Only in Rome! Alitalia in partnership with Etihad Airways staged a fashion show to launch their new flight attendant uniforms, the first outfit update in nearly 20 years. Fashion editors, influencers, international media, paparazzi and the fabulous attended. The sound of John Lennon’s ‘Across the Universe’ serenaded the crowd with not an empty chair in the house. All information concerning the collection and the ‘mystery’ designer had been kept very ‘secreto.’ The excitement was palpable and yours truly had a front row seat. All eyes were on the runway as the lights dimmed and the show began.
From hats, foulards, gloves to shoes, a dazzling display of glamour, elegance and panache evoked the golden time of Rome’s Cinecittà when movie stars, premieres and glitterati filled Via Veneto.
The look: Fabulous Retro-Chic. The colors: Burgundy, Red and Green.
Turns out the designer who received a standing ovation is none other than Ettore Bilotta, a Milan based haute couturier. He worked with a team of nearly 500 people in Italy to create the striking new look.
It’s quintessentially Italian with fabrics from Tuscany, silk from Como, tailoring in Puglia, gloves from Naples, and shoes from the Marche region – all re-imagining the 1950’s and 60’s.
Bilotta said the famous terraces of Cinque Terre on the Italian Riviera inspired the new hat design: his homage to when women always wore stylish hats and gloves. The ever popular ‘Volare’ sang by Italian star Malika Ayane topped off the spectacular. Alitalia’s Renaissance has arrived!
I got my first peak of Glamour Italiana in New York’s JFK lounge before my Rome flight. Striking 50’s photographs of Alitalia-bound Sophia Loren, Gina Lollobrigida and Marlene Dietrich among others adorned the walls.
If you love the cuisine as much as yours truly, you’ll be delighted to find top Italian chefs and pizza ovens, yum, in the new Alitalia lounges redesigned to reflect the style of a beautiful Italian home.
Onboard, the renewed Alitalia experience continues with glammed up interiors, Ferrari wines, Lavazza coffee and more. Luxe amenities in business classes include Poltrona Frau leather seats, Frette bedding, Richard Ginori tableware and Bulgari amenity kits.
As for the food, my pasta with buffalo mozzarella, cherry tomatoes and grated Caciocavallo cheese plus a surprisingly moist sea bass fillet in a Livornese tomato sauce rivaled the best restaurants in Italy. And then there are those stylish new uniforms.
As for reasons to go to Italy, there are many, and for me Rome is the most exciting place around. In addition to having unparalleled sites such as the Coliseum, the Pantheon and the Sistine Chapel, Rome Is ‘La Dolce Vita.’
Only in this timeless city would photos of visiting movie stars decorate the Spanish Steps’ facades now being renovated. I descended in good company, passing Elizabeth Taylor with Richard Burton, Sophia Loren and others. I could easily hear them saying, ‘Ciao Bella.’
Down the steps more fabulousness awaited with voguish boutiques galore on the poshest shopping streets in Rome. Via Condotti, Via Borgognona and Via delle Carrozze were filled with sexy women in sunglasses and handsome Italian men swathed in neck scarves.
On my walk of fashion I passed Pucci, Missoni, Miu Miu and Etro, stopping of course for some retail therapy.
I happened upon an ‘Eventi’ at Valentino where girls with clipboards stood sentry over a stylish crowd of invited VIP’s and paparazzi as artist London Kaye created her crochet designs in the window display.
Further on, I found a La Dolce Vita Boutique, a Fashion Wine Bar and even a Fashion Restaurant. This city is so fashion-centric even the policewomen wear heels.
In a city celebrated for its aesthetic, palatial lodgings are woven into the glorious fabric that is Rome. Once a palazzo, now a luxurious 5-star boutique retreat, Hotel d’Inghilterra boasts a legendary past.
The six-story building was the former aristocratic home of the Torlonia Princes and their royal guests. The Contessa of Torlonia still lives at the palazzo across the cobblestone street where you can have the hotel arrange your own intimate cocktail party or romantic dinner in the frescoed rooms.
John Keats, Mark Twain, Elizabeth Taylor and Ernest Hemingway are some of the many luminaries who resided here. This grand residence with gorgeous sitting areas, mahogany Bond Bar, roof garden and its own art collection features rooms and suites with sumptuous décor. Appointments include hand-blown Murano glass chandeliers, Damask, silks, antiques, Chinese porcelain, Baroque mirrors and balconies with glorious city views.
For great people watching plus great food, I parked myself at one of the outdoor tables at the hotel’s acclaimed Café Romano. Here I lunched on delectable zucchini flowers stuffed with ricotta and pumpkin, linguini with red tiger prawn carpaccio, tuna and homemade pistachio gelato to die for.
Did I mention the hotel’s location on Bocca di Leone, 2 minutes from the Spanish steps, seconds from Via Condotti and the designer shops in ‘Fashion Central?’ Bring all credit cards!
If you like the idea of a lush, green oasis, head to the 5-star Hotel de Russie. This stunner in the heart of Rome next to the Piazza del Popolo captivates with its landscaped garden replete with fountains, rose bushes, palm trees and walkways.
The Tsarist aristocracy who frequented the fashionable establishment loved to stroll the enchanted paths – as did I. Picasso, Cocteau and Stravinsky are among the notable artists who were guests. Cocteau said he was able to pick oranges from his balcony and described it as “paradise on earth.”
The ravishing beauty of this Secret Garden provides the backdrop for renowned restaurant ‘Le Jardin de Russie’ which attracts well-heeled Internationals as well as Roman Society. The food is superb. Amid the verdant splendor I relished an outstanding lunch buffet of Mediterranean dishes including the finest cheese, ceviche, antipasti, pasta, pizza, fish, meats and sweets. This is a fine place to linger over breakfast as well.
Suites such as the Popolo and Picasso that offer scenic vistas are designed like private Roman apartments with posh furnishings, original artworks, antiques and mosaic/marble bathrooms.
For a real treat, the ultra luxurious Nijinsky Suite includes an extravagant terrace with flowers, palms, loungers, large teak tables for dining under the light of roman torches plus breathtaking views of the ancient gardens and famed director Fellini’s former apartment.
Where do the city’s fashionable and fabulous dine? At Assunta Madre, of course. Just a block from the Tiber River and minutes from Campo de Fiori on Via Giulia, this lively restaurant serves up Rome’s best seafood to an A List crowd. Don’t come before 10pm and be sure to make reservations!
You’ll find beautiful ladies in stilettos and body hugging dresses with plunging necklines along with accomplished Roman men of all ages, from hip to classically elegant types, friendly, chatting and smiling. It may well be the best party in town. This is where Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Georgio Armani, Madonna and Francis Ford Coppola dine when in Rome. Their photos adorn the entrance wall along with many other celebs.
A feast that included exquisite sea bream tartare with avocado, a tantalizing selection of seafood carpaccio, a plateau of giant prawns, oysters and langoustines, perfect pasta with sea bass and lemon plus hedonistic tonnarello with lobster and cherry tomatoes transported me to gastronomic paradise.
Personable owner Gianni Micalusi stopped by to say hello. He told me he named both the restaurant and his fishing boat – the source of the fresh catches on display at the entrance – after his mother. Thank you Mama, you did good!
As I was leaving the Eternal City, I thought of the time I tossed a coin in Trevi Fountain to assure my wish to return would come true. Arrivederci Roma, see you soon!
How To Go: The Italian experience begins on takeoff with the new Alitalia-Etihad partnership offering direct flights from JFK to Rome with seamless service and top amenities. Additionally, Alitalia inaugurated service to Beijing, Santiago de Chile and Mexico City this summer.