chic, heritage, how to be Italian, italian style, the Italian way

AN EXCLUSIVE DAY IN FORTE DEI MARMI

There’s a code and I think I cracked it: It only took me 20 years of Miami living to dig out how to live in the Italian riviera like a local. 

It took just one morning, the morning of the Wednesday street market in Forte dei Marmi, our version of Palm Beach, in the good season, the summer, during my trip to Italy was a revelation.

Imagine the Agnelli, Giorgio Armani at one point owned a home here too, Thomas Mann, Henry Moore, Luchino Visconti, old money and noble families populate the mansions behind the discreet gates, pines, oleanders. And then there's il Bagno Piero, the beach club of the front rowers. If you have the tent in row n.1 you have accumulated a Anna Wintour type of seniority. And then la Capannina di Franceschi, a sort of Studio 54 of the roaring '60s when Gino Paoli and Ornella Vanoni were IT. 

There’s a diffused sense of elegance, relaxed and chic, understated lifestyle made of simple yet luxurious things, there's no showing off Ferrais or Lamborghini, you actually do errands, go to the beach in the bike. The morning starts at the bar, if you want to make it posh it's Il Principe. You know there's a bar at each and every corner in Italy, you go, pay for un caffe', show the recipt to the barista, order and in a NY minute you gulp it down and leave. There's no alien language just un caffe'or a cappuccino, not a skinny latte with an extra shot kids temp, they don't need to call your name, it's a ritual, but it entails a mix of attitude and discretion, respect for your privacy, it's a question of sleekness and rapidity, when you want a coffee can't wait.  

Well, al Forte, even the barista seems a magician, they are as fast at manifesting that caffe’ as you should expect from a barista, yet the noises are tufted, voices are soft and coffee cups are china, not clunky basic ceramics. 

So here’s when the luxury is a state of mind enters in action and the whole reason I wrote the book with it. How about getting dressed to go to the market?

CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT: Linen, layers of whites, gold bracelets, bicycles and wicker baskets, cashmere scarves, silk foulards, les paniers, flat leather sandals, wide brimmed hats, children in prams and nannies.

GET CAUGHT DEAD BEFORE: Wearing high heels pumps, allover logos, It girl bag, the same furry Gucci loafer that all influencers wear or any knock-off.

BTW, you will find random street sellers offering knock-offs of all the above on the curb of the street over a white bed sheet that comes handy when the police come.

WORST FAUX PAS: Trying too hard: it shows that you don’t belong, it’s not about the money and wanting to be who you are not, is never a good idea. And, no coffee to go in a plastic cup, ice cream though it's a different story, it's a cone on the go in the bike. 

WHAT TO BUY AT THE MARKET: The best items to be bought at the market in Forte dei Marmi are bed linens, bathroom parures, pajama sets all to be embroidered with initials (they place your order and the following week you come back for your personalized items); cashmere anything like sweaters, scarves, ponchos. Leathergoods, especially shoes and bags  are the best showcase of what Tuscan craftsmanship is capable of: leather, cotton, silks, prints all made in family owned looms and labs and proudly represented, generation after generation. 

how to be Italian, italian style, slow fashion, heritage, chic

DO THE SUMMER LIKE THE LOCALS DO: FIRENZE & PITTI EPISODE

I attended another Pitti.

For many it's still a dream that hasn’t happened, especially since it became the man/main event par excellence, “peacocking” included. I explain the whole story about it in the book, in the “Borrow from the Boys” chapter and I will not be repetitive.

From 1992 it evolved, changed, expanded, went online, expatriated, cancelled the woman, added a small woman representation, now cancelled it again. My “relatore” the person that introduces you and kinda mentors you through the extenuating preparation of the final thesis in university was Luigi Settembrini, the then communication director and creative consultant of Pitti.

Florence is the place where in 1957 Italian fashion was born with a defile’ in the Sala Bianca in Palazzo Pitti, where Gianfranco Ferre’ made his man collection debut, where the men socks Gallo were launched. Guccio Gucci and Marquis Pucci were home buddies. Firenze is where you breathe history, culture and fashion like nowhere else in the world, it’s the noble of the family of the fashion capitals.

This seemed the perfect backdrop to hold a workshop on how to feel empowered by maintaining your own style in the world of fashion. Part of the job of #luxuryisastateofmind and making all look effortless chic was done by the J.K. Place and its director, Claudio Meli.

What to do like an Italian, or, in other words, how not to look like a tourist.

·         Don’t confuse Pitti Immagine with Palazzo Pitti, Santa Maria Novella the train station, the basilica or the farmacia;

It's ok to walk the streets with that feeling that Caterina de' Medici will show up around the corner with one hell of a damask gown and a cascade of emeralds: it happens to the veterans

·         Scudieri is for the orange zest dipped in dark chocolate, winter or summer;

·         Ice cream is at Perche’ no

·         Don’t be stars truck, play it cool; They are all peacocks, some are fake, the real ones don’t hang out at the entrance of the Fortezza;

·         Be aware, you may find your friend from 20 years ago

·         Go local, like follow Claudio Meli’s footsteps, hang out at the J.K. Place and make yourself acquainted with "the other Florence" the artists and artesans of the sublime.

·         Don’t wear logos, branding or, for that, any cheap Zara knockoffs of logos and brands

The Cheat Sheet of Italian Style // Book is still found HERE and HERE (if you live in the UK or prefer using the Pound). 

how to be Italian, italian style, slow fashion, the cheat sheet, the Italian way

Forget Sophia Loren: Italian style dished out

It’s ok to connect Sophia Loren and Anita Eckberg in the Fontana di Trevi when thinking of Italian style. That was la dolce vita, Cinecitta’ and the luxurious and extravagant lives of the first paparazzi-ed movie stars.

a screenshot for the movie "Made in Italy" of my new obsession channel M2M

a screenshot for the movie "Made in Italy" of my new obsession channel M2M

That’s a good starting point, when thinking of “the Italian way”, it’s sweet, retro and glamorous. But, and here you have to trust me, we kinda moved from Sophia. She grew, evolved and became an Hollywood icon of Italian beauty, but Italians don’t recognize themselves in her anymore, we think she is the glory of our past, we are somehow proud of her, yet she belongs to a collective imaginary that is not modern anymore

Style however has evolved, and her stance may lead to the misconception that Italian style means expensive clothing, glamorous wardrobes, custom made shoes and lavish lives. Ennio Flaiano said: Fashion is the self-portrait of a society. 

Virna Lisi, Anna Magnani, Monica Vitti are more of the icons we look up to, because they kept it real, with irony, sense of humor, wit, elegance, simplicity, frugality, sensuality …

Eva Geraldine Fontanelli, one of the coolest editors, stylist, chic Italians  photo from Style du Monde

Eva Geraldine Fontanelli, one of the coolest editors, stylist, chic Italians  photo from Style du Monde

  • Coffee
  • Fresh flowers
  • Your own perfume (chapter 7 has the whole shenanigans about it)
  • Put a smile on it
  • Sneakers and leggings belong to the gym
  • Comb your hair, polish your shoes, because “you never know”
  • Don’t take yourself too seriously
  • Your grandmother’s armoire is where you go first
  • No garlic powder or canned grated Parmesan cheese wannabe
  • You fight for the best part of the fish, the cheek
  • Sunday long lunches almost always end with an animated discussion about soccer or politics
  • But the above mentioned Sunday lunches also are for fresh pastries from the local pasticceria
  • Seamstress and cobbler are preciously kept numbers
  • Coffeecoffee: expresso shot, no powder creamer or foam container
  • Big pants and big watches
pic. from collegevintage.com

pic. from collegevintage.com

 

  • Aperol spritz before dinner, summer time
  • Pasta
  • Frugally curate the closet
  • Intangible quality of chic
  • Don’t buy a size smaller
there’s nothing more feminine, sensual, elegant, yet unconventionally pretty than alluding to a woman’s body instead of flaunting it shamelessly
— There's no shuch thing as pretty - Ch.10
  • Domestic goddessing, like Pandora Sykes calls it, is part of your life whether you are a man or a woman.
  • Flats or heels
  • Black is fine, but navy!
  • Don’t keep the good stuff for Sunday
sabot + socks 

sabot + socks 

I learned from the movie that it's been said that "Italy is not a country, but a state of mind, a point of view, a way of understanding the world."

how to be Italian, italian style, the Italian way

Sustainable is chic, the Italian way

How do we become sustainable?

We can’t handle these rhythms anymore, we are like a hamster rolling on the wheel that goes nowhere. And it’s a NEED before we all disappear and implode with Earth who knows where: a statement that maybe 30 years ago could have sounded alarmistic, and now it’s a reality.

The United Nations established the 17 global goals for sustainable living with a deadline to make them a reality by 2030. There’s so much to be done for human rights, clean waters, clean air, and sustainable living.  Some numbers: 75 mill people work in fashion and textile industry; 80% are women between the age of 18 and 24. Too many of them are exploited, victims of verbal and physical abuse, paid below standard living needs, work in precarious establishments. Yes, those are the workers who made the pants you are wearing. 

Now that you know, does that make you feel good, still?

I had to do something. I first became member of the U.N. Women Miami Chapter and you can too.

What to do NOW.

Go in your closet and simply be, look around.

Are you happy?

Does whatever you own make you feel empowered, make you look good and feel good? Is your closet inspiring when Monday morning comes and you got to get dressed for work? Do you know where your clothes come from? Are there useless purchases that you made last minute and never wore?

If you have answered NO to any of the above, there are many ways to come out of the guts.

Purge, eliminate, donate, resell, swap, consign, re-cycle, upcycle. Replenish mindfully, with knowledge, researching, sort what you need from what you want, what you should have and what you’ll need, staples, capricious,

Sustainable is sexy, not boring. Sustainable is smart and modern, mindless consumption is so 2004 that is a bankrupt concept.

“Sustainable chic” means that you can be elegant, chic, strike attention for your recognizable style with a few items of the highest quality, made of sublime materials by expert hands and skilled artisans and nobody will ever judge you if you have already worn them.

When you adopt luxury as a state of mind, you’ll twist things the Italian way

how to be Italian, italian style

Borrow from the boys, spring edition

The boyfriend cardigan, the boyfriend jean, the blazer and its origin from military uniforms. I have worked some winter files last month, now it's time to spruce the closet up for spring. 

"Floral for spring: groundbreaking" this was Meryl Streep in Devils Wear Prada, the movie that showcased the behind the scenes of the fashion world.

When we were kids, white was first worn on Palm Sunday after the wintery dark cold months, pastel and flowers were for Easter Sunday and from there on, linens, silks, flowers, open toe sandals, frilly and voluminous transparencies ensued. I was always a disrupter, not by choice though, that's where my father appears in my life by letting me know that "we don't follow trends, we set them" after I was complaining I had to wear an hitchy hand-made sweater he had brought me from Scotland, whereas my friends were wearing Benetton. 

  1. No need to leave the flowers at home, simply make it badass by adding textures, like a leather motorcycle jacket or a pair of ankle boots in a contrasting color.
  2. Don't be the fashion victim, make it personal. Don't add pain to pain, flower dress with pumps, boring, think outisde of the box. Polka dot tights and a military jacket and some feathers, think Miu Miu while mixing and don't stop mixing because "what will they thin of me?". 
  3. Trickle into the sartorial dress code with femininity. think of Diane Keaton in Annie Hall and don't be shy and explore the man section at the thrift store. 

 

 

  1. You don't need a graphic Tshirt to remind you you are a woman. It's a superpower you are born with. The highest form of empowering energy a woman has is her vulnerability: the Archimedes lever that will help you take over. Until we let hypocrisy make us believe that we cannot cry in public or show our feelings for a child or an elderly person, we give in. 
  2. Wear pants under a dress. This has been seen on the runways for this spring and intensively for the fall, it's not for every body shape, it tends to enlarge the proportions if you are minute, and elongate if you are tall, the irony of life. 
  3. Flip the script, there's no #dresslikeawoman dress code.
  4. Corporate attire was dead even before Working Girl but when a man asks for style advice, give profusely. 

how to be Italian, heritage, italian style, the Italian way

In Florence with PattyJ.com: How to be Italian

You know Patty J. for our lonstanding Insta-friendship from before she was voted, two years in a row, Best Lifestyle Blogger of Rhode Island. She is a powerhouse, a busy and professional blogger, she takes her job seriously, she is generous and provides space in her platform to businesses and creatives like me. She has a soft-spoken voice for all things of the arts, a sweet tooth (I mean guys, she is a serial brunch killer!) and a knack for traveling and visiting new places, whether in her homestate or abroad. 

This past spring she visited Italy on a trip that took her to Rome, Amalfi, Capri and Florence, and here are her thoughts about How to be Italian. 

As someone who hadn’t been back to Italy in close to 20 years (Yes, I lie about my age!), the truth is that I really didn’t appreciate it fully until I went back last fall.

We spent two weeks touring Rome, Amalfi, and Florence. Most of this time was spent with a tour company, but we were also fortunate enough to have a few extra days in Rome and Florence before flying back to the States. Even better news? We knew someone who had dual citizenship in both the USA and Italy and arranged to meet up with her in Florence. 

The other difference in Florence was the magical architecture and of course, the people.
— Patty J.

Once we stepped off the train, we immediately noticed a stark contrast to most of the stations we’d experienced in America. Those had usually been filled dirty, dank, unappealing places. This spot, however, looked well maintained (clean even) and like somewhere you would enjoy passing a few hours.

The other difference in Florence was the magical architecture and of course, the people.

Something that stays with me is how our Italian counterparts can take a sneaker (or kick or track shoe) and wear it back to a classic black pant, tailored trouser or even a skirt, but do it with a flare and panache. So that it comes off as almost effortless elegance. I can’t put my finger on it, but Italian style definitely mixes casual and dressy in a way that makes me quite jealous. 

Throughout our Italian journey, style was, in effect, all around us and we felt as though it was woven into the fabric of the culture itself.
— Patty J.

 

Another point of style that I wish more Americans would adopt is men wearing scarves. I saw lots of this in Rome and Florence. And I’m not talking about for warmth or utilitarian reasons. This was all about adding a scarf to add some interest to an entire outfit. If only the guys in the US would reach for a scarf before another tee with a sports team logo (or the dreaded gray sweat pant that never seems to fall out of favor in their wardrobes), then I think the sartorial inclined among us would definitely be much happier.

In Florence and throughout our Italian journey, style was, in effect, all around us and we felt as though it was woven into the fabric of the culture itself. It never seems forced or deliberate. It was more authentic and organic somehow.

That being said then, it’s my wish then that all of my fellow Americans are able to pay a visit and pick up some of Italian inspiration.

Now you get it why if you don't follow Patty on Facebook and Instagram you are missing out?

how to be Italian, italian style, the Italian way, traditions

Christmas Eve Italian style made easy with chefs Fabrizio and Nicola Carro

Leave it to the italians.

There are so many myths and traditions, but Christmas Eve is to Italian life, what Parmigiano is to Italian food, a fact.

It’s like asking “does it make a difference if you add pasta to cold or boiling water?” there is no even questioning, it’s the Italian way 101, always with a touch of personal.

We talk a lot about food, we are opinionated when it comes to asserting who makes the best lasagna or killer eggplant alla parmigiana, yet we always agree on Parmigiano, the great equalizer.

I have left the 24-month old Parmigiano Reggiano as last in my three-month Ambassadorship, because I wanted to close with a bang.

So I found 2 partners in crime with Via Verdi, the truest than true Italian restaurant in Miami, located in the heart of MiMo historic district, Miami’s upper east side.

Chefs (and twin brothers) Fabrizio and Nicola Carro have chosen to toast to the most celebrated Italian holiday with the 24 months old Parmigiano because … hello, December 24th.

And couldn’t we be any happier to agree?

Disclaimer: I mentioned they are twins and I hereby confess that I don’t quite know who I was talking with at all times, and that’s not because of the prosecco, they are as mischevious as talented. 

When you have prosciutto, culatello, mortadella, fresh pasta, white truffles all you need to do is let your imagination free and open a bottle of your favorite wine.

Buon Natale

chic, how to be Italian, slow fashion, the Italian way

How to be Italian in Miami, 2 stops

You know when you think of something, I mean really really think, that you’d put it on Santa’s list and you can’t stop talking about it, to the point that your daughter rolls her eyes “here she goes again”. There must be a movie on the thing, but you know what I mean, right?

So the other night I went out for the first time in Miami as an official published author of all-things #theItalianway I had been invited to a couple of events that had everything in common with the book: both Made in Italy and both in Miami, which confirms my theory that you can “feel empowered by dressing the Italian way, because luxury is, first, a state of mind” and ‘wherever you are”

First things first: shoes, in full Francesca’s fashion.

Baldinini, the Italian shoes I remembered as “comfort and status that my mom and grandmother would wear for their formal events” is going strong at its third generation and opening stores in the US. Three in a few months, and one in Miami’s new gigantic mall called Brickell City Center.

The gift that keeps on giving.  

This Made in Italy noticeable in every small detail materials of the highest quality, creativity and design was showcased in a modern, chic, special, colorful collection on which, I swear, I would have broken the bank. May have been the Prosecco and those petit-fours that loosened my mood, but there were at least 5 shoes I would have bought on the spot (btw, some of their fall pieces are on sale now, just sayin’).

This is a #tobecontinued story just watch this space.

The second stop was in groovier Ironside, in a showroom called Arredo Casa Group. First, when you arrive and the hostess of the restaurant Via Verdi welcomes you, it’s a sign that you’ll be speaking Italian and at least a chunk of a heel of Parmigiano Reggiano will be available, not before being offered a glass of Prosecco.

Are you guys counting the glasses, because this was n.2

The second stop was in groovier Ironside, in a showroom called Arredo Casa Group. First, when you arrive and the hostess of the restaurant Via Verdi welcomes you, it’s a sign that you’ll be speaking Italian and at least a chunk of a heel of Parmigiano Reggiano will be available, not before being offered a glass of Prosecco. 

Are you guys counting the glasses, because this was n.2

Here, between learning about Austrian fir with PEFC certification, the French Grade A+ that guarantees a zero level of toxic emissions, risotto al tartufo and layers of wood and vinyl glue, a grissino with a slice of prosciutto, a classic 70s desk watch and the Lavazza coffee machine, it was an all-Italian Christmas celebration. Conviviality, networking (sweet angel Lorenzo ended up buying 2 books on Amazon from his mobile phone, thanking me because they were the perfect gifts and I got him out of that daunting task of “what shall I give them? Christmas in next week, have no time”), meeting old friends again and making new ones, mingling and talking with the hands and, in perfect Italian style, closing down the shop.

In conclusion?

My grandmother always taught us to “comb your hair, shine your shoes before going out because you never know”, that is always be at your best, it’s a form of dignity and respect for others.

No matter where we are, we are damn proud of this 'Made in Italy' and we are so cute when we say it that we are irresistible. 

On second thoughts, I have this thing with:

1.   Stiletto with suede and mink intarsio inspired by Ziggy Stardust (hello!)

2.   Italian men and the way they wear their perfume

3.   A morsel of two of Parmigiano Reggiano take the doctor away, and that’s not because I am an Ambassador officially for another month.

4. For an 100% Austrian fir floor and who would have said it!

5. "We are different from the others"