La Dolce Vita
09.12.11 9:37 PM ET
Frida Giannini’s Venice Diary
Wednesday, August 31
Arrival, Giudecca, Venice
As many of you may know, during the month of August Italy shuts down. The idea of “ferie,” or summer break, is a long tradition of which all Italians, including myself, participate. It’s a time to relax, reflect and recharge. However, once it ends, it ends. My team and I had no sooner returned to Rome only to pack up for Venice. It’s the 68th annual Venice International Film Festival and the first ever Gucci Award for Women in Cinema.
La Serenissima: No matter how many times I travel here, I am still moved by its beauty, architecture and sheer existence. Venice never quite seems real, but rather an ornate film set suspended on the water. Venice can be magical but if you know where to go, the hidden streets to discover, it can be a “meraviglia”—a wonder.
We’re staying on the Giudecca Island, directly across the Grand Canal from St. Mark’s Square. Here, you’ll find Venetians that still go to the fish market every morning or congregate in the early evening outside a neighborhood bar sipping on spritzes. Bellinis may be the most famous drink created in Venice, but “Lo Spritz”—a crisp mix of Aperol, seltzer and white wine—is just as worthy of recognition.
We head across the Grand Canal for dinner at Harry’s Bar, a Venetian tradition since the time of Hemingway. Venice at night is a completely different experience than Venice by day. The dark shadow of the water, the din of light on the façade of palazzi and the utter silence give the city a mysterious air.
As we travel pass the Punto della Dogana (the new contemporary museum from the Francois Pinault Foundation) and the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, my mind turns to Marchesa Casati, the eccentric countess who lived in what is now the Guggenheim museum and the wild masquerades she used to host. Venice, it seems, has always welcomed fashionable types.
Thursday, September 1
An early rise and a few espressos later, I’m holding one-on-one interviews with magazines from all over the world. Writers from the U.S., U.K, Singapore, Japan, Germany, and Russia are here not only to cover our Women in Cinema dinner but to write about Gucci’s 90th anniversary, which we’re celebrating this year. From the time Rodolfo Gucci created a bespoke “Flora” print silk scarf for Grace Kelly to our recent initiative with Martin Scorcese’s The Film Foundation to digitally restore Italian classics, like “Il Gattopardo,” Gucci and the world of cinema have had a long-standing relationship.
Following a quick lunch of spaghetti al pomodoro, it’s more interviews, portrait shoots and then it’s time to get ready for tonight’s premiere of Madonna’s film W.E. We take our boat to the Lido where were transfer by car to the red carpet. The trick to walking the red carpet is to imagine that there’s just one photographer there, ideally someone you actually know and like, and then just smile.
Following the visually stunning film, we’re back in the boat and on our way to the W.E. after-party at the Bauer Palazzo. An intimate affair on the outside terrace, Madonna, Harvey Weinstein, and the cast of the film eat pizza, olives, cheese and toast with exquisite champagne. Around 2:00 in the morning we return to Giudecca. Buona notte.
Friday, September 2
The main event is finally here. We have more interviews scheduled during the day as my design team works on last minute fittings for tonight’s guests. It's an art to getting looks just right and we’ve put together a beautiful mix of dresses from the Fall 2011, Cruise 2012 as well as Gucci Premiere collections.
The Gucci Award for Women in Cinema has been a long time in the making and is just the latest in a series of initiatives that support and highlight the work of women. Our jury includes myself, James Franco, Robin Wright, Valeria Golino and film journalist and curator Giulia D’Agnolo Vallan.
The dinner—held in an exposed-brick annex of Hotel Cipriani—is an intimate affair. Guests include Abbie Cornish, Evan Rachel Wood, and Salma Hayek, along with nominees Caroline Champetier, Jessica Chastain, Federica Pontremoli, Nansun Shi and Athina Tsangari, mingle under enormous white Murano glass chandeliers.
Madonna, dressed in a one-of-a-kind 40’s-inspired black georgette and beaded gown, took the stage to announce the nominees. As soon as she begins, the audience is captivated. As she prepares to announce the winner, she asks for “a drum roll, please,” and the guests gladly oblige.
Jessica Chastain wins and a delivers a heartfelt speech, including a few sentences in Italian. The atmosphere is relaxed, fun, but before the night finishes up, we have one more thing to do. It’s Salma’s birthday and we surprise her with a cake.
It’s been three weeks of activity packed into three days. I don’t think I’ve slept more than a few hours each night. The next morning, I have breakfast with James Franco, a friend and collaborator, in the garden of the Cipriani (by the way, the gardens on Giudecca are an oasis in an oasis and worth exploring along with the city’s treasure of contemporary art). The sun is sparkling on the water, the canals are coming to life and the same feeling of wonder comes over me. I take in the scene for just a moment and then quickly remember it’s back to Rome to prepare for my women’s spring ’12 show later this month in Milan.