Marisela Federici, the queen of the Roman glitterati, takes us on a tour of “her” Rome, rich in charm and glamour
Spending a few minutes with Marisela Federici is enough to be won over by her charm and energy.
She is the undisputed queen of the Roman glitterati; an icon of style and of a Rome redolent with charm. So much so that Paolo Sorrentino sought her out for his The Great Beauty, just as Alessandro Michele chose her and her famous villa - La Furibonda, home to the city’s most exclusive social gatherings - to shoot the video of the Gucci Cruise Collection 2020, which depicts her in her most natural guise: that of a refined hostess holding one of the many ultra-glamorous parties attended by all the greatest and most iconic Roman personalities.
Her life story could be taken straight out of a movie. She was born in Caracas, Venezuela, under the name of Rivas y Cardona, after the main character of the novel Doña Bárbara by Rómulo Gallegos. She is the granddaughter of Carlos Delgado Chalbaud, President of Venezuela from 1948 to 1950, who was kidnapped and murdered in Caracas. She grew up in Madrid, where her family had fled to. Then came the decision to study in Perugia and move to Rome - “I liked the name of this city, which backwards reads Amor”; the meeting with Gianni Bulgari, who offered her a job, becoming the brand’s first great PR agent; her close friendship with Susanna Agnelli; and her second marriage to Milanese financier Paolo Federici, who died in 2016, and whom Marisela, the ‘affable shrew’, still honours by wearing black.
We met her in her legendary villa on the Via Appia Antica. “The number is confidential”, for a select few…
What was Rome like 50 years ago?
It was wonderful. I was working for Bulgari, and I often travelled the world laden down with jewels. But when I came back I loved to stay in Via Condotti. We all knew each other. We would often meet at the bar down the road, it was an institution… There were always canapés and Vodka Martini aplenty. I don’t know if there were more bubbles in my heart or in those glasses of Champagne that I would drink with friends. It was a flashy yet elegant time.
What are your best memories of the big parties you used to organise in your villa?
I danced to every kind of music. The waltz, the cha cha cha, the rumba, the merengue, the tango… I have always enjoyed inviting people from different worlds, with the sole purpose of having fun.
What was it like shooting Alessandro Michele’s video?
He is a person I have always admired. I liked his collections, his courage; and I liked him as a person. Then, one day, out of the blue, I got a phone call asking me to feature in his campaign. For a moment I thought it was a joke. I was delighted. As I got to know him better, I was confirmed in my opinion of him. He is a delightful man with an extraordinary talent and sensitivity. He had chosen a magnificent black outfit for me… He has that simple way and the delicious shyness of truly great people. It was a lovely, intense time. The villa’s garden was like a circus, with tents for the dressing rooms, the pharmacy, the restaurant, the hairdresser.
How would you define elegance?
It is not about fashion or big names. For me, elegance is a trail, something that makes you turn around when you walk past it, without knowing why.
If you say so, we believe you implicitly. How long do you spend on your appearance to look so flawless all the time?
I love to be neat and elegant. I’ve always been like that, ever since my holy communion. No one has ever seen me with my hair down, except my husbands. I like to walk around the house fully made-up, with my bag and my hair neatly combed. For me, it’s a form of respect for the image I wish to convey. That said, I don’t like to spend hours at the hairdressers or the beauty salon. My ‘revamping’ occurs at home.
5 places not to be missed
Via Appia Antica
“My favourite place is my own home, but when I go out I love to walk along this historic street.”
“I loved the view I had from my house in Via 34 Maggio. Our apartment was higher than the tower of the Quirinal Palace. We could see all of Rome. It was unreal.”
“I am quite old-fashioned about certain things. There’s nothing more beautiful than a linen tablecloth or sheet, than a silk nightdress made by expert craftsmen.”
“Dal Bolognese is one of my favourite restaurants. They are so kind. When I go there, I always eat French fries and a cutlet.”
“Another restaurant I love to go to is Pierluigi, in Piazza de’ Ricci. I absolutely have to eat their fish fry at least once a month.”