Sass, Smarts, and Stilettos: Review

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Sass, Smarts, and Stilettos: How Italian Women Make the Ordinary, Extraordinary.

The author of this book, Gabriella Contestabile, was brought up in North America (first Canada and then the United States) but had been born in Italy. She left the country of her birth when she was just four years old and unsurprisingly, when she grew up she became more interested in the Italy she barely remembered rather than her now home country.

She does however, remember elements of the sea voyage her family undertook to cross the Atlantic aboard the Andrea Doria which are described early in the book, setting the tone for what is to come. It was just a few years after the end of the Second World War and Gabriella’s father had been assigned from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Rome to the Italian Consulate in Ottowa.

The book is largely a memoir of her long life and describes growing up in Canada and then the United States in the 1950s – and on holidays in Italy – and progresses to her adult career and lifestyle. As you can imagine, for this now All-American girl, the European way of life was appealing.

Fresh foods, carefully crafted clothing, outdoor markets, handmade leather goods, delightful natural aromas, original ideas … all things her North American upbringing in the 1950s had missed … they captivated her.

Although the United States factor is never far away in the narrative (she is an admitted New Yorker with a dog named Oreo) there are nevertheless some Italian gems within the pages. And the book is more a celebration of European culture than solely Italian. However, despite the fact that the author describes herself as an ‘Italian-American’ her love of her somewhat romanticised ideals of Italy still shine through.

A fun read.

Find out more below.


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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Jackie Jackson, also known online as BritFlorida, is a highly experienced designer and writer. British born and now living in the USA, she specialises in lifestyle issues, design and quirky stories. You can see a wide range of articles here, or visit her website Tastes Magazine. See The Writer’s Door for more information.

Author: Jackie Jackson

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