Monday, August 22, 2016

Jeweler I Love: Pamela Love

I’ve been watching the evolution and exploration of Pamela Love’s jewelry designs since she founded her company in 2007 in Manhattan. Her first handcrafted designs were inspired by traditional folkloric traditions, and were crafted in gold and in silver with decorative materials like rare shells, fossils, mine-cut quartz, and poetic gems and unusually compelling stones. Her newest designs are sleek, sensual, timeless and compelling.

In her new book, MUSES AND MANIFESTATIONS: Pamela Love Jewelry (Rizzoli), she invites us into her universe, revealing the obsessions and inspirations behind her highly collectible designs. Oh, and did I say, Beyonce is a fan.

I’m inspired by Pamela’s revelations of her varied and worldly inspirations. The book is in effect a scrapbook divided thematically. Chapters are based on different sources of wide-ranging inspiration—Santa Fe, Georgia O’Keeffe, Indian weaving, Tarot cards, desert landscapes, flea-market paintings, sculptural skulls, modern architecture, Frida Kahlo. She takes us inside her creative process, giving an up-close sense of the mind of a dreamer and designer.

One aspect of her designs is magic and the occult. Her popular necklaces and pendants and rings are inspired by astronomy and astrology and the study of the heavens. New Mexico and Mexico.

She riffs on Morocco and the idea of journeying to exotic parts of the world, and desert regions set her imagination on fire. She loves the American Southwest and nature. A recent translation of a classic design includes ring designs in 14k yellow gold plate over sterling silver with lapis and white topaz. The sleek and very sculptural ring is also in 14k rose gold plate over sterling silver with bronze calcite and white topaz ($210 on her website,

Love’s creations are deeply spiritual and intuitive, influenced by astrology, alchemy, botany, and she alludes to traditional and tribal patterns from North Africa. She leaps from Mexican folk art to medieval European iconography. Referencing elements of her home in New York City, she arrives at her own immediately recognizable aura of modern, yet mystical inspired jewelry.

“Pamela Loves jewels are not sentimental, decorative illustrations, complements of a pleasant and mindless daily life. They continue, in innovative ways, the age-old traditions of talismans.”  – Francesco Clemente

About Pamela Love

Pamela Love began making jewelry in her Brooklyn apartment in 2007 and went on to launch her namesake brand, building a full production facility and design studio in Manhattan’s garment district. She quickly proved her talent among the fashion community and was recognized for her designs by the Council of Fashion Designers of America or the CFDA, winning the prestigious CFDA Swarovski Award for Accessory Design. She earned the position as runner up in the competitive program, the CFDA Vogue Fashion Fund.

In MUSES AND MANIFESTATIONS: Pamela Love Jewelry, she invites us into her universe, revealing the obsessions and inspirations behind her ultra-personal designs.

Pamela Love prides herself on her brand’s sustainability and localized production. Love was born in New York and resides in the city now.

How to Find Pamela:

On the website, find all stores and online sites that sell Pamela Love jewelry. Her seasonal collections are available at Bergdorf Goodman and in many smaller chic boutiques throughout the US. Colette in Paris is one of her stockists. 
And link to her excellent and highly informative blog through her website. 

Follow Pamela Love on Facebook. Pamela’s newest designs for AW16 are presented with verve on her Facebook pages.

She also presents sleek new designs for pre-order. New directions and new ideas are inspiring—and show the trajectory of her creative mind.

Follow Pamela Love on Instagram: @pamelalove


Rizzoli New York /

Muses and Manifestations: Pamela Love Jewelry 
By Pamela Love
Foreword by Ray Siegel, with text by Francesco Clemente
Rizzoli New York

Images from Muses and Manifestations: Pamela Love Jewelry published here with permission.

* * * * *

See you next week with news of the fantastic San Francisco Opera 2016 fall season.


Monday, August 15, 2016

The Great Antonio: In San Francisco’s historic Mission district, interior designer Antonio Martins creates a dynamic refuge with a modern edge and cool Italian vibe for a tech innovator

Antonio Martins is one of the most versatile and original designers in California today. You’ve seen his work on THE STYLE SALONISTE over recent years—including his showcase tribute to Portuguese design, with its superb blue and white color scheme, and his ultra-modern artist’s gallery on Telegraph Hill recently.

This week we are taking an exclusive up-close look at Antonio’s newest work—the superbly planned interiors of a dramatic loft/ apartment by Kennerly Architecture and Planning.

Mission accomplished.

Antonio Martins was first contacted by his client in late 2015, when the building was being completed.

Antonio recalled:

“The young, energetic and adventurous owner wanted something different. He was born in Italy but later moved to the US and trained to be a pilot. This led him to a career in the movie business, with periods of time working in Africa. After years of adventure, he decided to settle in SF and started working for a tech company in the Silicon Valley. He found this great new architecture in the Mission.”

The new house by Kennerly Architecture and Planning includes three bedrooms and 3 bathrooms divided on 5 different levels. To balance the crisp planes of the architecture, the client wanted an interior with history. “A bit of this, a bit of that”, he said. He wanted it to reflect his international interests in art, and a life of traveling around the world.

In the lively heart of the Mission, one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city, he is also within walking distance of Tartine, Bi-Rite grocery, and individually created places of style and taste like Craftsman & Wolves, Dandelion Chocolate, Bar Tartine, Locanda, and a thriving art and design and cultural scene. 

Antonio recalls:

“The interview process took a month. He wanted to be sure we had a connection and understanding. I believe he made up his mind after the second meeting when we met in my office and he was able to see the mix of styles in the space. Our office is a loft in the SOMA design district and combines an architectural brick warehouse with an eclectic mix of antiques and modern art. The fact that I had also lived all over the world, including in Italy also played a big part in his decision. He had a feeling that the spaces would be less “decorated” and more “lived”. 

Antonio recalls:

“Once I had a clear understanding and a good feeling for his aesthetics, I suggested a strategy: why don’t we look for vintage and antique items in auctions all around the country? This would be a way to get great and fast results and “build” a hundred-year story. He loved the idea and we quickly started. I searched all the auction houses in the US with coming auctions and we made our selections.

I would send him the list of items coming up for auction during the upcoming weekend, detailed the low and high estimates given by the auction house and suggested our bids. Depending on “how much we wanted a piece”, we would then decide the absentee bid. It was an exciting process and we got 99% of the pieces we bid on.”

Interior Designer Antonio Martins

Antonio recalls:

“The strategy paid off and after two weeks of shipping, we received all pieces that were theN refinished, reupholstered or simply touched up. I would show him the piece and pointed some nicks or dents and his answered was often “what do you think?” or “why touch it up? After all, it is antique or vintage, right?”. ‘It is not every day that you find a client with such sensibility and understanding.

The final steps were to find the missing pieces and accessories. Our inventory was a clear target and together with additional finds in local markets, antique stores and design stores in SF, we were ready.

“The install happened in a day. Our great client left for work at 7 am and we were at his door, ready. Good Moves, the drapery installer, and art installers worked together from 7 am to 7 pm to get it ready. Throughout the day, I would send him a text or email asking “can we do A or B?” and his answer was always the same: It is your house, do whatever you want.

He called at 7 pm asked if we were ready and if he could come back home. He loves it. Mission accomplished.”

Hall chair (used as side table): George III Mahogany hall chair

Design Credits

Living Room

· Sofa: Vintage Chesterfield Sofa
· Coffee table: HD Buttercup

· Deco chairs: Vintage Pair of French Art Deco chairs upholstered in green mohair
· Chrome chairs: Vintage Nicos Zagraphos chairs upholstered in faux suede
· Pair of stools: A pair of Continental Neoclassical style painted benches with animal legs upholstered in Mongolian lamb

· Side table: Vintage art déco table. Coil Lamp: vintage gear coil lamp with burlap lampshade

· Side table: Italian mid-century modern chrome and burled wood side table
· Gallery Wall: Vintage and new art

· Floor lamp between living room and dining room: Paul Evans (attributed) Cityscape Floor lamp
· Rug: HD Buttercup

· Pendants: Vintage propellers 

Dining Room:

· Dining table: Vintage Milo Baughman for Thayer Coggin

· Dining chairs: Vintage Marcel Breuer Cesca

· Chandelier: Birdie chandelier by Ingo Maurer

· Portrait: 19th century Portrait of a Gentleman holding a newspaper, unsigned, oil on canvas
· Pair of photographs: Diptick Viswakarma Blues by Drew Kelly framed on steel custom frame

· Side chair by window: Vintage Portuguese Dining chair
· Sculpture by window: “Land Ahoy” by Antonio Martins, created for the 2014 San Francisco Decorator Showcase

· Rug: Vintage HD Buttercup

Entryway / Staircase

· Vintage Black and white Photographs

· Frames: White frame by City Picture Frame

Powder Room:

Mirror: Continental giltwood carved mirror in the rococo taste

Wallpaper: Nuvolette wallpaper by Cole & Son

An International Design Education: The Life of Antonio Martins

“My family is originally from Portugal but moved to Brazil in the late 1800s.

The entire family kept moving between Portugal and Brazil and my mother was born in Brazil but moved back to Portugal when she was 12.

In Portugal, my family had farms and land in the north. When my grandfather moved to Brazil he had a coffee and corn processing plant.

I was born in Portugal and move to Brazil in 1975 at the age of six. We lived in Rio and my father had several businesses but his main passion was a coffee farm in the state of Minas Gerais.

After graduating high school, in 1988, I moved to Switzerland to study hotel management - Centre Internationale de Glion. After graduation, I was hired by Hyatt international, and moved to Hong Kong where I lived for about 10 years, and working in Germany, Italy, Bangkok, and throughout Southeast Asia.

I moved in 2000 to Chicago to work at the head office of Hyatt International and worked in development projects in Paris, Sao Paulo, Chicago, and Argentina.

I resigned from Hyatt in 2001 and moved to San Francisco to join the Academy of Art University where I taught…and then I opened my own design studios in San Francisco and in Lisbon. It has been a great, great pleasure to work for my clients around the world.”

Details, details — Collection of locks: Collection of antique and vintage locks on acrylic cubes.


Showplace Square West
550 15th Street, Suite 32
San Francisco, CA 94103

Kennerly Architecture and Planning
375 Alabama St #440
San Francisco, CA 94110
Special thanks to Drew Kelly. 
Photography used with permission.

Drew Kelly is a photographer based in California. When not on assignment, he enjoys tending campfires, listening to A’s games on the radio and being outdoors with his family.


Monday, August 8, 2016

The Pleasures of Portraiture: A fantastically inspiring new book, ‘Bernard Boutet de Monvel, At the Origins of Art Deco’ by Stephanie-Jacques Addade (Flammarion) celebrates a forgotten French artist and fine portraitist

Come with me this week to discover this superbly illustrated and highly collectible new volume about Bernard Boutet de Monvel (1881-1949), the chic portraitist, who in the twenties, thirties and forties, in Paris and New York and Palm Beach, captured the likenesses of café society.

Bernard Boutet de Monvel was the portraitist of great beauties, their husbands, and their pretty children. Names and clans like Vanderbilt, Frick, Elsie de Wolfe, Millicent Rogers, Astor, Whitney, French nobles, the Maharaja and Maharani of Indore, and du Pont all posed in his studios.

Now, with a highly successful recent Sotheby’s sale, and the publication of the superbly detailed new book, Bernard Boutet de Monvel is rediscovered.

This is one of my favorite recent books—and an essential reference book for designers, artists, photographers and everyone drawn to this alluring and glamorous era. The text is detailed and informative. Images of his interiors and locations capture the elegant era with perfection.

I first discovered the elusive Bernard Boutet de Monvel (that’s his portrait on the book cover, above) in the window of an art gallery along the quai Voltaire. I was heading to Sennelier to buy some watercolor paints when a gold-framed portrait of a woman in a white dress caught my eye.

Static, motionless, timeless, the woman (his Chilean wife, Delfina, whom he painted many times) gazed out, perfection captured. I walked into the gallery and asked about it. ‘Bernard Boutet de Monvel’ the dealer said. 

Lady Plunkett (Aileen Guinness) in a gown by Cristóbal Balenciaga, oil on canvas, 92.5 x 42 cm, 1949. Private collection.© Sotheby's / Art Digital Studio, from Bernard Boutet de Monvel: At the Origins of Art Deco (Flammarion, 2016). 

Some years later, in a museum exhibit in London, I discovered Boutet de Monvel’s fantastic portrait of the Maharaja of Indore painted in 1933. Seated on a white ‘throne’ and resplendent in white cotton robes with just a dash of orange and gold handwoven silk, he is wearing the Indore pear-shaped diamonds, each 46 carats. It’s one of the great contemporary portraits, serene and subtle, and elegant.

In April 2016 ,in Sotheby’s dramatic Paris sale of the artist’s estate—the stunning portrait of the Maharajah of Indore soared to €2.5 million ($2.9 million). 

Portrait of Boutet de Monvel, courtesy of Sotheby’s.

About the Portrait

Bernard Boutet de Monvel often painted himself from 1908 onward. In 1932, he painted two self-portraits for an exhibition at the Reinhardt Galleries in New York including Autoportrait, place Vendôme.

In this strikingly elegant picture, reminiscent of the great Italian Renaissance portraits he admired so much, he presents himself as a genuine dandy in a room at the Ritz, where he often had lunch. Seated on a desk, the artist is holding his cane, cream gloves and hat, with the inevitable white daisy in his buttonhole. Through the window, it is possible to see the place Vendôme. 

Mrs. Millicent H. Rogers in a gown by Charles James, oil on canvas, 85 x 69 cm, 1949. Private collection.© Private Collection / Jacques Pépion, from Bernard Boutet de Monvel: At the Origins of Art Deco (Flammarion, 2016). 

Sotheby’s sale, April 5 and 6 in Paris this year, offered over 300 lots—of portraits, drawings, illustrations, prints, and furniture from the estate of Boutet de Monvel who died in 1949.

“A star is reborn," said Sotheby’s. The sale restored the fabulous French artist to a prominent place among curators and galleries and international collectors.

Coveted portraits, such as those of the artist’s wife and daughter (see below) drove the overall total of the sale to €9.3 million / $10.6 million (est. €1.8-2.8 million).

This new book was published by Flammarion at the time of the sale. It is a fantastic and definitive illustration of a glamorous era before omnipresent iPhone portraiture, and a stylish record of interiors, décor and accomplished people of the period.

Delfina Wearing a Feathered Toque by Jeanne Lanvin, oil on canvas and pencil, 35 x 32 cm, c. 1922. Private collection. © Sotheby's / Art Digital Studio, from Bernard Boutet de Monvel: At the Origins of Art Deco (Flammarion, 2016). 

Sylvie Boutet de Monvel, oil on canvas, 45 x 45 cm, October 1928. Private collection. © Private Collection / Jacques Pépion, from Bernard Boutet de Monvel: At the Origins of Art Deco (Flammarion, 2016).

ABOVE: At Sotheby’s: Among exceptional portraits in the sale were intimate family paintings of Boutet de Monvel’s beautiful Anglo-Chilean wife, Delfina Edwards Bello and of their daughter, Sylvie. A portrait of Delfina wearing an ensemble by Pierre Piguet fetched €363,000 ($414,473), nine times the pre-sale low estimate (est. € 40,000 - 60,000). 

Mrs. John A. Vietor (Eleanor Emily Woodward), oil on canvas, 86.5 x 71.5 cm, 1937. Private collection. © Private Collection / Jacques Pépion, from Bernard Boutet de Monvel: At the Origins of Art Deco (Flammarion, 2016). 

The Story of Bernard Boutet de Monvel

A painter, engraver, sculptor, decorator, as well as an illustrator for Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar, Boutet de Monvel was one of the most celebrated portraitists of his day, as well as a master of Art Deco and American Precisionism.

His models included Prince Sixte de Bourbon-Parme, William Kissan Vanderbilt, Lady Plunkett, Frick, Whitney and Astor. With his unrivalled aesthetic sense, he featured them in a style close to hyperrealism, with a heightened attention for detail and technical perfection.

He was described as "the handsomest man in Europe" by the American press. He turned beauty into a lifestyle, seeking perfection from his servants' uniforms to his young daughter's fringe of hair. He influenced a numerous artists after him, ranging from Andy Warhol to Robert Mapplethorpe.

Rediscovered: The Significance of the Sotheby’s Sale

Bernard Boutet de Monvel was highly admired in France and across the Atlantic during his lifetime. Yet until the publication of the large-format new Flammarion book and the Sotheby’s sale, his oeuvre and his life, worthy of a Fitzgerald novel, were little known.

In Sotheby’s sale, eight works by the artist were acquired by French museums, including the Musée d’Orsay, the Musée d’Orléans, the Musée de Poitiers and the Musée franco-américain du Château de Blérancourt.

Commenting on the sale, Pascale Pavageau, head of 19th century paintings and drawings, Sotheby’s Paris, said: “This landmark sale pays tribute to the immense talent and extraordinary personality of Bernard Boutet de Monvel. The remarkable results achieved place him as one of the most important French artists of the early-20th century.”

Pierre Mothes, Vice-Chairman, Sotheby’s France said: “We are grateful to the family of the artist to have entrusted us with the sale of this iconic collection which was kept secret for so many years”. 

The Maharajah of Indore (a state of India located to the west of Mumbai) painted by Bernard Boutet de Monvel in 1933.

Among my favorite works by Boutet de Monvel are a series of portraits he painted of the young Maharaja of Indore in 1933.

The maharaja and his wife were living in Paris and surrounded artists and architects and fashion designers of the period.

Boutet first painted the couple in evening dress. These paintings are now in a private collection.

Portrait of the Maharani of Indore by Boutet de Monvel

Those of you who follow THE STYLE SALONISTE may wish to link back to a story I wrote several years ago about a meeting with the son of the last Maharaja of Indore, Prince Richard Holkar. Richard Holkar, who graduated from Stanford, is the owner/director of Ahilya Fort hotel in Maheswar. He is also now directing Ahilya-by-the-Sea hotel in Goa. LINK HERE:

My post details the story of the Maharajah and his son. Fascinating.

A Famous Portrait, the Indore Diamonds, a Notable Indian Prince

The Maharaja of Indore was influential in Indore's incorporation into India in 1948 and was a noted spokesman for the United Nations. He also loved European life and luxury. 

After his studies in England as a young man, he travelled to France with his wife. Keen admirers of modern art, the couple befriended Henri-Pierre Roché, who was deeply involved with the artistic avant-garde in Paris and who was friends with artists like Brancusi, Man Ray and Picabia.

In 1929, when the Maharaja wanted to decorate one of the rooms in his palace at Indore, Roché recommended Bernard Boutet de Monvel, who set to work on his portrait. Pleased with this first commission, in 1933 the Maharajah asked for a second portrait in ceremonial dress, with a pendant portrait of his wife in traditional dress. The two paintings were exhibited in the Wildenstein Gallery in New York in January 1934, where they were so successful that Boutet de Monvel made a replica of the Maharajah's portrait in 1934: the one Sotheby’s offered in the recent sale. It sold for several million euros. The Maharaja is wearing the ‘Indore pears’ — diamonds weighing almost 47 carats each, especially mounted on a pearl necklace by Chaumet for this portrait. 

Majestically seated on his throne, wearing his traditional turban, his silhouette seems to float in space. A few refined touches of color – the deep red carpet, the multi-colored material of the saber's sheath and the delicately crumpled, richly colored fabric – subtly highlight the clean lines of the painting. 

Images above from ‘Bernard Boutet de Monvel At the Origins of Art Deco’ by Stéphanie-Jacques Addade (Flammarion 2016). Published here with express permission of the publisher.

Images/portraits from the catalog of the Sotheby’s sale, April 2016, from the estate of Bernard Boutet de Monvel, used here with permission from Sotheby’s.   


Monday, August 1, 2016

Roman Holiday

This week, in Technicolor, we’re in Rome, where I recently escaped for a few days.

It was a super-private visit. I headed for a dreamy stay at the new Portrait Roma hotel, and decided to focus on art, architecture, and staying close to the hotel, walking.

I discovered the wonderful (quite private) new restaurant at the Villa Medici. I booked a timed visit to the Galleria Borghese. It was a magical long weekend, personal and meditative. I wandered in the Borghese gardens, and gazed at paintings and sculptures in church interiors.

It’s a quick read this week—with lots of discoveries, no filter.

First let’s check into the Portrait Roma hotel, dash up to the hotel’s divine roof terrace, and begin our Roman Holiday. 

The Portrait Roma hotel is a sister of the Portrait Firenze hotel in Florence. You’ll recall I wrote about the Portrait Firenze last fall, when I went truffle hunting. Both hotels are owned by the Ferragamo family, and the management is superb.

The architect and designer of both hotels is Michele Bönan, planner and interior designer. The Portrait Roma opened in 2006, but it feels new and fresh. Staff is attentive and charming. The feeling is rather like a private apartment. The lobby is discreet. And when you want to stroll out to find your favourite Gucci loafers or a Bulgari necklace, you’re there in a minute. Bliss.

From the roof terrace, there’s a 360 degree view and you feel close to everything. Still, the hotel is tranquil and discreet, and the suites feel very quiet. There’s no restaurant on-site, but you’ll enjoy a wonderfully fresh breakfast, and staff will bring you lovely morsels from nearby restaurants. It’s very polished and perfect—yet feels modern and relaxed.

Discovering the Villa Medici

I first visited the very imposing Villa Medici—the French Academy in Rome—as a student, and have always had a fascination for the concept, the grand villa, the gardens, the inscrutability.

On my recent holiday, I fell in love with it all over again, lingering in the gardens. In particular, I discovered the Colbert restaurant, which opened in May. It’s very hidden, with no signage to speak of and it’s a favourite for French students, academy fellows. It’s feels far from the throng. Very far, indeed from the via Condotti just down the hill. Escape. 

Another reason to fall under the spell of the Villa Medici is that Balthus was a director there—and his artistic vision is still part of the mystery and allure. Ask your guide about the rooms painted by Balthus.

For a tour with a guide:

The key: turn up at the Villa Medici, ask at the front desk about afternoon tours, and make it work. English tours are infrequent, and you cannot visit without a guide and group. Good luck! It’s an adventure.

The Colbert Restaurant: It’s on the second floor. There’s no sign…ask the guard.
The light-filled space, with panoramic views over Rome, is lovely in the morning, and glorious in afternoon light. Go, sip wine, relax, nibble on treats, perhaps request a Salade Nicoise, a glass of Frascati, a piece of cake. Linger. Sip a smoothie. La Dolce Vita. Times and information about the Colbert don’t appear to be listed on the website yet. 

History of the French Academy in Rome
The original creation of the French Academy in Rome was part of the policy of great works and ambitious cultural statements of King Louis XlV at the end of the 17th century. It's prestigious to be accepted as a resident--in art and music and film. I met some 'pensioners' as they are called. One French conceptual artist was composing music and abstract sound based on lightwaves. Marvelous.Thanks to Louis XIV whose grand works transformed the Louvre, the Tuileries, and Versailles. The Academy in Rome was created in 1666 under the leadership of Colbert, Le Brun and Gian Lorenzo Bernini. It welcomed artists who won the First Prize of Rome and several protégés of powerful lords. Young artists pensioned by the king got broadened training, being in touch with Rome and Italy.

Rome Favorites

For my happy and personal weekend, I stayed within walking distance from the Portrait Roma hotel. The hotel is twenty minutes walk from the Pantheon, and five from the Piazza del Popolo, and fifteen from the Palazzo Doria Pamphilj, and five minutes from the Villa Medici and the top of the Spanish Steps.

You know my passion is architecture and art and gardens, and my favorites in Rome usually mean seeing all three in one location.

1. Swooning in the Galleria Borghese: book online. I propose 11am, as you will then have 2 hours to gaze, circumambulate, look at statuary and sculptures from all perspectives. Small-guided groups come and go. I decided to make my own discoveries, but occasionally listened in to the most informed guides who spoke with flair and insight. Bernini’s ‘Apollo and Daphne’ is the highlight for me. As well, take time to study Bernini’s Aeneas, Anchises and Ascanius’. Find Caravaggio. Head exploding. I could visit daily, and find new surprises, portrait, a little bronze, odd paintings, and marble columns, gilt frames. Thrilling.

2. Meandering in the Borghese gardens: Wander out of the Galleria Borghese in any direction. I start with a map, and then get lost in the maze of pathways and streets that wind through lush parkland, with views of villas and ancient trees. In summer, the meadows are blooming with daisies and birds are flitting and chirping. Stop at the Pincio, then walk down the stairs to the Piazza del Popolo.

3. Chasing Caravaggio: For a fantastic and passionate weekend, you could simply ‘chase Caravaggio’ around Rome to see his paintings. I propose starting at the Galleria Borghese, which has twelve, then to San Luigi dei Francesi church (near the Piazza Navona). There in the Contarelli Chapel you can see the "Saint Matthew" cycle: "The Calling of Saint Matthew," "Inspiration of Saint Matthew," and "The Martyrdom of Saint Matthew.". Look at the angels leaping, figures flying and fantastic compositions. Some of my favorite paintings of all time. Caravaggio is also vividly present in Santa Maria del Popolo (under renovation, but check) and of course at the Vatican.

4. Hanging out at the Villa Medici: I could have spent a week at the Villa Medici. It’s important to book a ticket for one of the informal guided afternoon tours. Mostly, they’re in Italian or French.

The tour will take you out to the gardens—and it is great to know that on some weekends, you can also visit resident artists living and working on the property. Colbert restaurant is open in the grand second floor. You may have to ask a guard to direct you past the ‘velvet rope’. Lunch, a cool fresh juice, a morning coffee and pastry, or a sultry afternoon salad in the garden are all to be discovered. I loved and adored watching flirtatious young Italian women students with their young, handsome Italian tutors ‘studying’ at the tables. Most guests are French or Italian. Wonderful atmosphere, with views over Rome from the front windows. Delightful wait staff. Note the garden terrace is open in summer.

5. Encountering the Galleria Doria Pamphilj: While the Spanish Steps are under renovation (funded by Bulgari), a quick walk from the Portrait Roma takes you to the Doria Pamphilj gallery/ palazzo. Ideally, book ahead for a private tour, or Jonathan Pamphilj’s audio guide. Friend him on Facebook, by the way. Encounter Caravaggio, Titian, Raphael, and Velasquez, priceless. Walk around to the Pantheon afterwards.

6. Churches as Art: I have a great passion for religious/ spiritual architecture and perhaps next time in Rome, I’ll simply visit notable historic chapels and churches. This time, I loved Santa Maria della Vittoria on XX Septembre, with the Cornaro Chapel, and ‘The Ecstasy of St. Therese’ by Bernini. Bernini is also at work at the Sant’Isidoro church, a Baroque masterpiece, off Via Vittorio Veneto on Via Degli Artisti. To love: step into a magnificent church/ chapel and you are likely to be almost alone as you spend moments in contemplation, and leave the bustle and whirr and noise outside. The lingering fragrance of incense is always calming. One evening, I came upon a very traditional service, with young monks singing Gregorian chants. Highly recommended.

Happy travels and discoveries.

Where to Stay

I loved the idea of staying at a small private hotel with just fourteen suites and studios. The Portrait Roma is hidden in the elegant center of Rome. For me, the ultimate luxury was taking breakfast on the hotel’s roof terrace, and returning there at sunset for a Bellini or a Negroni or Campari and soda. It's the perfect perch to watch clouds and light flicker across the rooftops and this neighborhood.

The hotel is located adjacent to the Via Condotti, and near the architectural harmony of Trinità dei Monti church perched high above. Walk out the front door—in any direction—and within a few minutes you can be sipping an espresso, trying on Gucci’s latest embroidered gowns or rings (I love Alessandro Michele’s wit and charm) or choosing new luxe sheets at Frette. 

Portrait Roma
Via Bocca di Leone, 23
00187 – Rome
phone +39 055 2726 4000
fax +39 06 691 90 625

Villa Medici
Académie de France à Rome - Villa Medici 
Viale Trinità dei Monti, 1 00187 Roma 

T. +39 06 67611 

Check the various Galleria Borghese/ Roman museum sites, to reserve a timed ticket. Note that you cannot enter without a pre-booked ticket.

Images of the Portrait Roma with kind permission of the Lungarno Collection.

Images of Villa Medici gardens and interiors by Diane Dorrans Saeks.