Tuesday, April 24, 2018

Sass, Smarts, and Stilettos: How Italian Women Make the Ordinary Extraordinary by Gabriella Contestabile (Book Spotlight, Guest Post and Giveaway!)

I loved this book! And it made me proud of my Italian roots. Check out my review on Library of Clean Reads on April 26. Scroll down to read a guest post by Gabriella that rings so true about my childhood as well.

Book Details:

Book Title: Sass, Smarts, and Stilettos: How Italian Women Make the Ordinary Extraordinary by Gabriella Contestabile
Category: Adult Non-Fiction, 201 pages
Genre: Travel / Arts / Fashion / Self-help
Publisher: Sumisura Publications
Release date: November 2017
Tour dates: April 23 to May 11, 2018
Content Rating: G (No violence. No swear words. No sex scenes.)

Book Description:

Ah, that inimitable Italian style. It’s embedded in an Italian woman’s DNA. Fashion doesn’t define her. She defines herself. She knows an extraordinary life is not about status, money, or achievement. The only mastery it requires is one her heritage has given her, the irrepressible passion to make art of life itself.

Ask an Italian woman where she gets her sense of style and she will tell you it’s not about labels. It’s tethered to humble roots; humanity, community, conscious consumerism, and a profound appreciation for art in all its forms.

Sass, Smarts and Stilettos takes the reader on a journey from the humble hill towns of Abruzzo to the revered fashion capitals of Milan and Rome, into the artisan workshops of Florence, and the humanistic business practices of Luisa Spagnoli, Brunello Cuccinelli, and Alberta Ferretti, from the emergence of Italy’s fashion industry after WWII, to slow food and sustainable fashion initiatives taking root around the world.

Life lessons echo in the words of the author’s mother and grandmother, in the voices of Italian film divas, designers, tastemakers, writers, and artisans across generations, from the first Sala Bianca in Florence to the game-changing design ethic of Franca Sozzani, Miuccia Prada, and Donatella Versace.

Learn how to live fully within your own philosophy of living. Say goodbye to mindless consumerism, emotional clutter, and others’ expectations. Create a personal style that fits like a custom blazer by Ferrè and enchants like the colors of a Sicilian sunset. Then go on to craft an extraordinary and empowering life made-to-measure for you alone.

To read reviews, please visit Gabriella Contestabile's page on Italy Book Tours.

Buy the Book:

Guest Post: Style by Gabriella Contestabile

“Style is a simple way of saying complicated things” — Jean Cocteau

It was my first year in the U.S. and I wanted those cheap pointy-toed shoes my classmates bought at Westchester Square in the Bronx. My mother said no. Shoes had to be of superior quality and made in Italy.

I tried hard to assimilate, but my parents fought back. So when my friends came over after school expecting to snack on Cheetos, my mother poured olive oil onto a plate and gave us chunks of bread from our local bakery to dip.

The school nurse wanted to know how any responsible parent could serve espresso, or wine mixed with water, to a nine-year-old; why we used olive oil instead of butter and partook of a Mediterranean diet, which at the time seemed suspiciously foreign.

Today, one dips bread into olive oil at five-star restaurants where the simple dishes I was raised on, cost $40.00 a plate. “Made In Italy” is a label coveted by fashion congnoscenti, and the bespoke clothing made by a sarto (tailor) or sarta (dressmaker) are a luxury few can afford.

Luxury to an Italian is not about status. It’s a reverential take on life, a philosophy of ‘compra meno, compra meglio’ (buy less, buy better).

It is not uncommon for an Italian woman to opt for a single beautiful Missoni over multiple purchases of disposable fashion items. Her closet fare is lean and curated. She wears the items she loves, those that tell a story, recall a memory, or reflect the work of an artisan she knows.

There was a time when saving up for that one pair of Ferragamo ballerinas was not about the name, but about provenance and craftsmanship.

After many years of travel between Italy and the U.S. while immersed in the cosmetics, fragrance, and fashion world, I finally figured out that my parents were right - art, humanity, and conscious consumerism are bred in an Italian’s DNA. It’s no coincidence that the Renaissance and study of Humanism started in Italy, as did Carlo Petrini’s Slow Food Movement and an emerging slow fashion initiative, now taking root around the globe.

I will forever thank them for insisting we speak Italian inside the home, and proper English outside. That we read Dante and Austen, listen to Puccini and Elvis, not drop the vowels at the end of our names, and embrace our good fortune to live inside two cultures.

We’re humans, not baking soda, they said. We don’t assimilate and become indistinguishable. Rather, we throw pinches and tosses of our unique flavors into that exuberant recipe that is humankind.

I learned early on that no country is a monolith. We are all a mix of influences and of moments in time we hold forever in our hearts. Whoever you are, own it. Whatever your ethnic identity, be it.

It calls to mind the words of Emile Zola, “If you ask me what I came into this world to do, I will tell you. I came to live out loud.”

Praise for Sass, Smarts and Stilettos:

“An Italian lifestyle is understated, not loud, it doesn’t need to brag, because it’s an inherited patrimony, made of the simple things, yet luxurious and sophisticated, a tribute to quality. Gabriella does an exquisite and ambitious job at describing it in passionate detail, and in a book you won’t want to put down.”
 — Francesca Belluomini, author of The Cheat Sheet of Italian Style

“I was captivated by this inspirational, heartwarming and fascinating account of what it means to be not only an Italian American woman, but a WOMAN. Framed against the backdrop of Italian life and culture, each personally-reflective chapter is filled with lessons for a rich life through history, art, fashion, architecture, philosophy, and cuisine. Humor and wit are sprinkled throughout this compelling literary work. Gabriella takes the reader on a journey that touches the heart, the mind, the senses, and ultimately, the soul. A must read and reread for every ‘extraordinary’ woman!” 
— Dr. Marie-Elena Liotta, Chairperson and Trustee of the Enrico Fermi Scholarship Foundation

“Gabriella's writing, as always, celebrates all the senses, and there you are, sitting on a mint-green Vespa wearing fashionable heels (suddenly, you won't trip in them) and the perfect perfume. Simply a must read, not just for the delicious style and lusciously painted scenes, but because this is pure inspiration of the go-get-'em variety, the kind that inspires us to reach out to the women in our lives and say, 'Do you need a helping hand? That is a fabulous scarf. Let's do this.' " 
— Flavia Brunetti, author of ‘Young in Rome’ city blog

“Sass, Smarts and Stilettos captivates with its brilliant depiction of the Italian woman, her unapologetic way of being, her love of life and her inimitable sense of style that’s deeply rooted in her cultural heritage. At its core, it is a profoundly inspiring story of humanity, art, intuition and female empowerment.” 
— Aleksandra Lacka, Personal Brand Strategist and Founder of insights-studio.com 

About the Author:

Gabriella Contestabile is the author of the novel, The Artisan’s Star, and owner of Su Misura (Made to Measure) Journeys; a boutique travel concept for the female traveler who relishes off-the-beaten-track adventures that celebrate the Italian way of life.

The book/travel initiative has its roots in her pre-writer life as a foreign language teacher, later as Executive Director and Vice President of International Training in a number of global companies (including Estee Lauder, Shiseido, and Prada Beauty) where she would create immersive and unconventional learning experiences in unique settings around the world.

One of her favorite pastimes, wherever she is in the world, is to scout out the best, and most ‘Italian’ espresso in the hood. It requires multiple tastings, but that’s the idea. Gabriella was born in Italy, and raised in Ottawa and New York City, where she currently lives with her husband, her mother, and a furry Shih Tzu named Oreo.

Connect with the Author: Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Instagram ~ LinkedIn

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  1. This book sounds fascinating and wonderful. A real treasure. Thanks for this lovely giveaway.

  2. I really enjoyed the post. Sounds wonderful and I'll be reading it for sure.
    Carol Luciano
    Lucky4750 at aol dot com

  3. I love this type of biography come travelogue. The quote about the mother giving her children olive oil to dip their bread into as a snack, reminded me of a dear friend's mother.