Tuesday, March 30, 2010
Very behind on the blog front, which is ironic since for once I have so much to say. That is since I've been seeing and doing so much. Which is why I don't have time to write. Vicious circle. But I'll try to play catch-up, talking about New Orleans which was already over a week ago.
I am so glad I made the stop in New Orleans, to visit my friends Lawrence and Catherine. Having lived there for about 15 years, they are about to move to Greensboro, so this was my last chance. I'm not sure what I expected. They kept saying come visit, but it always seemed too far, and somehow was not near the top of my 'must see' cities. I was so wrong.
I love New Orleans. Even though I was only there for two days, I did manage to see a lot and what I saw had much more to do with architecture than I had envisioned. Beignets and fried oyster po boys I was expecting. But endlessly interesting, riveting and exciting architecture no. Ok, so maybe this had to do with my state of mind these days, talking about Italian rustic architecture non-stop. Also, Lawrence my host, is an architectural historian. But still, I was not prepared to be so seduced.
Lawrence, Catherine and Emmie their daughter live in the Garden District, in a double camel back. I learned quickly that there are a dozen or so designs of houses (double camel back being but one) that get repeated over and over. But each one is embellished and unique in its own way. Lawrence and I took Lily the dog for a long walk one day, and here follow some of my pix. (By the way, this area of New Orleans was not much affected by Katrina, since it was near the river and so on high ground.)
But the real revelation of my trip were the houses that Brad Pitt's project, Make it Right, is building in the lower Ninth Ward. This was already a desperately poor neighborhood, and suffered was devastated by the floods.
I've always been very wary of Brad Pitt's architectural claims. When someone keeps telling People magazine that they really wanted to be an architect, but just somehow ended up a mega-star along the way....well, it makes me wonder. But after seeing the Make it Right I have to admit a new respect for his architectural judgement.
While there are a lot of questionable issues surrounding the Make it Right project - including whether or not it is wise to rebuild in an area that may very well be flooded again one day - I think the efforts are going in the right direction. I'm a firm believer in the power of good design, and these houses (about a dozen completed so far) are gems. While they may not be solving all of New Orleans problems, they are managing to shine a very bright ray of light into a very dim situation. Here are some of the recently completed homes. All high up on stilts, the designs reflect the traditional long and skinny forms of the original houses, while bringing them firmly into the 21st century. While my friend Lawrence and his family may be moving on to Greensboro, I hope to make it back to New Orleans soon.
Wednesday, March 24, 2010
I don't know what I thinking when I planned on blogging from the road. Write? I barely have time to breathe. But here I am, a week into the Italian Rustic book tour and I finally have some down time. 5 hours of it. In the New Orleans airport. Don't ask.
But before I get to New Orleans (and I will) let me back track a bit and start out with Palm Beach. I was kindly invited by the Preservation Foundation to give two talks. The first was a pretty fancy invitation-only affair, where I met and talked to some of their biggest supporters. The next day was an open event, which drew a big crowd.
Since their organization is dedicated to the preservation of the historic and cultural heritage of Palm Beach, it made sense. I was talking about the age-old tradition of rustic Italian architecture to people who are dedicated to preserving architectural heritage.I do realize that I am in the business of writing books that help people incorporate Italian building styles and techniques into buildings far away from the Tuscan hills. But even I have to say one of the funnest parts of toodling around Palm Beach was the chance to check out examples of ‘Italian’ architecture.
When I headed out from my friend Laura’s fab apartment to explore Worth avenue, she said “Make sure you also go down the little Via’s.” Now, since Laura has a house in Umbria, I just though she was slipping into Italian, substituting Via for Street (all us expats do that). But no, Laura really meant Via. For some reason that I can’t figure out, Worth Avenue has tiny little Italianate alleyways opening off the main drag
This was my first time to Palm Beach and I really don’t know what I was expecting. Palm trees yes (and there were plenty) but small cobbled alleyways with cupid-filled fountains? While there is some fantastic architecture – and Mizner's Everglades club just blew me away – these little shopping side streets seemed just a bit Disney-ish to me. But then, I guess that makes them all the more Floridian? But still, I like them.
|That's me, with Mr. Walsh, at the B&T|
My favorite building on Worth, though, was the massively cool art deco temple to style, Tiffany’s. While all the other stores were literally gushing with brilliantly hued dresses and gems, Tiffany’s limestone bulk was somehow comfortingly imposing. Only come in if you mean business.
The thing to do in Palm Beach is go to clubs. But you can’t just go, you have to be invited by a member. And I was lucky enough to be invited to the most exclusive of the bunch, the Bath and Tennis (or B&T as we call it), by my good friend Courtney’s dad, who seemed to me to be the King of Palm Beach. He certainly seemed to know everything and everybody in town. And was so incredibly nice to take me on a tour.
Laura also took me to meet her friends at The Beach Club, which was a bit less formal than the B&T. Here we are. Note to self: next time around, think pink, not black.
But the main reason I’ll be going back is not because of the clubs, or the architecture but because my dear friend Laura spends half the year here. This was the view from the terrace off the guest room. Need I say more?
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
I presented Italian Rustic last week to the wonderful American Women's Association of Rome. (thank you for inviting me!) Among the many questions that people asked me, one stood out. Is it difficult for you to live and work in Rome, is there anything you get fed up with? At the time, I said no, because I am pretty happy living in Italy and Rome is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. But, after last Friday's airline strike, I almost changed my tune. First they told me my flight was supposed to leave an hour early, so I get to Fiumicino at 6am. Only to be told my flight is 7 hours late. But wait, no, that's not right either. My flight is cancelled. Thankfully I managed to hop on a Continental flight into Newark and so now I am happily State side.
Well, very happily until the storm to end all storms came raging through Irvington on Saturday. Power out, no heat, no hot water. For two days my sister's family and I wandered around like gypsies trying to get phones charged, computers connected and showered.
I'm usually not that dependent on my computer/phone, but trying to tie up last minute details for my book tour made things a big frantic. But we got power, we got clean, and most of all we got to go to a fantastic Literary evening in Irvington last night.
My sister had been telling me for about a year about Spoken Interludes. These are literary evenings organized by the extremely talented and gracious Delauney Michel. The formula is simple, but inspired. Delaune' invites two or three writers to read from their recent books. Since the event takes place in a restaurant (last night's was the delicious Chutney Masala) we all helped ourselves to the buffet, settled in and for dessert listened to the night's talent.
First up was Christine Lehner, who read from Absent a Miracle. It was interesting hearing how she wove her experience living in Nicaragua into the storyline. Then came the extremely charming Alex von Bidder, the owner of the Four Seasons Restaurant. He read hysterical sections from his new children's book, Wiggens Learns his Manners at the Four Seasons Restaurant. Although the book is aimed at children, I think a lot of us were more interested in hearing about his experience trying to teach manners to bankers and lawyers.
The finale was appropriately Irish. Frank Delaney read a rollicking passage from his latest Venetia Kelley's Traveling Show. And yes, he made us all sing When Irish Eyes are Smiling (which he said we did very poorly).
After a rough start to my USA book tour I was so happy to be inspired by these wonderfully talented writers. Tomorrow it's my turn. I'm headed to Palm Beach, to the Preservation Foundation and hope I will be as entertaining, interesting and engaging as Christine, Alex and Frank. Wish me luck!
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
Although you'll usually find me blogging about things in and around Rome, this month I'm heading to the States. I'll be visiting Palm Beach, Alys Beach (Florida), New Orleans, Los Angeles, Napa and Boston. I hope to see old friends, make new ones and tell everyone about all things Italian Rustic (and One Book Press too!) Here are all my dates, below, but also to the right. I may add a date or two, so stay tuned. And please forward this to anyone who wants to come say hi.
Hope to see you soon!
Friday, March 19
2:00 - 4:00 p.m.
Lecture/Slide Show and Book Signing
311 Peruvian Avenue
Palm Beach, Florida
Saturday, March 20
2727 Prytania St.
New Orleans, LA
Monday, March 22
1198 North Highland Avenue
Tuesday, March 23
11 - 2pm
1100 Johnson Ferry Road
Thursday, March 25
Book Signing and Family Style Italian Rustic Feast
7274 Melrose Avenue
Los Angeles, CA
Saturday, March 27
3:00 - 5:00 pm
Lecture/Slide Show and Book Signing
6774 Washington St.
Sunday, March 28
Book Party and Signing
11715 San Vicente Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA
Wednesday, March 31
Copley Place, Boston
100 Huntington Avenue
Thursday, April 1
6:00 - 8:00 pm
Lecture/Slide Show and Book Signing
1021 Boylston Street
Tuesday, March 2, 2010
Pergolaccio, my own villa.
I know I promised to continue talking about Monti, in Rome, but I’ve received so many requests in the last week for villas to rent in Italy that I decided to talk villa. What follows is my own personal list of villas to rent in Tuscany and Umbria. It’s not ‘the best of’ or in any other way exhaustive. It’s just my own private list of villas I know and that I can recommend personally. If you go to sites like vbro.com and homeaway.com I’m sure you can find cheaper and bigger. But I doubt you can find villas more comfortable and tasteful than the ones that belong to my friends!