplace,  our balladeer must have a lot of balls to "walk along the lonely street of his dreams".

From April 16 through 22, 2012.  For more information, please take a look at my piece about Transit of Venus for New York Times InTransit blog.

[slideshow]

Alternatives

As a rule of thumb, the only time I ever spend walking around Rome's so-called shopping district ~ the intimidating  and overcrowded Tridente  from Piazza di Spagna to Piazza del Popolo and Piazza di San Lorenzo in Lucina~ is either in the early morning hours or late in the evening, and always after a few drinks at the Hotel de Russie.  Though I love the windows, the shops and the people-watching, the clothing itself seems a little less inspired.  While waiting for the rise of via Borgognona, I have another alternative. Literally.

Piazza Mattei.  Yes, that quiet piazza  in the Jewish quarter where every one seems to walk on the way to the Ghetto or Campidoglio, only stopping for a photo op with Giacomo della Porta's Fontana delle Tartarughe (turtle fountain).  Set back at Piazza Mattei #1 and #5 is my alternative to the chaotic Tridente and incidentally a salve to my schizophrenic personality

#1:  Boutique Uno first grabbed my attention with its display of The Laudress, a line of eco-clothing detergents that I've only seen in the US.  But it is Uno's well-researched selection of casual wear from off-the-radar designers, Italian and international, that makes the perfect foil to the mallification of Via del Corso.  I've found some So-Cal favorites like Velvet and more recently No.Nu, two former Fendi designers with a penchant for silks and asymmetrical cuts, and Album di Famiglia, luxurious cottons with beautiful stitching.  My fancy? Colorful cotton scarves. Piazza Mattei, 1, Tel. 0668301897    Uno Boutique has cloned itself  on Via Carini, 42 (Monteverde neighborhood) to debut April 2.

#5:  Alternative. Well bedside manner may be lacking in Maurizio Catalioti's shoppe du luxe, his amazing eye for choosing breath-taking (yes, I said breath-taking) pieces from ready-to-wear's most ingenious and hardest to find helps soothe the pain.  Every few months, Catalioti introduces a designer or line into Piazza Mattei which seems to find its way into Rome months later.  Newest initiate?  Alessandro dell'Acqua's No.21.  For the past few months, I've had a sense of dèja vu each time I walk into Alternative-- finally realizing that Catalioti's past incarnation was the hidden (and now defunct) Luisa Via Roma shop  behind the Imperial forum.   Piazza Mattei, 5, Tel. 0668309505.

Nutshell: Whereas my heart belongs to Alternative, my wallet belongs to Uno.

Shopping Tidbit: della Porta's 1580s fountain has inspired a look a like in Fort Myers, Florida's Miromar outlet mall. All shopping roads lead to Rome?

 

Louis Vuitton's Little Star: Roma Etoile

It's finally opened! After what seemed like years, Spazio Etoile has been completely overhauled and is now Louis Vuitton's 14th maison (and first in Italy)- Roma Etoile.  A little hint:  this is a big deal.  Though a capital city, Rome is not the forefront of fashion nor the definition of cosmopolitan.  However Rome is slowly marching through the 21st century and an LV maison is just one confirmation that Rome is no longer simply a beautiful antiquity.

Billed as a concept store, Roma Etoile is by no doubt a Louis Vuitton boutique-- three levels of the famous trunks and fashion.  The design is beautiful-- architect Peter Marino renovated the former Cinema Corso (Marcello Piacentini) into an artistic open layout whose perogative is to see and be seen. 

*For a panoramic peak into the new boutique, take a look at the very second Dotspot I made, a 360 degree video via iPhone, thanks to Kogeto.

Marino showed off every detail from wall mounts to belt holders, but I was more impressed with his choice of contemporary art.  The front entrance is an installation by Czech artist Jiri George Dokoupil.  Dokoupil took hundreds of film stills and created a colorful and curved mosaic canvas.  He also chose a Michelangelo-inspired Vik Muniz c-print subtly hanging in women's wear.

If in Rome for the next few days, a Vuitton visit is worth the walk to Piazza San Lorenzo in Lucina.  Along with the permanent collection, high fashion and the ever changing window displays, there is a clever temporary exhibition (through February 5) of the famous trunks and valises related to the silver screen including my very favorite The Darjeeling Limited (Wes Anderson, 2007).

Cultural Kudos: From the conception of Roma Etoile, Louis Vuitton is collaborating Centro Sperimentale di Cinematografia, Marino integrated a curved projection screen and viewing area which will show classic and contemporary Italian films, whereas the LV-CSC will focus on student laboratories, projects and film awards.[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0VeDoGHOa7c]

Fashionista Flag: As expected, the opening of the Louis Vuitton Roma Etoile brought out celebrities-- from bloggers to silver screen icons like Cate Blanchett and Catherine Deneuve (swoon!).  Before and after the inauguration party, Rome was literally crawling with fashion bloggers such as UK favorite The Clothes Whisperer, in fact I bumped into Chiara Ferragni (Italy's uber-popular fashion blogger and law student) on the steps at Piazza di Spagna Friday afternoon while walking a very tantrum-inspired X home from school.

UPDATE: My review of Louis Vuitton Roma Etoile appears on February 20, 2012 in the New York Times InTransit Blog: Vuitton adds Culture to Couture in Rome.

Spot Changing: Versace for H&M

Follow my blog with BloglovinVersace has left the building. Yesterday, the Professor and I stumbled across H&M's latest fashion collaboration- Versace for H&M.  Versace-wannabes traveled and even camped for a Donatella fix at at Porta di Roma's H&M shop.  There was laughing, crying, hugging and fighting as everyone tried to get the black leather studded jacket or even a small purse within a ten minute time frame.   Shopaholics excitedly  shared with me what they bought, what time they arrived and how much fun they had.  Oddly enough, I knew how they felt, though for me it was a subzero sleep-over for Prince's Emancipation tour tickets outside of a surban video shop.

Like couture collabs over the past few years (think H&M Lanvin, Gap Valentino and Target Missoni), Versace for H&M is irony at its most fashionable: Italian haute couture in a low-rent frock shop . . .all'italiano.   Though one might think these collaborations are contrary to bella figura- beautiful, tasteful presentation and thus deliberately avoiding any suggestion of discount, cheap or short cut--  their utter trendiness is by definition perfectly Italian.   They are multi-faceted couture adventures where stylists intepret audience through mass marketable clothing (in this case Versace for H&M is more of a "best of"-for-the-masses) and the eager audience fights fights for its right to swipe the credit card.   A kind of art/fashion happening.  Adding to the irony are the invitation-only parties for fashion editors, writers, bloggers and other VIPs worthy of pre-sale purchase.  And of course, the velvet rope we saw at H&M's store entrance.

Did I bring home any Versace? Not even a  box, which is what I really coveted.

Here's a peak at my  Instagram posts #VersaceforHM and #HMVersace, Rome:

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The fabulous Versace for H&M film

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gkXTI-2ZGyA]