The Best Hairstylist in Rome

by Aysha Griffin on April 1, 2017

Call me shallow, but after two weeks in Rome, my favorite discoveries have been the best hairdresser in the world, the best artichokes, the best gelato store, the best shoe store for my size 10 (Euro 41) shoes, and the best new friends.

Like countless tourists before me, I’ve been to the Vatican Museum, the Borghese Gallery, the Pantheon, Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, piazzas galore, and at least 5 major churches, including the Mother of them all, St. Paul’s Basilica, overcome by the gob-smacking architecture, art and craftsmanship that adorns them.

I’ve loitered at street-side cafes all over the city, peered through the keyhole on Aventine Hill and into the Mouth of Truth on display near Circus Maximus. I’ve strolled through the Jewish ghetto and synagogue, eaten plates of pasta, baskets of bread-based sweets, over-cooked greens, and enjoyed many cups of strong caffé and glasses of pleasant vino rosso. But nothing is more exciting to me than the personal encounters, the stories of the choices and challenges in the lives of amazing people I encounter… and almost all my encounters are with amazing people.

Rome best hair dresser

Stefano and his friend Patrizio on the street leading to “TAZ,” the “Temporary Autonomous Zone” where Stefan works on just a few clients a day – so as to give them his full attention – and plans to soon sell “the most-excellent products for hair and skin.” Note that in Italy, friendships between straight men (as is the case here) are far more physical than in other countries I’ve visited.

“With every action we add or subtract to the goodness in the world.” So says Stefano Sillavi, as he gently brushes my hair, tangled and stiff from too much product in my perennial battle to make my curls look other than they naturally want to.

Have you ever had your head touched for an hour or more in a gentle way, as if the other’s fingers are sensing every centimeter of its shape and the texture and flow of each hair? I hadn’t, and it is a remarkable experience.

In a small shop in Trastevere, with an unassuming sign reading “TAZ,” I sit in front of a large framed oval mirror, crystal chandeliers hanging from the high plastered ceiling, as Stefan explains the nature of my hair and “what it wants to do.” He enthuses about its waves and flows how he will shape it, and why.

OK? Oh yes!

No one has ever taken the time to know my hair in this way, and then spoken about it with such knowledge and insight.

We move to the basin where he washes and conditions, continuing the constant hands-on movement of a skilled practitioner. Back to the mirror, he clips and snips and fluffs and dries, adding only a little oil to the hair itself.

Rome best hairstylist

Stefan Sillavi shaving his friend Patrizio who stops in for a visit.

We talk about consciousness and the practice of being present, and his work, to which he is devoted. He speaks with gratitude for a Japanese woman mentor he had in New York, where he studied and worked for seven years. His command of English, and philosophical bent, makes possible the depth of conversation we share.

At the end of two hours of having my head touched with such care, my hair shaped and fluffed, I felt I’d had a long, luxurious massage.

Touching and caressing the head is a sensuous and intimate action, which is perhaps why it is so seemingly rare. And unlike my countless previous haircuts – from a cheapo $8 SuperCuts to a $140 Vidal Sassoon cut in New York City – I’d never before left a salon feeling truly enamored of my hair and renewed, more confident, and more beautiful than ever.

I can say Stefano Sillavi is the best hairstylist in Rome, but he may be the best in the world!

Aysha Griffin with Stefan Cillavi, hair stylist Rome.

Stefano Sillavi and Yours Truly at TAZ… after a fabulous experience.

If you are planning a trip to Rome, or are in Rome, you can contact Stefan by phone or WhatsApp at: +39 388.759.7166. I will not quote his fee but it is very reasonable… even for just a haircut, which, as I’ve described, this is much more than simply that. He works his magic on men as well as women.

Have you ever had an extraordinary haircut experience? Please share in comments. I’ll write about my other “best finds” soon.


Vatican Museum

by Aysha Griffin on March 26, 2017

Vatican Museum entry sculpture

Sculpture above the entry to the Vatican Museum; although a new, slick pavilion to the north has been added for processing the hoards of visitors.

It’s too big and too crowded… and you must go. Of course, this is The Vatican, the seat of the predominant religion and government of the western world for centuries, Michelangelo’s dome of St. Peter’s Basilica dominates the skyline and, well, it houses some of the greatest art ever created.

St. Peters domeby Michelangelo

St. Peters dome designed by Michelangelo, taking clues from the Pantheon built 1,500 years before.

To skip the lines that wind for at least half a mile around the massive western and northern walls (and this is in mid-March… imagine summer!), your best bet is to sign up for a small tour. With some 5,000 official guides registered with the Vatican Museums, we felt fortunate to have randomly chosen Christiana Tittarelli, a charming Italian art historian with a good command of English and years of experience. Her insightful narrative was transmitted into our earbuds wirelessly, so even when slightly separated from the group of seven, we could hear her clearly.

Vatican Museum entry

We were told 20,000 people a day visit the Vatican Museum. Book a tour in advance!

Once fitted with headphones and tickets, the tour begins in the lemon garden and winds through room after room of magnificent architecture and art – collected, donated or stolen – to its end in the Sistine Chapel, where photos are not allowed and “Silencio!” is repeated to the crowd who cannot help whispering and talking about what they’re noticing in the 12 wall frescoes (by Botticelli, Ghirlandalo, etc., including Michelangelo’s creepy “Last Judgment”) and the 33 ceiling panels.

Even three exhausting hours of moving through the galleries (with throngs of others) does not begin to scratch the surface of the buildings and treasures of Vatican City.

Classical sculptures in Vatican Museum

Classical sculptures informed much of later work, specifically the Renaissance masters.

This ancient Greek torso is said to be Michelangelo’s inspiration for God’s body as he reaches out to Adam in the Sistine Chapel’s center ceiling panel. God also has his entourage and arm around a young girl, while Adam reclines seemingly indifferent to God’s extended reach.

God's torso

Gold and more gold, this in the ceiling of the Gallery of the Candelabras… I think, but there were so many rooms, so much to take in.
Vatican gold ceiling, gallery of candelabras

And then there was a long hall of enormous and stunning tapestries.

Vatican tapestry of the resurrection

A small segment of a tapestry I estimate to be 10 feet tall and 20 feet wide. Notice the almost whimsical presentation by the angel; a “ta-dah! He is risen!” and the bewildered look on the face of Christ.

There were the Rafael rooms, with his prolific big-scale paintings of life as he imagined it in the time of Christ; himself only living to age 39. The story goes that his funeral was attended by more women than men and most were presumed to have known him in the “Biblical sense.” We passed through the Borges’ opulent apartment; a pope so depraved that no future pope would inhabit his chambers. And finally, (although I am skipping many amazing bits), an area of  a modern art collection that was started in the 1990s and seems like filler for empty rooms before heading through passageways to the grand finale of the Sistine Chapel.

The tour ended at St. Peter’s Square. The Basilica, open to the public, proved too much for aching feet and minds reeling with art and history overload, so I peeked inside and vowed, “Another day.”

St Peters square

St Peters square. The size and scale is unfathomable… even in person it’s difficult to take it in.


Wandering Trastevere

March 25, 2017

Pedestrian alleyways lined with trattorias, osterias, ristorantes, enotecas (wine bars), gelaterias and shops of all kinds intersect at odd angles, punctuated by piazzas offering a few tables and chairs in front of a small bar, great for people watching. This is Trastevere, across the Tiber and south of Vatican City, considered one of the oldest […]

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First Days in Rome

March 23, 2017

From our apartment on Viale di Trastevere, the Number 8 tram (across the street) takes us to its end at Piazza Venezia in just 10 minutes, and we are in the heart of the Centro Historico. The tram and bus systems are easy, especially with Google Maps (you can download an offline version to use […]

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The Worst Part of Travel

March 19, 2017

… and why going to Rome is worth it even if Cancun Airport sucks “The worst part about travel is the travel part.” So said my dear friend and travel writer, Judith Fein, as I blithely assumed that my extensive preparations for this trip from Mexico to Rome would be seamless. I insist my travels […]

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Cuba’s Finca Marta: A Model Organic Farm: Part II

December 16, 2016

Continued from previous post on Finca Marta, Part I     Fernando’s vision is broad, sincere and actually working: “I want to demonstrate that’s it’s possible to improve rural life and expand opportunities for the workers. There are lots of farms; many led by professionals – academic agricology projects, organic farms on a bigger scale […]

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Organic Farming in Cuba: It’s Not What You Think

December 16, 2016

Cuba’s Finca Marta: A Model Organic Farm: Part I West of Havana, 45-minutes’ drive, past the billboard announcing the province of Artemisa, an unmarked dirt road leads to Finca Marta, an impressive model of organic practices, integrated systems and respectful human relationships. But please, do not get too excited that this is the future of […]

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How Real Was The Grief Over Fidel Castro’s Death?

December 12, 2016

On Nov. 30, five days into the declared nine days of mourning for the death of Fidel Castro, I arrived in Cuba – on my 9th trip in 4 years – with a group of American travelers. Like some of my Cuban friends, I conjectured (in a previous post) that Cubans would compensate for this […]

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In the Wake of Fidel Castro

December 4, 2016

What is a trip to Havana without music, dancing and mojitos? My group of 11 U.S. travelers and I were about to find out. The Cuban government, which controls most aspects of everyone’s life, declared that there woulld be no music, no dancing, no alcohol and all public events would be cancelled for 9 days […]

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Opportunities and Challenges of Donald Trump’s Presidency

November 10, 2016

The world awoke to a surprising reality on Nov. 9, 2016, that a sleazy businessman – who has said and done the most outrageous, vulgar and hateful things – was elected the 45th President of the United States. I wandered in a daze all day, under chilly gray skies, unable to focus. Everyone I passed […]

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