Venice and the Cruise Ship Dilemma

venice_cruiseIs there anything more distressing for visitors to Venice than the presence of a giant modern cruise liner looming over the city’s tiny canals? Gone is any semblance of romance or old world ambience. Instead, this Godzilla-like thing hovers over the city, effectively photo-bombing all your shots and casting a long shadow over the outdoor terraces.

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Hey, we won an award!

Check out the snazzy award I won for the cover design of The Princess Guide To Rome!

I nearly fell off my chair when I heard.

cover design award“… great approach for this “cheeky, fun” guide to Rome. I love the simplicity and economy of the illustration style, as well as the tongue-in-cheek series logo. Just great.”

“I really liked the fresh and inviting style.”

“I liked it because I recognized the Colosseum instantly. … Well done to you and your team.”

Read more here: http://www.thebookdesigner.com/2014/05/e-book-cover-design-awards-april-2014/

Are Fashion Houses the new Medici benefactors?

Colosseum under Restoration, Fall 2013

Colosseum under Restoration, Fall 2013

Many of Italy’s great works of art and iconic cultural heritage sites are badly in need of restoration. But with a government in flux, and the Italian economy in a protracted economic recession, very little public funding has been allocated to these projects. Despite a rise in tourism, ticket sales alone are not enough to maintain them. Enter the corporate sponsor.

Tod’s Pledges to Restore the Colosseum

In January 2011, Tod’s (Italy’s luxury shoe and leather bags brand) announced a plan to fund a 3 year restoration of the Colosseum in Rome to the tune of 25 million euros. And not a minute too soon: chunks of stone and masonry have regularly fallen from the arena over the past five years. Already, traffic has been diverted away from the immediate perimeter, and replaced by a pedestrian zone and bicycle path, as the vibrations were thought to be damaging the structure. While four floors of scaffolding now cover parts of the monument’s arches and will remain there for another two years, the site will remain open to visitors throughout the renovation.

Diego-Della-Valle

Diego Della Valle, in front of the Colosseum

So, what does Tod’s get in return? Continue reading

Why call it a “Princess Guide”?

Ay yi yi… Princess is such a loaded term these days, isn’t it? Being a fierce little feminist, I really struggled with whether to use it at all.

And yet, I kept getting such an incredible reaction to it. Even from the cynics. And the feminists.

La Dolce Vita fashion

La Dolce Vita fashion

When people asked me, “So, what’s new?” I would casually mention that I was writing a book called “The Princess Guide to Rome.” Women immediately grasped the concept: a travel guide to all the fabulous stuff in the most romantic cities in the world. Written by a woman, for women.

More importantly, their reactions were intense and physical. Their eyes would light up, they’d declare “I LOVE it!” or simply “Oh my God, yes!”, grab my arm and immediately ask me where they could buy a copy. Some wanted multiple copies.

That pretty much sealed it.

Clearly, the word “princess” still holds great power over the imaginations of women of all ages. I suspect this explains much of the appeal of shows like  Downton Abbey and Mad Men: all those fabulous dresses, shoes, jewels, hair… It seems superficial to like “girly” things, yet we are drawn to them like a moth to a flame. Whether it’s hard-wired or simply a result of all that Cinderella cultural indoctrination, there’s no denying that it’s powerful stuff.

Now, obviously I could abuse that power by writing a fluffy “pink” city shopping guide plus a review of the top 10 sights. But where’s the challenge in that? Continue reading

What Not To Wear: Trastevere, Rome

Trastevere, Rome

Sunday afternoon. Piazza Santa Maria, Trastevere, Rome.

Can you spot the tourists? There are 8. Maybe more. (Click the photo to enlarge it.)

For better service and to avoid being overcharged, leave your shorts at home. They may seem like a comfortable, sensible choice, but in European cities, shorts are only ever worn by children under 18, not grownups. Even in summer. This applies to both men and women. This is  not a casual suggestion. It’s an iron-clad rule: Continue reading