As I’m walking beside the Circus Maximus, I sense something behind me. That is I sense someone behind me, and when I turn around, I find a blond, curly-haired young man straddling a lemon-yellow Vespa. I have no idea why I didn’t hear him ride up—those things make noise—but I didn’t. I think I was in a reverie, walking towards the Coliseum, in Rome, on a gorgeous summer morning. The sight of this interloper, reverie buster, both annoyed and pleased me. After all, I was meant to be alone on this trip.
Wasn’t it Greta Garbo, who said, with her husky voice “I want to be alone.” Well, I was channeling Greta Garbo that morning and I meant it. My blond Italian pursuer had other ideas. After he first asked me in Italian if I would like to be accompanied and he saw the look of bemusement on my face (I only caught the word accompanied), he asked me in English. By this time, a bit reluctantly, I’d answered, “No thanks, I want to be alone.” I say reluctantly because he was very polite, very handsome, and as I looked at his golden curls, my desire to be alone was waning quickly.
Greta was still there, though, and I didn’t want to disappoint her, so I repeated, “No thank you, I want…” Then, politely, he said goodbye, nodded and took off, leaving me with the feeling that I might have just lost something. But I continued on my way and dropped back into my aloneness. I don’t know how long it was—two minutes, three? no more than five—before he rode up alongside me and asked me again if I wanted to be accompanied. I said yes, got on the back of his Vespa, and that first day we rode down the Via Appia, out of Rome, and into the country. I stayed in Rome about a week and Domenico accompanied me everywhere.
True story. And yes, it was wonderful.
If you didn’t know who she was, and for some odd reason took it into your head to google “Bat Gio,” you’d find the lady above: Italian-born editor, stylist, creative director, and according to the New York Times, cyber icon and fashion heroine, Giovanna Battaglia. The quintessential, jetsetting Italian fashion icon and aficionado, she seems to be everywhere at once, all of the time: the covers of magazines, red carpets, film festivals, the front row at designer’s shows, and on fashion blogs.
Why should you care? If you’ve ever wanted to learn how to dress well, just what it means to do so, you could just study Battaglia. While I may not always like what she has on (rarely, in fact) she is near perfect in her look. If you’ve ever doubted the idea of universal good taste, one look at this woman and you’ll understand what it means. There is such a thing, it comes from history, culture, and exposure, and it comes from within. Look at Giovanna and you’ll see all of that.
I think of Giovanna Battaglia as Anna Della Russo’s younger, slightly more conservative sister. Like Della Russo, she is striking, sexy, and she knows her silhouette; but she tends to go for a bit more classic style, not so edgy. Battaglia and Della Russo are often seen together. What I love is that both are totally, wonderfully, Italian, and yet different enough to make things interesting. Here they are.
For me, though, when it comes to iconic Italian style, the Vespa may just be the thing that exemplifies it best. It’s striking, sexy, and has a great silhouette. But perhaps I’m biased…