LA DOLCE LIGURIA

LA DOLCE LIGURIA

In the oft-beaten trail of V.I.P. Italy, our transcendent traveling reporter Gordon Kendall winds his way into the most authentic  parts of the country that visitors seldom explore.

 

Our little car, resembling nothing more than a collection of suitcases on wheels, crept mid-morning into the empty village of Casanova Lerrone, located in the province of Savona in the northern Italian region of Liguria, about 50 miles southwest of Genoa. If it were to have eyes, the coupé would have been casting bold glances around its church square and few shops wondering, as were we, “Where was everyone? Were we in the right 18th-century Italian hamlet?”

 

ITALY THIS MORNING

In the Ligurian countryside, there were quite a few paths from which to choose, or, as we feared,  inadvertently wind up on, leading us way off course. Like all “visitors”, we did not want to do anything wrong. Yet, even with no one to be found in the streets, in any of the forlorn appearing shops, and the darkened businesses seemingly abandoned, we had that feeling of being watched. Bashful, we and our little car, stopped at a signpost full of markers, like a multi-fingered hand, with each blue digit route marker pointing its own way and distance.

Keep Going, it seemed to whisper.  

 

Don’t Yet Turn, it beckoned.

 

Then, a text came through the mapping on our phones, jolting us forward into action. We sauntered out of the village and made our way up the hillside of curves and turns, climbing higher and higher into the mountains until we reached what appeared to be the ultimate dead end: a garage door with 13 ominously painted upon it. Nothing more than a pebbled path ran alongside it. We stopped again.

 

Make Sharp Turn Right, the screen screamed.

 

Cautiously, we inched forward and saw the road actually continued going higher toward the clouds. Both car and passengers took deep breaths and held our sides in, then maneuvered a hairpin turn in the truest sense of the word.

 

Watch Out For Goats, we learned on our own from observing.

 

As if on cue, a few goats soon meandered in front of us after we cautiously passed another turn. We paused as they moseyed and munched their way along, soon joined by the rest of their goat gang and herders, human and canine. Clearly, we were the visitors in this crew’s estimations―time and goat wait for no one.

 

Then, as with all journeys, we were there. But where, what precisely was our destination?

 

Our friends, who had been tracking our progress, had already opened the gates to Villa Barca as a welcome. Across the gravel drive, an orange stucco house built successively over several centuries, with multi-level gardens and sweeping terraces and patios awaited us. On a table, binoculars and its owner’s cell phone confirmed: we were, indeed, being watched; our automotive hesitancies as we made our way was the lunchtime entertainment. Away from the hurly-burly of corporate life, and, yes, the deadlines that follow every writer, to what would be our home for the next two weeks.

 

And so we were to find and fall in love with the rhythm of what I’m sure some marketer would term as the villa lifestyle. For us, it was a respite to do absolutely nothing at all if we wanted  to.  Our hosts had retired from owning a popular and highly successful bed-and-breakfast in a prominent r Northeastern resort town. They, then opened Villa Barca their Italian venture, on something of a referral-only basis to  truly just friends and family gleaned from their previous venture.

VILLA WAKE-UP CALL

 

Each day began with not one, but two roosters in chorus. Perhaps the younger of the two was first, then echoed minutes later by one likely of a certain age, proclaiming his was still the valley’s morning call to wake. Maybe we’d follow their twin advice to face the day with them. Well, perhaps tomorrow. What followed after a light breakfast was the difficult choices of whether to soak up the sun on the terrace, or venture to the beaches thirty minutes away in Alassio or Cervo. Maybe even help in the many gardens the owners planted to make the villa as sustainable as possible and save a trip back down the hillside to the not-nearby grocery store?  We opted to view the agricultural activity from a potting shed, turned into a breeze-cooled sitting room. The only thing we absolutely were  not to do was disturb the ghost of a prior owner whose remains and impressive marble bust resided in the villa’s very own chapel. Yes, we could handle that.

 

Affable dogs, both world travelers in their own right, one being rescued from a stray pack on the island of La Reunion, were our only distractions when reading the pile of books we had lugged across the globe. The dogs were just as likely to join us under our chairs in the potting shed to cool off. The villa cat, who greeted us upon arrival, slept outside our door, keeping her own company,  never really venturing too far from the center courtyard of the villa. She and we knew that doing nothing never felt so good.

 

Nothing except eat. Would a trip to Italy be complete without food? When we roused ourselves from watching lettuce grow…and the odd thousands of tomatoes…, or finally finished that book, we ventured to the towns of Albenga and Allasio. It was deep in the heart of  old town, the center of Albenga where we stumbled onto the treehouse-like restaurant of La Cantina di Re Carciofo. Technically, this is a small plates establishment, but, what small plates. Prosciutto, rich local cheeses of every description and the truffles, the kind you can smell two tables away, were so earthy fresh. Then, there’s the saber. In one fell stroke, the saber decapitates the bottle of prosecco, cleanly, with nary a drop spilled in a movie-worthy scene. Then the saber is put under lock and key…just in case you’d like to try it for yourself. Every bottle of prosecco is opened by not a server, but by the patron himself with elaborate twists of the wrists and tentative cork pops.. That same proprietor wields as well an industrial-sized pipette to extract the last of the locally-made gigantic size bottles of grappa.

 

An ideal day in Liguria perhaps would begin with a trip to the beach and a chaise in a bagni (beach club), complete with sumptuous towels, changing rooms, and showers. If you want to go to the beach, it may be the only option to pay the fees charged by these many places that dot the boardwalks. The public beaches, when you can find them, seem no bigger that the few beach towels that inevitably will already be there.

 

EATILY FOR A REASON

 

You’re doing something wrong in Italy if you don’t eat well. One place we found to eat and rest with our newly acquired sun tans was Clapsy, a casual dining experience on the Alassio coast. But don’t think too casual. Change into something smart at your bagni, if you want to join the crowd. Then dine on the perfect pulpo con patatei and tonno.

 

If it is to be a big evening, perhaps because it’s a special occasion, or just a Wednesday, do dress for Ristorante La Prua. Placed on the boardwalk, we asked for a table overlooking the beach here at the Hotel Savoia’s signature restaurant. We wondered which yacht belonged to the Russian-speaking gent holding voluble court at the next table, wearing head-to-toe Stefano Ricci. But the food captivated our attention even more: branzino cooked the best way, simply.

 

The night of La Prua marked our last before the much-dreaded return home. On the terrace of La Barca it was easy to reflect on the need we all have to disconnect from our daily world of constant activity. But not from that reality highlighted with visits to good friends in a welcoming environment and the villa dogs wanting to play another game of catch well into the night. We say ciao to Italy until the next visit, which we are already planning.

  

NOW THAT’S ITALIAN

 

Villa Barca

Borgata Case Soprane, 25

I-17033 Casanova Lerrone (S.V.)

 

La Cantina di Re Carciofo

Piazza S. Francesco, 38

I-17031, Albenga, S.V., Italy

(+39) 3356871785

 

Clapsy

Passegiata Grollero, 18

Alassio, S.V., Italy

(+39) 0182660573

 

Ristorante La Prua

Hotel Savoia S.R.L.

Pass. Ta. Baracca, 25

17021 Alassio (S.V.)

(+39) 0182642557

GO AHEAD…GLIMMER

GO AHEAD…GLIMMER

‘Tis the season to exert glitter-filled, over-the-top-glam. The chilly days ahead promise a twist on some old favorites and a chance to shimmer, sparkle and play with all the twinkling palettes, according to our beauty expert, Ana Bribiesca Hoff.

HOLIDAY’S GLOW

Gorgeous glowing skin will put you at the top of the nice list this season when you incorporate Maya Chia’s The Highlight of the Day Illuminating Serum, as a luminous, healthy and natural-looking radiance always accentuates one’s look. $42. At Neiman Marcus

WINTERIZED BEAUTY

To ensure a radiant complexion during these chilly months, try Guerlain Abeille Royale Rich Day Cream, a balm-like, rich formula that smooths wrinkles and fine lines, revitalizing skin for a visibly firmed and more luminous glow. $154. At Neiman Marcus

FESTIVE POUT

The classic red lip turns festive with vivaciously vibrant shades and silky shine. Try Christian Louboutin Rouge Louboutin Silky Satin Lip Colour Lipstick for the perfect cranberry tint and holiday shine. $90. At Bergdorf Goodman

SAFE HAVEN

Haven by Lily Aldridge Parfums offers a fragrance that allows you to experience the raw, exquisite beauty of florals with the sultry blend of opulent and heady Rose Absolute that’s delicately paired with blooming peony and musk. $50. At LilyAldridgeParfums.com

A TOUCH OF SNOW

That touch of snow-white shimmer in the inner corner of your eyes will brighten and deliver an angelic winter wonderland look. Try Anastasia Beverly Hills Loose Pigments in Icy-Pearl White. $22. At Sephora

GO GREEN. REALLY GREEN

This holiday season’s emerald smoky statement eye is the sultry look we’re asking Santa for this year. A show-stealing look achieved by blending three or more shades of highly pigmented green in the Charlotte Tilbury Luxury Palette, The Golden Goddess in The Rebel. $53. At Sephora

MONO, MEET MAGICAL

The monochromatic trend takes a festive spin by complementing wine-stained lips with bright burgundy winged liner. Try Lancôme Ombre Hypnose Stylo Matte Metallics in Rubis for an unexpected and wow-worthy look finished with tons of volumizing mascara. $25. At Saks Fifth Avenue

GLITTERFUL & THANKFUL

For a holiday-glam twist on the glitzy eye makeup, apply a chunky glitter pigment across your eyes, extending beyond the outer corners towards your temples when you try Tarte Treasure Pot Glitter Gel in Moonwalk. $18. At Sephora

SILVER BELLE

A gradient of silver and gunmetal screams both naughty and nice. Sweep a shimmering silver shade up to your brow bone and under your lash line by using Yves Saint Laurent Beaute’s Wild Tuxedo Eyeshadow Palette. $60. At YSLBeautyUS.com

GOLDEN DAYS AHEAD

Create stunning golden-champagne, smoky eyes that shimmer with  twinkle lights for your holiday parties with this assortment of 10 pigment-rich shades that smudge, blend, line, fill, and define. Try the Laura Mercier Caviar Vault Eye Colour Collection. $200. At Neiman Marcus

HOW TO WINTERIZE YOUR STYLE

HOW TO WINTERIZE YOUR STYLE

Want to be the coolest guy in the room at your Christmas gathering? Yep, so do we. Here are five stylish items to add to your closet this Christmas that will keep you both warm and stylish, according to our globe-roving style editor Lance Avery Morgan.

OUTERWEAR TO REFLECT INNER HIPNESS

It’s not every Christmas we get to wear a turtleneck in Texas, so pair one with a sport coat or overcoat for a more polished vibe. You’ll look great when you arrive, and you can always take off a layer if it gets too warm inside and still look dapper. At Barney’s New York

COOL IN CASHMERE

This is a classic that every man should have in his winter wardrobe. If you are feeling in the spirit, you can even wear something that reflects the cold weather in your most stylish way. Brunello Cucinelli cashmere sweater, $995. At Neiman Marcus.

ITALIAN STALLION 

When the weather changes, so should your cologne. We recommend the new K by Dolce & Gabanna fragrance. It conjures both the Italian countryside and the Mediterranean midday sun with its vibrant crescendo of citruses, ignited by fiery aromatics and underpinned by sophisticated woods. You’ll be unforgettable wearing it. $80. At Nordstrom

JEANS THAT ROCK

Can you think of a better way to make sure you sample Christmas dinner without over-indulging and packing on extra pounds? We can’t either. Wearing something fitted like a classic blue jean that’s been sleekly updated will ensure a less less pounds you have to trim in the upcoming New Year. From $178. At 7 For All Mankind

UP TO YOUR NECK

Scarves are making a big fashion statement right now­­­–and they’re not just for wearing on the street to ward off the chilly elements. If you’re one who overheats in a turtleneck, this is the perfect alternative to look warm and stylish as you celebrate holiday cheer.

GET A GRIP

A good pair of leather gloves is something that can last for years, especially in a warm-weather place like Texas where you don’t have to wear them daily…or even weekly. When you do, these are reversible in leather and quilted nylon. $68. At Polo Ralph Lauren.

LONG NIGHT, GREAT MORNING

Founder Benjamin Smith of Disco, the new Austin-based premium men’s grooming brand, is on to something healthy with the debut of his new line of seven products. All natural, they have some key ingredients like caffeine to reduce puffiness under the eyes, aloe vera to calm irritated skin, essential oils for a natural, clean scent, and hyaluronic acid to minimize the appearance of fine lines and wrinkles.  From $14-30. At LetsDisco.co

PARK IT HERE

PARK IT HERE

Brackenridge Park Conservancy Celebrates With Gala Dinner

By Jake Gaines  –  Photography by Limelight Photography

 

THE SETTING: Community leaders, city officials and advocates in support of the revitalization of Brackenridge Park recently celebrated the 10th anniversary of the Brackenridge Park Conservancy near the historic low water crossing. Guests enjoyed a 3.5-mile train ride through the park, a sunset reception, and dinner under the stars while marveling at the historic San Antonio River and the crossing originally constructed in 1917 to connect both sides of the park.

Each year, the organization highlights different areas of the much-loved park. The park is home to dozens of historic buildings, bridges, walkways, and water features. This year’s event, staged at the historic low water crossing, supported operations and raised awareness of the infrastructure improvements needed in this area and throughout the park to bring it back to its glory days.

THE STYLE: The gathering honored Elizabeth Barlow Rogers, founder of the Central Park Conservancy, who played a key role in the creation of the Brackenridge Park Conservancy. Fondly known as Betsy Browning, a member of a long-time San Antonio family, she is the author of nine books, including the latest, Saving Central Park: A History and A Memoir. Currently, she is president of the Foundation for Landscape Studies in New York City. Special recognition was also given to the San Antonio Conservation Society in celebrating its 95th year. The Conservation Society led the way to form the Brackenridge Park Conservancy in collaboration with City of San Antonio leaders and park stakeholders and provided funds to hire the first executive director. 

THE PURPOSE:  The chairs for the event were Vivienne Bathie, Liecie Hollis and Robin Howard. Brackenridge Park is regarded by Charles A. Birnbaum, CEO and Founder of Washington D.C–based The Cultural Landscape Foundation, as one of the most culturally significant municipal parks in the United States. The rustic character of the park, situated just below the headwaters of the San Antonio River, remains intact, with tree-lined paths, picnic areas, playgrounds, athletic fields, a miniature railway and pieces of history including the San Antonio Water Works Pump House No. 1.  Brackenridge Park that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

 

NATIVE INTELLIGENCE

NATIVE INTELLIGENCE

Busy mom, wife and interior designer, native Texan Elizabeth McAllen Roberts of San Antonio is considered to be one of the chicest women in the state. Here, join our always-curious reporter Lance Avery Morgan to find out what she’s loving the most these days.

 

My interior design icon is…John Saladino. I love his quiet and elegant interiors. There is something very peaceful, yet grand, in all of the rooms he creates.

One interior design accessory I can’t live without is…great art.

How I made my first dollar growing up… I grew up on a working cattle ranch in deep South Texas and would work at our family’s ranch food commissary on Saturdays with my grandfather.

 What I love most about living in the San Antonio/ South Texas area is…The ability to go from the city to the country in less than twenty minutes. The best of both worlds.

If I could live in a foreign city because of its design aesthetic, it would be… in Madrid or Florence.

Last thing I binge/marathon watched wasThe Handmaid’s Tale. I am a huge fan.

First album I bought wasThe Cars. It was a 45 mile drive to get to school in the mornings so The Cars made the daily drive way more entertaining. We listened to it on an eight-track cassette player (does anyone know what those are anymore?) in our Town and Country station wagon.

My favorite coffee table style book is…Roomscapes: The Decorative Architecture of Renzo Mongiardino.

The last meal that truly impressed me was…Restaurante La Tienda in Marbella, Spain. The Foie Gras a la Plancha is simply the best.

Book I’ve read that made a lasting impact on me wasUndaunted Courage by Stephen Ambrose. The story of Lewis and Clark and their epic trek across the Continental Divide is truly incredible.

In my fridge you will always find…a container of half-and-half (for my morning coffee).

Favorite street to shop on in the world is….Via dei Condotti in Rome.

My perfect day would end with…dinner with my family.

An artist whose work I would collect is…anything by the Spanish painter Joaquin Sorolla or Joaquin Torres Garcia; Taller Torres-Garcia.

The best gift I have received is… It would probably be the gift of advice given to me by my grandmother. When my sisters and I were younger she used to say, Always be a lady. I can still hear her voice saying that in my mind.

FASHIONABLE JEWEL

FASHIONABLE JEWEL

Women’s Symphony League 65th Annual Jewel Ball And Luncheon Features Brooke Shields

By Rob Giardinelli  –  Photography by Darcie Westunderland

 

THE SETTING: The Palmer Events Center in Austin was the recent setting for the Women’s Symphony League’s 65th Annual Jewel Ball and Luncheon. Over the course of two days, nearly 1,700 of Austin’s social, fashion and philanthropic dynamos were a part of the festivities, which included the presentation of this year’s debs with a special appearance by fashion icon Brooke Shields.

THE STYLE: The first day of events commenced with the fashion show luncheon featuring over 600 of Austin’s top fashionistas. The cocktail-chic patrons began the festivities with a VIP reception where adoring guests had the opportunity to take their photo with the guest of honor, Brooke Shields. The fun then moved into the main auditorium for lunch and the afternoon program. Highlights of the luncheon included a fashion show featuring the season’s top looks from Julian Gold as well as a conversation with Brooke Shields that was effortlessly moderated by Rank & Style CEO Jamie Chandlee.

The pageantry continued into the second day of events culminating with the 65th Annual Jewel Ball presentation. Over 1,000 black-tie patrons began their evening with a cocktail hour where  conversations flowed and families mingled, while also bidding on their favorite  silent auction items. The fun time continued as the crowd took to their seats for the main jewel ball presentation, which in addition to the Austin debs featured eight visiting Jewels from Texas and beyond. The evening concluded  as the Jewel’s and their families danced the night away, capping off an incredible two days that those on hand  will not soon forget.

THE PURPOSE: The Jewel Ball Fashion Luncheon was co-chaired by Lisa Barton and Kerri Ann Chambless, while The Jewel Ball was co-chaired by Christy Merritt and Christy Werner. Proceeds from the events benefited the Women’s Symphony League of Austin  and the Austin Symphony Orchestra, the oldest continually performing symphony in Texas, with a presence in the state for over 100 years.