BOOK TOUR INTERVIEW with Gabriella Contestabile

Book Details:

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


Okay, when I first read this book, I had no idea that it would be a collection of essays about amazing Italian women. I know, I should have read the synopsis. Oh wait, I did, that was why I wanted to read it in the first place, but you know, I'm always out of my mind so that bit of info kind of slipped. Haha

Anyway, this book is a compilation of mini essays about successful Italian women and how they did what they have to do for success. Reading every single one of them, I initially thought, "would they be any different from other women?" or "what sets them apart from other women around the globe?", and I think they are somewhat exceptional to the point of carving a classic name because of that. We all have successful women all around the globe but reading Sass, Smarts, and Stilettos, I was awestruck.

Everyone can agree with me that Italian brands are the top tier and no one can argue with that. The food? Well, just by thinking about Italian food served in my country, what more if I experience the authentic ones straight from Italy itself, right? So everything about them is just perfect. From their roots, to their culture and especially their virtues and outlook in life. We could all get a little something from it, and I will forever be in awe knowing them even for just a few pages through this book.

I also got to know a little bit about the author through my simple and short interview and it also says a lot about her so check it out below 😍


1. I am basically in love with everything that Italian women do. The whole aura of an Italian woman, even without words, scream class. Is that what inspired you to tell the world of these amazing women from the book?

Yes, it’s that fundamental love of life, grounded in a love of art and everything beautiful that comes through whenever you are in the presence of an Italian woman.
There’s an exuberance that never overwhelms. It’s modulated to the moment, respectful, subtle, but memorable.  It touches you in small ways, because the Italian way is never loud. It’s always, at its heart, about humanity, community, and bringing others into the convivia.
You will see an Italian woman stop, mid sentence to appreciate the color of a blazer, the way tree branches arch across a city street, or to talk about the texture and taste of the crumbly Parmigiano Reggiano from a specific small shop, or the peppery greens from the handsomest famer at the Sunday farmer’s market.
Every conversation is peppered with delicious details that come from the heart.  When she looks at a painting at the museum she doesn’t try to impress you with her knowledge of art history, which is extensive as Italians learn this when they are as young as five years old.  Instead she will envelop you in a story about the artist’s life, passions, idiosyncrasies, trials, and all the layers of great art that we often fail to see.
Jean Cocteau wrote, “Style is a Simple Way of Saying Complicated Things.’  So the style and class you see in Italian women has deep roots- love of heritage, community, nature, and art.

2. It is really obvious that positive values for success are what every Italian woman possesses in her DNA, if you can pick only one. Only one, what would it be?

I would choose the unflappable ability to not take oneself to seriously, or to take life too seriously.   Italian women don’t stress about work, calories, clothes, or body image. Food and fashion are part of life’s pleasures and should be appreciated as such.  We don’t follow trends and we don’t follow rules.
We infuse our work and the mundane tasks of daily living with the desire to make even the most ordinary moment extraordinary.  All it takes is a little flourish and a sense of humor.
We don’t compete unless we’re on a sports team or with ourselves to become better at whatever we choose to become better at. Competition is so exhausting. The Italian woman’s mantra? “You want to compete with me, go for it, knock yourself out.”

3. Can you give me an inspirational quote that I can live by everyday in Italian because I love learning other languages. Please don't forget the translation 😁

Yes.  Many to choose from.
‘A tavola non si invecchia.’
Translation. ‘At the table one never gets old.’  Food is happiness, nourishment, and community. I wish I could take away the American woman’s preoccupation with calories and body image. Real food, made up of fresh ingredients, prepared simply and with love will make you happier and healthier.  You’ll emit that ‘glow’ Italian women of all ages are famous for.
Let me share a story
In college I wanted to be thinner so I ditched my Italian food traditions for bottled no calorie salad dressings (awful) instead of olive oil and vinegar or lemon and instead of wine and water, diet soda. The pounds didn’t budge and I was miserable.
That summer in Italy I had cappuccino with whole milk and pastry (cornetto) for breakfast, local  pasta and salad (olive oil dressing) or pizza with wine and bread for lunch. Delightful dinner-fish or meat, salad, a vegetable, wine, bread.  Every evening I would have an aperitivo with tiny nibbles. I ate a gelato every day or a chocolate. I deprived myself of nothing and tried all the local specialties from north to south. I lost the weight, my skin glowed and I couldn’t stop talking about the incredible simple food I had every day.
Some caveats, which I mention in the book.  Fresh, locally sourced, simply prepared food tastes better and satisfies so you eat slowly, and you eat less. Avoid processed, contrived over sauced foods. They  don’t satisfy, which is why people eat larger portions of them.
Think fresh pressed olive oil, a tomato, grown in volcanic soil, and a chunk of crusty bread (bread in Italy is lighter, airier, go for it), maybe a few chunks of Parmigiano Reggiano, a handful of olives.  Or consider pasta with tomato and basil, nothing more, and glass of Verdicchio, or fried Roman artichokes and a dish of spaghetti cacio e pepe.  I hope I’m making you hungry.
But most of all I want you to eat like an Italian, with passion, joy and conviviality every single day.

4. If you could pick only one woman who served as an inspiration to you, who would it be? I'm not giving you a headache with picking only one, am I?

That’s easy, my mother, Clelia, to whom the book is dedicated.
She never let anything stop her.  She has always had a great eye for beauty.  She loved couture, couldn’t afford it and taught herself to sew.  I wore YSL and Dior made by Clelia from Vogue patterns.  We perused fabric stores and the glossy pages of Italian and French Vogue. We talked about tailoring and drape, texture, and the play of light against fabric.  She taught me that style was not about money but about educazione, about a certain respect for the people we visited,  for craftsmanship, and the seamstress, tailor, shoemaker, or jeweler who made such items of beauty.
Her words predated by decades those of the ‘King of Cashmere’ Italian designer Brunello Cucinelli. “True Italian craftsmanship is based on treating things with respect and the dignity they deserve, whether it be an apricot or a cashmere sweater.”

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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