Asia’s Most Stylish 2016 in Venice
I really believe that when you put things out there, sometimes the universe will find a way to manifest it. I had just told my husband that I was getting all kinds of food and travel envy over several posts on Instagram about Italy. The last time we went to Italy was during our trip to Tuscany for my parent’s 50th wedding anniversary in 2012. There is just something so romantic about Italy and the food is just oh-so-incredible. I was craving a perfectly made fresh pasta, mountains of antipasti and that special vita bella… Literally two days after my musings, I received a call that I was going to be awarded Asia’s Most Stylish for Philippine Tatler’s 15th anniversary and that the shoot was going to be in Venice!
First of all, what an honor. Not just the award but the incredible opportunity to to speak in front of such a great crowd at the ball and to travel to Venice to meet the other lovely and inspiring women.
Read more about the award, the ball and the local shoot on my website – www.stephaniezubiri.com . I have my speech written out there in full and since it was so important to me to really make the most out of those few precious moments, it would mean so much to me if you took the time to read it.
Venice is an incredible city that is like a piece of living history. Everywhere you look is like a renaissance masterpiece… Despite all the tourists, Venice retains its mysterious charm, most palatable when the sun sets and the penumbra envelopes the city… Dark alleyways, grandiose palazzos dramatically lit, the lapping of the water and the sensual movement of the boats slowly gliding by… You can almost imagine the hooded figures shifting in the shadows, hovering between the romantic and the macabre… It’s no wonder Casanova made this city his home… and that it’s also a favorite setting for murder mysteries!
For the most part however, we weren’t hiding in the shadows but working the spotlight as we shot with fashion photographer Lorenzo Bringhelli who has done campaigns for the likes of Tod’s.
We were treated to a preview of the stunning Fondaco Tedeschi which was fully renovated and transformed by the bureau of Rem Koolhaas as the new DFS Il Fondaco Dei Tedeschi. I loved how they blended the old and new, and managed to retain the original merchant and traders feel of the building. It’s truly stunning and a great place to shop for everything under one roof. You can be certain I was lingering, mouth open, drooling at the gorgeous shoe selection.
Speaking of shoes, we were treated to a pair of stunning shoes and a spectacular evening by Eduardo Caovilla of the luxury shoe maker – Rene Caovilla. They welcomed us with no less than a Ruinart champagne fountain at the gardens of the Peggy Guggenheim Museum plus a private tour of the museum’s stunning collection of modern and contemporary art.
Imagine being able to walk through the halls of her own private collection with gorgeous works from Picasso, Miró, Basquiat, Pollock, Rothko… you name it, it was there. I’m a big fan of abstract modernist art and wow, this was something really special.
We then were shuttled across the canal by boat to a special dinner on the iconic terrace of the Hotel Monaco & Grand Canal. It was the fluffiest Baccalà I had ever tasted and the most perfect seafood risotto, neither soupy nor dry, fragrant from the sea with that gorgeous al dente texture. As I sat there, looking out into the darkness where the Basilica della Salute shown like a bright evening star, it dawned on me that there was something so familiar about this view. A few days later when I had returned home, I discovered from my mother that when we visited Venice when I was about 9 years old, we had stayed at the Hotel Monaco. I suddenly remembered how I would sit at the window and stare out at the Basilica, musing about how beautiful it all was.
Venice is so incredibly beautiful it almost is surreal. In fact, in some ways it isn’t real because many of these stunning palaces are no longer being inhabited as they are extremely expensive to maintain and have been sold or rented out as monuments, museums or offices. This is what is so fascinating about the Aman Grand Canal.
The structure itself, Palazzo Pappadopoli, is drop dead gorgeous. And not in some “oh-just-another-beautiful-old-building” sense, but it is truly sublime. 16-th Century moldings, two frescoes by grand master Tiepolo, this sumptuous fabric that drapes sensuously over the grand windows, framing the romantic view, two private gardens…. Just wow. And done in the signature understated luxury that Aman is known for, the furniture is contemporary providing the perfect design foil to the historically flamboyant settings.
Completed in 1570 it then came into the hands of the Tiepolo family in 1748. It was then the two frescoes were painted. It eventually came into the ownership of the Pappadopoli family from Corfu and eventually passed down to Arrivabene Valenti Gonzaga in the early 20th Century. The family of Arrivabene Valenti Gonzaga still live there today in the top floor of the Palazzo. Count Giberto Arrivabene Valenti Gonzaga is an artisan glass smith and sells his stunning creations at the palace. It’s also not uncommon to see the Countess Vera reading a book in the garden. As I was walking through the halls and grandiose spaces, I kept thinking to myself what a privilege it was to be inside a true living testament to history.
I can’t go on speaking about Venice without talking about the spectacular food. One highlight was our splendid dinner at the Aman where the food was achingly simple and just absolutely divine. Paired with a Sassicaia 2014 (too young but still beautiful!) I was in epicurean heaven. Stracciatella with Black Truffle, the most silken Vitello Tonnato of my life, a Caccio e Pepe that was so gloriously plain and indulgent. I just love how Italian food is so unapologetically straightforward. There are no bells and whistles, the fate of your palate resides in choosing the best ingredients and on mastery of technique. We also had a wonderful meal at Le Maschere, in the Splendid Hotel. We had a lovely lunch of truffle covered carpaccio, a beautiful seafood pasta and tiramisu. I had a really nice Massi Amarano della Valpolicella. We couldn’t resist, Zaida and I had to take a photo with the Gondoliers that were enjoying a drunken raucous lunch.
Apart from the just being in Venice and soaking up all the culture and delicious food, it was the company that made the trip special. Zaida Ibrahim from Malaysia and I spent lots of time together with Anton. It turns out we have quite a few friends in common and Anton knew her mother and her father knew mine! What a small world!
Christina Lim from Indonesia, Ho Ching Lin from Singapore, Valerie Chow from Hong Kong and Patty Tsai from Taiwan were all particularly sweet. Ching Lin totally won the award for Ms. Congeniality as she was always so bubbly, taking lots of photos and selfies with everyone! The team from Hong Kong Tatler who led the shoot was also a super fun bunch! Claire Melwani, Dervla Louli and Justine Lee were all such a blast to be with! Thank you for such a lovely time and a spectacular production.
Last and most certainly not the least, a big, big thank you to Anton San Diego, Philippine Tatler’s EIC and a dear friend. I am so glad he made it to the trip even after just coming back from Italy a few days prior to our departure. Always such a gentleman, super sweet, we finally got to know each other better and had long conversations about everything from Gloria Vanderbilt to our new outlooks on life – not caring about those who don’t care and making a true effort for those who we cherish. Because life is too short otherwise. One thing is for sure, is that this trip to Venice proved that there is always room for the latter to grow and for new friendships to blossom.
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We are two friends who were former magazine editors. Having moved onto other things, we both realized that the creative flow the publishing world used to offer us was missing from our lives. Armed with a common love of travel to the exotic and familiar, a penchant for the bohemian, an obsession with food and a lust for writing, we decided to collaborate our unique and fashionable journeys through life together in one passion project.
We are The Gypsetters.