Friday, December 21, 2012

Vintage Christmas Window Displays

Vintage Photos: Holiday Window Displays at Stores Around the World on Conde Nast Traveler here.

United Kingdom, 1907

Washington, D.C., 1930

New York City, 1939

New York City, 1947

New York City, 1950

Sophia Loren, Rome, 1953

Paris, 1965

Hamburg, 1980

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Marburg and Kassel: A Tale of the Brothers Grimm

'The 20th of December 2012 is the 200th anniversary of the publishing of the first volume of the Brothers Grimm's "Children's and Household Tales". Their famous collection of folk and fairy tales has been translated into 160 languages and is on UNESCO's Memory of the World Register for the preservation of cultural documents. Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm aren't known only for their 86 fairy tale classics such as "Little Red Riding Hood" and "Snow White", but also as linguists. As students in Marburg, they were enthusiastic scholars of German philology, researching dialects and grammar.'

I looked into exchanging to the University of Marburg!! But along with all the other European universities, it didn't make much sense to be studying for an English major there. So extremely excited to be at the University of California, Santa Barbara soon!

Monday, December 17, 2012


I took these photographs on a small snapshot camera just the other day; the sun was shining, the clouds were dancing, and the water was beautiful. Today was my last day in the country until I return home again in seven months. It's a strange feeling, almost nostalgic and homesick for something I haven't yet left behind. I'm going to miss summer here and most of all, I'm going to miss everyone - but I am also so excited and nervous about living overseas.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Talk: The Italian Drama - Tragedy for Europe

Talk: The Italian Drama - Tragedy for Europe on Quadriga on Deutsche Welle

An interesting video making comment on Berlusconi’s return to politics and the current political dramas in Italy.

'Does the resignation of Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti mean the end of the country's reform program? There have already been signs of a return to old ways. Former premier Silvio Berlusconi has announced he will stand for his old job in next year's elections. His chances of emerging victorious are slim, but many fear a fourth term in office could spell disaster for both Italy and the Euro.

Laura Lucchini - a freelance journalist for the Argentinean newspaper "La Nación", the "El País" in Spain, and the Italian publications "Linkiesta" and "L´Unità".

Theodore Kouvakas - studied art history in Florence and architecture in Venice, and trained to become a journalist. Kouvakas covered foreign policy and financial markets for Imerissia SA, a financial and business newspaper.

Ursula Weidenfeld - has a PhD in history from the University of Bonn and studied journalism at the Holtzbrinck School in Düsseldorf. She became Berlin correspondent and a deputy editor at the magazine "Wirtschaftswoche".'

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Hobbit

On December the 12th I went to see The Hobbit at the cinema. And what a stunning film it is. Can't believe Middle Earth is really in New Zealand. Very proud and grateful to be living in such a beautiful country. In this video, Andy Serkis, an actor and director perhaps most well-known for his voice of Gollum in The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies, shares and reflects with Lonely Planet on his experiences of travelling and filming in New Zealand.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Santa Lucia

Santa Lucia is the patron saint of Syracuse, Sicilia, where she was born. On the 13th of December, her feast day is celebrated. It is celebrated in many countries such as Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Estonia, Latvia, Finland, Hungary, Malta, Bosnia, Bavaria, Croatia, Slovakia, Spain, and of course, Italy. She is a popular saint particularly with children throughout Italy, particularly Trentino, East Lombardy, parts of Veneto such as Verona, parts of Emilia-Romagna such as Piacenza, Parma, and Reggio Emilia. Tradition tells that she arrives with her donkey and an escort, Castaldo, to bring gifts to good children and coal to bad children, on the night between 12th and 13th December. As children in the western world leave out milk and cookies for Santa Claus, Italian children leave coffee for Lucia, a carrot for the donkey, and a glass of wine for Castaldo. It is forbidden to watch Santa Lucia delivering the gifts, and if one was to do so, legend has it that she would throw ashes in your eyes, blinding you temporarily. With a name derived from Lux, Lucis meaning 'light', she became the patron saint of the blind.

It is not exactly clear as to what the story of Santa Lucia is, but many believe that she was a Sicilian saint who was martyred in Syracus, Sicilia, around 310AD. The Guilte Legend, a Middle Age compendium of saints' biographies says she went to the shrine of Saint Agatha, patron saint of Catania, to find help for her ailing mother, Eutychia, when an angel appeared to her in a dream. Because of this, Lucia became a devout Christian and refused to compromise her virginity in marriage to a non-Christian. Her fiance denounced her to the Roman authorities, who then threatened to give her to a brothel if she did not denounce Christianity. However, when she refused, myth has it that they were not able to move her, not even with a thousand men and fifty oxen. So they stacked firewood around her and set it alight, but she would not stop speaking about her beliefs. One of the soldiers speared her throat, but she kept talking. 

Though lacking evidence, some stories go on to say that, unable to move or burn Santa Lucia, the guards then took out her eyes, others saying she tore out her own eyes and gave them to her ex-fiance who had admired them. In medieval accounts, her eyes were removed before her execution; and in art they sometimes appear on a tray that she is holding. Some end her story with God's restoration of her eyes, others with her death.

Another legend has Santa Lucia working against the Roman Emperor Diocletian to hide Christians in the catacombs; and in order to bring as many supplies with her as possible, she made available both her hands by attaching candles to a wreath on her head.

In Sicilia, the Catholic feast day of Santa Lucia is celebrated with feasts of pasta and a special dessert of wheat and sugar named cuccìa; the large grains of soft wheat representative of her eyes, and only eaten once a year. The dish commemorates the unexpected arrival of wheat to Palermo's port on Santa Lucia's Feast Day in 1646, at the end of a Sicilian food shortage. Tradition does not allow bread to be eaten on 13th December, and it is to be the cuccìa which is the main wheat source for the day.

Merry Meltdown

Merry Meltdown - Workers in Wonderland on Euromaxx, Deutsche Welle

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


After many trips to the bank recently, with a mixed bag of good and bad service, it was so wonderful to get help from a super friendly teller this afternoon; he sorted out everything for me and even waited until I had remembered the question that I had forgotten. He was also pretty cute. Afterwards I went to walk the length of the beach a couple of times, reading a travel novel while the water splashed around my ankles. It's always the little things that make life great. I'mma gonna miss spending summer here, but looking forward to new adventures overseas!

The Most Unusual Christmas Trees

Conde Nast Traveler's collection of The Most Unusual Christmas Trees

What this 13-foot-tall tree lacks in stature it makes up for in history (the tradition goes back more than 30 years) and workmanship: Preparation starts in July, when volunteers begin folding the 500-plus origami ornaments into shapes inspired by present and past exhibits.

This tree may be green, but it’s no ordinary spruce. The tree in Kaunas, Lithuania, is made of more than 40,000 recycled plastic bottles.

In lieu of decorations this 90-foot-tall techie tree (Europe's tallest five years running) uses real-time video projections of passersby and images of bells and angels.

Nearly 3,000 lights are strung together to form a Christmas tree shape on the slopes of Mount Ingino, just outside of Gubbio, Italy. The giant tannenbaummeasures nearly 2,130 feet tall.

The view of Rio de Janeiro’s harbor alone is usually enough to draw in a crowd, but during the holiday season it’s the 280-foot-tall floating tree that commands attention. The tree—as tall as a 28-story building—floats in the middle of the Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon. During a light show, the tree's design changes to represent the four seasons: Simulated falling leaves signify autumn, stark white stands in for winter, flowers illuminate for spring, and bright yellow portrays a sunny summer day.

It's hard to ignore this 190-foot-tall tree in Sao Paulo's Ibirapuero Park: A total of 500 bulbs and 12,000 feet of LED lighting give the holiday icon a futuristic glow.

This insanely decadent Christmas tree took 10 craftsmen two months to complete—and it's no wonder. The eight-foot-tall revolving tree is made of 40 kilograms of pure gold and is decorated with the silhouettes of 50 popular Disney characters. Jeweler Ginza Tanaka will sell it to you for $4.2 million. Not in your budget? A 10-inch version has a $240,000 price tag.

No surprise here: Venice is home to the largest glass Christmas tree in the world. Internationally renowned glassblower Simone Cenedese, known for his Murano glass sculptures and installations, designed the 24-foot-tall tree with 1,000 multicolored tubes.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

How I visited every country in the world - without a single flight

Here is an article from Telegraph Travel about a man who went about travelling the world in a somewhat unconventional manner. This would be a wonderful challenge, but even over four years, it seems a shame that he had to do it all in such whirlwind time and not actually spend much time in each country.

'How I visited every country in the world - without a single flight'
Graham Hughes writes exclusively for Telegraph Travel from South Sudan, explaining the highs and lows of his epic, record-breaking journey around the world without taking the plane.
Graham Hughes in Juba, South Sudan
29 November 2012

On the morning of January 1 2009 I took a ferry from Buenos Aires to Colonia in Uruguay. This would be the first of many border crossings as I embarked on what I knew would be the biggest adventure of my life: the Odyssey Expedition, the first surface journey to every country in the world. It would take me to more than 200 countries, 60 islands and six continents. I thought I could do it in a year. It took the best part of four.

I would be travelling alone, on a shoestring budget and with no professional support: no camera crew following in 4x4s. It was me against the world.

I undertook this challenge for many reasons: to set a Guinness World Record, to raise money for the charity WaterAid, to have great stories to tell the grandchildren. But the main reason was that I wanted to prove it was possible: to show that all the great travel adventures have not already been done; to show that the world isn’t the terrible scary place so often portrayed in the media; to show that, yes, with a British passport, a fistful of dollars and the right amount of tenacity, grit and patience you can – if you really want to – go anywhere.

The inspiration for this expedition came from two sources. The first was Michael Palin’s Around The World In 80 Days. I was about nine years old when it was first shown on the BBC. I loved it, but I always remember being a little bit disappointed that he didn’t go everywhere. The second was my father, Graham Hughes Snr, who – while other parents took their children to Spanish beaches – would drag the family on camping trips around Europe, popping into crazy places like Andorra and Liechtenstein just to say we’d been there. On one occasion we tried to get into East Germany, but they wouldn’t let us across the border. Then, in the summer of 1990, once the Iron Curtain had fallen, we headed back, visiting not just East Germany, but Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Poland. I still have my piece of the Berlin Wall.

Fast-forward 19 years and here I was charging through South America attempting to be the first person to visit every country without flying. I got to all 12 countries in just two weeks. As I returned across Molston Creek from Surinam into Guyana, I remember thinking “This will be easy!” How wrong I was.

The idea of doing the trip without using aeroplanes came about chiefly because people had already been to every country in the world, but nobody had yet done it without flying. Plus, when you travel through a country on the bus or train, you get a richer, more rewarding experience and you can spend more time with local people. Furthermore, I would have felt dreadful visiting critically endangered nations such as Tuvalu in the Pacific – currently being flooded with salt water every year as a result of global warming – with 155,000 air miles under my belt. Incidentally, it worked out a lot cheaper to do it this way.

The Caribbean was my first stumbling block. I thought it would take two weeks – the islands are incredibly close to each other, usually just an overnight journey on a sailing boat. It took two months. There were no ferries; small cargo ships would do crossings maybe once a week; and nobody wanted to take me to Cuba – the punishment meted out to US citizens by their own government put pretty much everybody off.

Using a combination of sailing boats, banana boats, container ships and cruise liners, I eventually managed to hitchhike my way around the West Indies.

I took a container ship across the Atlantic to Iceland and then headed down to Europe. Ah … Europe! The easiest place in the world to travel around. I bought myself an inter-rail pass and I got to all 50 states in just three weeks.

Then I hit Africa. I travelled down through Morocco and Western Sahara to the border of Mauritania. There I was told visa were no longer being issued on the border. So I headed 1,250 miles back through the Sahara desert to Rabat to get one. I returned to the border the following week. They were now selling visas on the border again. This was my first experience with African bureaucracy. It wouldn’t be my last.

After being told there were no other options, I paid some Senegalese fishermen to take me in a pirogue (a little wooden canoe) to Cape Verde off the west coast of Africa. On arrival in Praia, having survived four days at sea in a leaky boat with no radio, satellite phone or safety equipment, we were all put in jail for six days on suspicion of people smuggling.

After it was all cleared up, I was stuck on the island for six weeks while I waited for a cargo ship to take me – and the fishermen’s pirogue – back. They kept telling me it would be ready to go the next day, then the next day. I ended up being rescued by a German called Milan who took me back to mainland Africa on his sailing boat. The cargo ship in question is now at the bottom of the sea somewhere off the coast of São Tomé .

Two months later, I was arrested again in Brazzaville, Congo. This time they thought I was a spy. I spent another six days in jail, this time in solitary. They deprived me of my shirt, shoes, socks, hat and glasses. It was the worst and most frustrating part of the journey. But once I got out, it just strengthened my resolve to get this damn thing finished.

By the end of the first year I had been to 133 of my (then) list of 200 countries – all of the Americas, Europe and Africa. With only 67 nations left to visit, I was fairly confident of being home for Christmas. Again, I was wrong. Asia was a pain to travel around, not because of corrupt policemen or islands that are difficult to reach, but because of visa regulations. I wasted six weeks in Kuwait waiting for a visa for Saudi Arabia (they wouldn’t issue me with a transit visa), then another four weeks in Dubai waiting for a ship to take me to Pakistan and India.

In December 2010 I reached Papua New Guinea: the 184th nation of the Odyssey Expedition. Asia was done and it was now time to turn my attention to the Pacific. I may have had only 16 countries left to go, but they were all islands. I had to think of a cunning way to visit them all. An Australian offered me a space on his boat which would be sailing to many of the nations I still needed to visit, but after he had kept me hanging on for six months, I realised it was not going to happen.

Then, in July 2011, South Sudan became a country. I now had an extra country to visit. I reverted to plan A: to get around the Pacific Islands using cargo ships. By January 2012 I had made it to New Zealand, where I originally planned to complete the journey, but I still had seven countries left to go: Nauru, Micronesia, Palau, Sri Lanka, Maldives, Seychelles and the aforementioned South Sudan.

I resolved to head back to my hometown of Liverpool and cross these final frontiers along the way. It has taken me most of 2012, but after 1,426 days on the road, on Monday I crossed the border from Uganda into South Sudan and my odyssey was complete.

It has been a hell of a trip. Highlights include watching one of the last space shuttles take off from Florida, dancing with the highlanders of Papua New Guinea, a close encounter with an orang-utan in Borneo and swimming in a lake full of stingless jellyfish in Palau. Obviously, being thrown into jail was a low point, but it was the loss of my sister, Nicola, last year to cancer that made me question whether I really wanted to continue.

One place that will always stick in my mind is Iran. Instead of the stern, joyless place I expected, it turned out to be the warmest and most hospitable nation in the world. I was treated like an honoured guest by everybody I met. On an overnight bus, an old Persian grandmother smiled at me and passed me her mobile phone. I took it from her, a little nonplussed, and put it to my ear. The guy on the other end told me in perfect English that I was sitting behind his grandmother and she was concerned about me. When I asked why, he told me that the bus got in very early the next day and she was worried that I wouldn’t have anything to eat. She wanted to know if she could take me home with her and cook me breakfast.

What I have learnt from this adventure is that there are good people all over the world; people who will go out of their way to help out a stranger in need. I have learnt that people wherever they live are not that different: we all just want a fair deal. My faith in humanity has been restored, although my faith in politicians is even lower than it was when I started. Finally, I’ve learnt that nobody knows what’s waiting at the end of the line, so we might as well enjoy the trip.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Dior Noël au Printemps

Dior Noël au Printemps - Christmas Windows
One day I will have to return to Paris in December to see all the enchanting window displays.

Saturday, December 8, 2012


Ahhh art school marks were released today! My heart is still racing after checking online about half an hour ago. With the confirmation of grades, my exchange is definitely happening! I start class at UCSB in exactly one month. God is so good and so glorious. Words cannot even begin to express how grateful and relieved I am right now. Massive thank you to my amazing family and friends who have helped and supported me through the best and the worst; through late nights and early mornings, extreme excitement and tearful stress - I could not have done any of this without you.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Nuremberg Christmas Market

The famous Nuremberg Christmas Market featured on Euromaxx, Deutsche Welle

Un Matrimonio Movimentato

La Domenica del Corriere
18 maggio 1958

UN MATRIMONIO MOVIMENTATO: Un giovane di parola. Alla vigilia delle nozze Francesco D., abitante in una borgata della Valle Imagna, scese a Bergamo per ritirare il braccialetto che doveva offrire alla fidanzata. Sulla via del ritorno fu investito da un camion. Raggiunse la propria casa. Il mattino dopo, abbondantemente bendato, il giovane, per non mancare alla parola data, si presentò in chiesa. E qui attese la propria sposa. Questa, vedendolo così conciato, svenne. Quando riprese i sensi, la cerimonia ebbe luogo. Il sacerdote benedisse le nozze e si compiacque con Francesco per la forza d'animo.

AN EVENTFUL WEDDING: A young man of his word. On the eve of the wedding of Francesco D., living in a township of the Imagna Valley, went to Italy to pick up the bracelet to be offered to his girlfriend. On the way back he was hit by a truck. He reached his home. The next morning, heavily bandaged, the youth, not to break his word, went to church. And here was waiting his own wife. This, seeing the state he was in, she fainted. When he recovered consciousness, the ceremony took place. The priest blessed the wedding and was pleased with Francesco's fortitude.

Please excuse the TERRIBLE translation, my Italian is still not very good! But I thought the story was too great not to share in English.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

One Month

In exactly one month I will be in the United States of America for the very first time!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Tuscan Lunches

'I had never cared about lunch, until I was introduced to Sunday ones in Tuscan vineyards. Celebrations of food and wine amongst friends and family, they transcend the notion of mere meals and transform into a theatre for the senses.

It has much to do with the setting, the compelling beauty of ancient surroundings, of land which has yielded produce for millennia, of eroded stone walls and roads which wind through hills, and row upon row of vines. There is little more glorious then sitting through hours of golden summer afternoons at a long wooden table with twelve or sixteen or twenty others, or in winter warming limbs and souls with fires and food and wine.

Gianfranco has friends at Montespertoli and we go there often, mostly for winter lunches. We crunch up the circular gravel driveway and arrive at the back door, which leads into a vast stone kitchen filled with people. The ancient stove roars with flames, heating an assortment of saucepans that steam forth wonderful aromas. Someone is carving a prosciutto, claret-red slices sliding off the edge of the knife. There are women to stir the saucepans, wash the salad, slice the bread. I make myself useful by carrying cutlery to the dining room where men pose around the leaping fire, clutching glasses of Campari and smoking. Handpainted jugs of water and flowers clutter the table. I set for eighteen people, folding paper napkins into tiny triangles beside each plate. Two-litre bottles of homegrown chianti, translucent red, line up like soldiers. Outside the tall windows mist wraps around bare trees and church spires.

Platters are placed on the table: slices of wild-boar salami, tiny spicy venison sausages, rounds of toast topped with coarse chicken-liver pate sweetened with marsala, shiny black olives tossed in garlic and parsley. Wine is tipped into glasses and wedges of crusty, spongy bread passed around. Lunch has begun.

Pasta comes next, a deep ceramic bowl of steaming spaghetti in a simple tomato sauce fragrant with fresh basil, or a rich cream redolent of wild mushrooms. On top of the fire have been placed two metal grills which clip together to enclose the main course: thick slabs of prime beef, a handful of quails, fat homemade sausages. Passed around the table they are black-striped and crisp from the flames, perfumed with fresh rosemary, garlic and good oil.

Afterward there is a chunk of parmesan, aged and crumbly, and a tangy pecorino from Sardinia to eat with a large bowl of various fruits. This is the winding-down stage of the lunch, when women begin to push back chairs and carry out plates and men light up cigarettes and pour whisky. Coffee brews aromatic from the kitchen, conversation subdues and becomes sleepy, comfortable and confidential, Pastries accompany the coffee: a wealth of shortbreads, crunchy almond biscuits, macaroons and iced eclairs bulging cream. Vin Santo, sweet and dark, is pouted into small glasses; outside the evening has begun to descend and Sunday lunch settles.'

from Amore and Amaretti - Victoria Cosford

The Lost King of France

I have just finished The Lost King of France by Deborah Cadbury, the biographical account of Marie Antoinette's son who grew up in the tumultuous time of the French Revolution, and whose death has been surrounded by mystery and confusion for centuries.

'In 1795, Louis XVII, the ten-year-old son of Marie-Antoinette, was declared dead by the revolutionary authorities. Immediately, rumours spread that the Prince had escaped from prison and was, in fact, alive. In time, several 'Princes' appeared to claim his name and inheritance, but which, if any, was the real Louis-Charles? The quest for the truth finally runs to the present day as modern DNA testing of a stolen heart leads to an exciting conclusion to this extraordinary two hundred-year-old mystery.'

Additive in its intrigue and well-researched history, this book is one of the best I have read about the French Revolution and the fall of Marie Antoinette and her family from royal splendour. Records of the conditions in which the royal family were imprisoned are heartbreaking, especially the treatment of the child prince. Wonderfully written, I highly recommend The Lost King of France.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Sunday, December 2, 2012


An Italian advertisement for Aiax Detergent from 1988

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Rome by Valentino

Palazzo Mignanelli, Valentino at his atelier, Palazzo Mignanelli in the centre of Rome

In an article for The Telegraph Travel, Italian fashion designer Valentino writes about the city of Rome.

Rome by Valentino
The fashion designer Valentino pays homage to Rome, the Italian city that inspired him.
Valentino Garavani
30 November 2012

'I moved to Rome in 1958. It’s become my city; it’s as if I was born there. I loved it right from the start. One of the things I like most about it is that it’s the perfect passeggiata city — a city you can get the measure of by simply walking around.

Its monuments, its churches, its streets and piazzas and cobbled lanes unroll before you; you’re surrounded by movement and colour. You go to Trastevere and everyone’s talking in broad Roman dialect, as if in a film starring Alberto Sordi about la vecchia Roma. The whole of humanity is here; in the same street you’ll find shopkeepers alongside aristocrats in their grand, crumbling palazzos. This contrast has an incredible charm, and it’s something you don’t find everywhere in Italy.

So I was immediately fascinated by the city. And of course it has a marvellous climate, and a special quality of light. For a fashion designer, Rome is full of inspiration: there’s a special feeling in the light, the colours, the art, the architecture. I don’t know if the warm reds and oranges that we associate with Roman exteriors influenced my famous “rosso Valentino” shade — they may well have done so subconsciously. But one thing that is undeniable is that I’ve always been obsessed by the search for classical beauty. How could it be otherwise, living in a place like Rome?

One thing I love in clothes, and try to reproduce in my work, is sinuosity: by which I mean clothes that caress the body but also move and float with the person who’s wearing them. Rome is full of movement – it’s a very sinuous city. Think of the Roman Baroque: all those curls and curves that you find carved on church facades. If you transport that into a different medium, a lighter medium, you can create marvellous forms.

I’ve always had my main atelier right in the centre of Rome, a stone’s throw from the Spanish Steps. When I arrived from my apprenticeship in Paris, I had a couture house in Via Condotti. When my business partner Giancarlo Giammetti started helping me we moved into an apartment in Via Gregoriana, then a few years later when space got too tight we moved around the corner into the 16th-century Palazzo Mignanelli.

First we took the whole top floor, then the floor below, then the floor below that – until we’d occupied the whole palazzo, which people now call Palazzo Valentino.

I get out and about in Rome less than I used to, but over the 50 years I’ve been there I’ve covered the length and breadth of the city. One street I love is Via Giulia and the lanes and squares that give on to it, like Renaissance-era Piazza Farnese, which is now the French Embassy. It’s such an elegant street, with its aristocratic palazzos and antique shops and boutiques.

Then there are the consular roads of Ancient Rome. My house is on the corner of the Appia Pignatelli and the Appia Antica, which went all the way down to Brindisi. When I moved there, Appia Pignatelli was a country lane; today it’s a busy road encroached on by ugly blocks of flats. But part of the Roman stretch of the Appia Antica is a no-traffic zone, and with its huge, worn paving stones it’s still a fascinating place where you really feel the spirit of Classical Rome. Maybe that’s why Elizabeth Taylor rented a house there when shooting Cleopatra at the Cinecittà film studios. Today it belongs to Franco Zeffirelli; we’re practically next-door neighbours.

I also love the sweeping view of the centro storico from the Gianicolo hill. And of course the Spanish Steps, which are simply extraordinary, with Bernini’s lovely Barcaccia fountain at the bottom.

I suppose all the places I’ve mentioned are very scenographic, sets just waiting for their actors. Which is why the haute couture fashion shows I organised for three years running on the Spanish Steps and in Piazza Mignanelli were so right for the location. The whole area between Via del Babuino and the Spanish Steps was packed with people; there were cameras swooping around on cranes, beautiful girls were making their entrances from piazza doors and gliding up and down the steps. I was proud to give this to Rome. If you think of those Baroque pageants they used to put on in Roman piazzas, it’s not that different.

But the show to end all shows was in 2007 for the 45th anniversary of my life in fashion. The mayor of Rome allowed us to use the Temple of Venus in the Forum, which is usually off limits to everyone but the Pope, who addresses the crowds from there during the Easter Via Crucis procession.

There were fireworks over the Colosseum and an aerial ballet. Dante Ferretti, who has won three Oscars for his production design, did the lighting, and helped build a Chinese pavilion in the Borghese Gardens for a dinner for 700 people. And we staged an unforgettable show in the old pilgrim hospital of Santo Spirito in Sassia, near the Vatican. The three-day extravaganza was my thank-you to the city; I wanted to give something back.

One of my favourite Roman restaurants – a real classic – is Al Moro, near the Trevi Fountain. It was one of Fellini’s favourite places to eat, too; he even gave the former owner a walk-on part in one of his films. I’m not a huge restaurant person – I’m just as happy eating at home or with friends – but when I do go I love these old-fashioned Roman restaurants with old-fashioned service; two others in the same style are Dal Bolognese in Piazza del Popolo and Nino in Via Borgognona, which is just along the road from my atelier.

Romans have always been happy-go-lucky types, good talkers, good eaters and drinkers. They’re more stressed than they used to be – but this is a worldwide thing. At heart, Rome is a vibrant, happy place.'