An Interview With Author Gabriella Contestabile

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From The Author of “Sass, Smarts, and Stilettos”

Jaquo Lifestyle Magazine is pleased to be a part of the virtual book tour for Sass, Smarts, and Stilettos, written by Gabriellla Contestabile.  Currently on tour with Italy Book Tours, you’ll find the author at a variety of sites discussing her newest book.  You’ll find our review of the book here on Jaquo as well.

Take a look.  You won’t want to miss this entertaining tour.

The Interview

1. “Sass, Smarts, and Stilettos’ is an intriguing title? How did you come up with it?

Anna Magnani. She owns the word ‘Sass’. I love women who break the rules. And since I was writing a book about the Italian woman’s inherent sense of style the words ‘smarts’ and stilettos’ fit. Style is not about status or labels. It has deeper roots, especially for the Italian woman, which is why it’s so noteworthy. I wanted ‘Sass’ to be a fun read but with substantive content, and there was plenty to delve into.

2. Your first book was a novel. Why non-fiction this time around?

I wanted to try a new genre and explore the deeper roots of an Italian woman’s sense of style. My mother was a major influence, especially since she honed her sewing and design skills after World War II when Italian fashion made its mark on the world stage. I thought about our early years in Italy when we’d have our clothes tailor-made by a local seamstress, an unthinkable luxury today. And while times have changed in Italy too I notice that Italian women still buy less and buy better, and infuse even the most mundane daily tasks with whimsy and imagination.

3. When you say ‘deeper roots’ what are you referring to?

Heritage, community, conscious consumerism, and an appreciation for art in all its forms. Italians are very much in tune with their history, art, architecture, and artisan traditions. It’s all connected. Without Brunelleschi and Gentileschi there would never have been a Roberto Cavalli, or a Patrizia Pepe. Art underlies everything an Italian does, from serving up a perfect espresso to crafting a business strategy, or receiving guests into one’s home.

4. We hear the word ‘conscious consumerism’ bantered around quite a bit these days and you refer to it in the comment above. How does this trend influence an Italian woman’s style and way of life?

A conscious consumer cares about where her clothes come from, who made them, and under what conditions. The Italian woman has always been a conscious consumer. It’s bred in our DNA. We don’t like waste. We love artisanship and quality and it comes at a price. So we make a choice. Instead of grabbing multiple cheap items off a rack we buy one beautiful sweater we take care of, wear often in different ways, and keep for years. We buy from local artisans, vintage shops, and outdoor markets.

5. So much of this book is memoir, drawing on your experiences living between two cultures. Were there any revelations that surprised you?

When you’re an immigrant you never feel you fully belong to one culture. You are very much divided between the two. Even though I’ve lived in the US for most of my life I still feel connected to Italy. When people ask what I am I have a hard time saying either ‘American’ or ‘Italian’. In reality I’m both. Most of all I’m a New Yorker.

The best revelation while writing the book actually gave me the ending. I was online, researching knitting machines with the intention of buying one for my mother and was amazed to learn that a young woman in California, Emily Cunetto, actually works on a more modern version of the same machine my mother used in Italy.

6. What is your next project?

I want to pick up where “Sass” left off in the epilogue. I believe Italian women and all women need to have a bigger voice on the global stage. Women are skilled at collaboration and building community, qualities we desperately need to tackle the issues of today. I’m humbled and encouraged by the powerful initiatives taken on by women of all ages in all parts of the world. The next book will cull those stories and solutions. So I suppose this will keep me in the non-fiction genre for a while.

Also on the roster, a collection of short stories which already exist but need a home, a collaboration with Francesca Belluomini, author of ‘The Cheat Sheet of Italian Style’ and a possible children’s book about tolerance.

I’ve always been a social activist, thanks to Louisa May Alcott, Italo Calvino, and Charles Dickens. Our childhood reading stays with us. Another reason writers need to keep writing.

The Tour


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:




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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Merry Citarella, often writing as Merrci, writes on a wide range of topics. Recently relocated to the Oregon Coast in the northwest United States, she frequently writes travel features on the beautiful Pacific Northwest. She specializes in health and aging, Alzheimer’s Disease, food, lifestyle, and book reviews. For more information you can see her on The Writers’Door. You can read more articles here or at her websites Alzheimers HQ and Simple Living Ideas

Author: Merry Citarella

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