Sunday, May 13, 2007

My afternoon with the Mona Lisa

A Day with the Mona Lisa

She’s not just a princess, and when I say princess, I mean she’s a real Italian princess. Her father is the Prince Guicciardini Strozzi. Macchiavelli was the secretary for her ancestors. Some where in her family tree, is Sir Winston Churchill. Her godfather was Gregory Peck. When she was 4 years old, and already obsessed with dance, Rudolf Nureyev, a family friend, staying at their house, ‘discovered’ her, and by the time she was 14 years old, she was dancing with him at the Kirov Ballet.
If that isn’t enough, an Italian genealogist (see front page of TF May 3) is claiming that Natalia Strozzi is a descendent of ‘Giaconda’, the woman who purportedly posed for the Mona Lisa.
I met her at a party last June, at the home of Roberto Cavalli. She’s adorable!! Full of life, always excited, sweet, friendly….and the ‘smile’. More Shirley Temple (dimples and enthusiasm) than Mona Lisa-ish mysterious. She told me she had written a book about her life, all 28 years of it, and though it had been translated, it hadn’t been published yet in English. Maybe it was a book for The Florentine Press?

I went for the second time to visit her at Cuzona, the family’s country estate, a place definitely suited to a fairy princess. Natalia has gone from being a ballerina to acting. She has been working in Italy, but wants to be a Hollywood star, and I would love to help her. Two friends of mine from Los Angeles, both very important in the ‘industry’ were vacationing in Florence, so I brought them to meet Natalia. Since it was to be a fun, interesting and informative afternoon, I stole away from her duties in Florence, the fabulous Nora Dempsey (US consul general). I not only thought she should meet the VIP’s from LA, I knew that Natalia and her family would love to meet Nora and vice versa.

Irina, Natalia’s mother is magnificent. She’s the real hostess with the mostess, regal-style. Her background is French-Slavic, and even in her country setting, her grace, beauty and dignity is evident. She had a few wonderful stories:

How she met her husband: They were both studying in Switzerland and had apartments adjacent to each other, but never met. However, he did not have a phone and the landlord would call her to deliver messages to him. Still, it was months before they met face to face, and not until he had gone back to Italy, did he finally think of asking her on a date.

The family is very close with Tony Blair and his family. When the prime minister of England comes to Tuscany, he and his family stay at Cuzona. Irina told us of the time, when President Clinton called Blair while he was staying at Cuzona, and hearing Blair say to Clinton, “You just need to tell the truth about this Monica person, it’s August and you’ve got to deal with this before September so you can do your job!!’ (These are ‘quasi’ quotes, told second-hand…..not confirmed, verified, or anything else. This is my personal ‘blog’ not The Florentine). Anyway, I could just imagine, all of this taking place in this historic setting. The tower of the palazzo dates back to 1100, and the family living there from the 1500’s.

Cuzona is also a vineyard and winery. Overlooking the vineyards, Irina pointed out that the left side are the vines for white wines and the right side for the red’s. As you enter the cantina, there is an antique tractor, which happens to be the very first Fiat ever made. Natalia, when she is not acting, writing or traveling the world for interviews about her heritage, is director of sales and marketing for the family wines.

As we descended the beautiful tree-lined drive, away from the fairy tale castle and fairy tale princess....Nora looked at me and said, 'who would think a couple of kids from Detroit (our shared birthplace) would end up here!'

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