Welcome to my Q & A today where I’m featuring the colorful fashionista, home designer and author Valentina Cirasola and her latest book – The Road To Top of The World – Short stories in the land of Puglia. This book sounds like a glorious tour and tasting of her hometown in Puglia, Italy, in her personal travelogue. And Valentina also shares a sneak peek into her upcoming release.
I am Italian born, my native city is Bari, a beautiful place in the South-East region of Puglia, on the Adriatic Sea. I began my design career in Italy as a fashion designer and worked in my own Atelier Valentina. Growing up in Italy, often I wondered what I could have possibly found beyond that horizon I was admiring every day. The saying goes: “Be careful what you wish for, it might happen.”
Well, it did happen. One day, as an opportunity was presented to me, I left my fashion work, my family, and friends to make a giant leap over the ocean. I landed in the United States where I started a new life and a new design business all over again, without knowing a soul. It was very hard, and it didn’t come easy. At times, I even doubted myself to have done the right move, however, I am the type of person that when sets the mind on something gets it done, no excuses, and thus I went on pursuing my goals.
One of my clients suggested turning to design homes and to leave the fashion to the Italians. In the States, the majority of people don’t spend much money on fashion, but they invest in their homes and properties. She told me that and was right.
I went back to college, I was fortunate my Italian studies were fully approved, I only had to attend a few years to get certified in interior designing. That’s what I have been doing since then, which amounts to 30 years of design work between Italy and the USA. A few years ago, I also became a TV producer and added this fun activity to my design career. I am the host of my shows and produce them under my label: Valentina Design Universe.
In 2008 the country was under a heavy economic recession, it was the right moment to write that book I have always wanted to write. Up to that moment, I was writing articles for local magazines and papers, I needed to think of writing my first book. I did it and wrote five books after that and I opened up my three blog columns.
My books are non-fictional, they are practical suggestions in design, fashion, cooking, and travel. At the moment I am writing one more book in the design fields called: “Design Nature For A Colorful Home”. It will be published by Nov. 2020. I am also writing a study course for people who want to design their home by themselves without a professional designer. The course is called: ©Be Your Own Interior Designer. I enjoy writing about the subjects I know, and it doesn’t seem I will stop anytime soon.
This book is a travel narrative of one trip To Puglia I organized with American friends and curious travelers willing to explore, learn, experience, taste and dream in a land they had never visited before and in a language totally foreign to them. A wheel of new emotions opened up before their eyes, they tried food didn’t even know existed, learned to cook in ancient kitchens; they learned to appreciate the nightlife, learned to live without phones, watches and technologies; copied Italian fashion, learned about traditions, rituals, country and folk celebrations; they all tried to learn local dialects and some succeeded well. Their perspective to life was forever changed.
Excerpt: The Road To Top Of The World
“The town of Gravina di Puglia has changed so much since I was a teenager going there with my parents to visit relatives. It is not as small as I recall it. Gravina of today looks like a modern town, it is vibrant, culturally different and too many cars for my taste crowding the small streets. No longer I see farmer’s tractors stockpiling grain, and flocks of sheep in the streets walking at their leisure.
We park the car near the center piazza or villa, as it was called long ago. The villa was a place where on Sundays all the young women went to show themselves off to promising young lads. The procession of women heavily and smartly adorned with the latest fashion went on for hours under the watchful eyes of relatives walking by casually, as if they found their way there by chance. Something always happened between boys and girls, giggling, laughing, or simply a small talk to study the energy or to enjoy the charisma of the other person. Just like in all the courting scenes, rejection of a bothersome lad was common if his look and talk was not quite convincing or didn’t meet the woman’s expectations. Rejection, however, was not always a real rejection in all its meaning, it was another way to prolong the pleasure of making the man waiting for a YES.
In Italian there is a saying: “se la donna si nega, l’uomo si piega” (if the woman doesn’t give herself away, the man bends to her will).
In that villa stroll, it was common for pretty girls to receive an invitation to a dancing party in someone’s home (we didn’t go to a discotheque then) or an invitation to go out for a simple walk. Thinking back, those times seem now so romantic and so innocent! Everything revolved around putting on the best behavior and the best clothes to get a good catch.
Reviewed in the United States on July 26, 2020
The Road to the Top of the World is a travelogue written by Valentina Cirasola, a wonderful author, designer, and artist who hails from Italy. I’ve read a few of the writer’s books in the past, but this one is special because I received a signed copy from her in the mail. Of course, it was already on my reading list… and as Tropic Storm Fay descends upon NYC today, I decided to embrace the culture of Puglia, the heart of this book. Though I’m typically a fiction reader, this one appeals to me for many reasons. Not only is Valentina a brilliant creative mind, but she brings an inspirational outlook on life through her words and pictures. It’s unusual to have a witty and knowledgeable expert who’s lived in the area and visited it as a guest once moving to the USA. Through this perfect combination, we’re lucky to experience something few others get to in their lifetime.
Imagine a few weeks spent in Puglia, traveling through shops, gardens, homes, restaurants, museums, and so much more. Valentina takes us on a whirlwind tour of making our own foods, exploring the history of civilization in the area, and viewing art we might not see unless we went in person. I learned some wonderful tips or making my own pasta sauce differently than I already do! By incorporating her personal opinions, and those of her traveling group, we receive a well-rounded viewpoint of the trip. Sometimes I felt like I was there… others, I was marking down things I must see in a future trip. The best part of the book is the way in transports you into a new world… and while reading it, I remembered what it was like to be in Italy a few years ago.
Europeans, perhaps more specifically Italians, have grasped La Dolce Vita, and this author can bring you much closer to it. Valentina’s words and natural love for the area shines in her messages here. Life can be short. Experience it as best you can. Make your own foods. See how others live. Understand the limitations of the past and how it created the amazing gifts we have today. Someone had to discover all these things… pasta, sauce, pizza, limoncello… and here, you can come pretty close to it by sampling a few pages of her book. You’ll enjoy the author’s personality, an Americanized version of an Italian soul, one who knows exactly how to convey all that we are missing here! Part personal itinerary, part memorable journal, it will make you smile and grow hungry. Is it too early to visit Italy again?
Well, I’m thrilled to have Valentina here today and get to know a bit about her and her exciting life stories. Italy happens to be my favorite country so I am eager to be transported soon when I read it. So let’s get to know Valentina:
because it was particularly beautiful, but because I was attracted by the yellow decorative butterfly light inside the pot and by the yellow ceramic piece outside the pot. This told me I was craving “Yellow Vibrations”