|by Bettina Zilkha
I was invited to the beautiful city of Rome to celebrate Bulgari's 125th anniversary, and what a whirlwind party it was — two days of non-stop excitement and stimulation of all the senses, all tied in with a terrific charity, Save The Children. When the Bulgaris do something, they do it well, as witnessed by the superb quality of everything from perfume and cosmetics, to silver, gold, semi-precious and invaluable jewelry, and this celebration was no exception.
They have eight children, and Michelle still has the figure of a 25-year-old. She was telling me how civilized it is to bring up her children, aged two to fourteen, in Rome where they are more sheltered, and stay children longer, than in New York. She also told me they are all fascinated by that iconic New York teenage show, Gossip Girl.
The next day I moved to the grand and luxurious Hassler hotel, and met up with some of my fellow attendees, at Nino's (again) for lunch, organized by Bulgari’s Rory Hermelee and Hilary Heard. Afterwards, Katherine Bryan, George Gurley, Debbie Bancroft and I went for a tour of the incomparable Vatican museum.
That evening, The Bulgari family invited us to dinner in Nicola Bulgari’s enormous garage. A collector of antique cars, he gave us a tour and some of their history, and drank champagne and Bellinis.
“It’s very 007”, remarked Amedeo Sconamigilo. The huge, pristine white space included a fully functioning apartment in the back.
“I wore that bracelet!” exclaimed Chloe Sevigny, as a blue enamel and diamond bracelet flashed on the wide screen TV in the living room.
Dinner was called as a jazz band played, and, Ginnifer Goodwin, Fern Mallis, Roberto Faraone Menella, Alina Cho, Ashley Baker, and Billy Farrell all moved to the buffet. Pat Field and I discussed the relative comforts of the Hotel De Russie versus the Hassler. “I’m not very fussy”, said the style guru. “Give me breakfast, ice cubes and an ashtray.”
|We sat at four white, square tables, and helped ourselves from an Italian buffet filled with local specialties. I sat next to Jessica Alba, who is very concerned about the well-being of all children, and active in trying to gather support for Obama’s health plan in the US.
I talked with Nicola Bulgari, and his wife, Beatrice, an charming and accomplished award winning costume designer. Beatrice talked about her husband’s passion for gemstones. “He travels to places as varied as Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Colombia, and South Africa, to find the perfect ones. Each stone must be a source of joy. We never use conflict diamonds.”
As the band played “happy birthday,” we all sang along to celebrate Cameron Silver’s 40th.
The next day, Bulgari had organized tours of Rome for their guests. We broke into small groups of no more than five, and our group met up with Hamish Bowles for lunch at the legendary Al Moro. We visited the Piazza Navona, the classic Roman monuments, and took in the view through the keyhole of the secretive building of the Knights of Malta.
|That evening, we were among the first to see the retrospective exhibition, Bulgari: Between Eternity and History. Room after room of exceptional pieces, beginning with ornate silver pieces from the 1870s, through a succession of precious and semi-precious necklaces, brooches, rings, earrings, and minaudieres in real gold; all brought Bulgari’s impact and history to life.
There were articulated enamel snake bracelets with watches concealed inside their mouths, and an entire room devoted to Liz Taylor’s baubles, with “Diamonds Are Forever” playing in the background.
“I introduced Liz to beer, she introduced me to Bulgari. I love that!” laughed Jason Lewis, as he read the quote on the wall. More Save the Children supporters arrived and were milling around the items donated by Bulgari, to be auctioned in the fall at Christie’s to support the cause. “They want to raise 10 million euros in 2009, and they are well on their way,” said Ginnifer Goodwin. Ginnifer looked stunning in Azzaro after a long day of touring the Roman ruins.
|Our next stop was Castel Sant’Angelo, a huge, cylindrical structure built in the second century as a mausoleum for Roman Emperor Hadrian, all lit up with torches for the occasion, a magical sight. We crossed the bridge over the Tiber on foot just as the sun was setting, and the ancient monument dazzled us all. Grass and topiaries had been brought in for the occasion, as a still striking Gina Lollobrigida held court in a corner.|
|We were ushered up a long — and I mean, long — pathway to the top, where lavish buffets and tables with views of St Peter’s and all of Rome were laid out before us. After dinner, most everyone climbed a last staircase up to the roof, where we danced and danced, and Selma Blair, Jessica Alba, Alina Cho, Ginnifer Goodwin, and Patricia Field sat and chatted on a large oval canapé. No one wanted the magic to end, until Fern Mallis who was recording it all with her camera, suddenly said, “my battery’s dead, it’s time to go.”
The group stayed on a while longer, and went to the Hotel de Russie for drinks. The word the next day was that they stayed until 2:30, having had one last magical moment under the starry Roman sky. Happy 125th Bulgari!
|Photographs by ©PatrickMcMullan.com|