Jojo Capece is an artist and the author of three books, All Roads Lead to Rome (2011), Bella Figura (2013) and most recently, Portofino Souvenir (2015). Titles like these prompted L’Italo-Americano to interview Capece about her work as an author, sculptress and her Italian roots.
We asked Capece to share some details about her background with our readers, her Italian heritage and how she came to live in the San Francisco Bay Area. “To be born with Italian blood is one of life’s advantages - especially Neapolitan blood, because whatever the circumstances, there’s music inside me that I hope, radiates, to those I meet.
‘Destino’ made my journey to reside in San Francisco a surprise and delight, something I never would have mapped as my future. In 1967, for the first time in life, I left my family as a bride to reside in Istanbul, Turkey because my first husband was serving the US Air Force. Those years, a magical link between the Mediterranean culture and the Bosporus surrounded me.”
Upon returning to the US three years later, Capece found herself in the diverse setting of Washington, DC. “An upheaval met with divorce, an international move, opening a business in London and then a home in Rome.” Some of this is noted in her first book, All Roads Lead to Rome. “For a total of twenty-three years, I lived abroad. In Rome, ‘Italy is never enough for a lifetime,’ are the last lines in this book that began a trilogy on Italy.” Her latest novel, Portofino Souvenir, completes the trilogy on Italy, inspired because I knew the Agusta family and my husband grew up there 90 years ago.”
Capece has lived throughout Europe so we asked her why she chose to live in San Francisco. “Life is a full circle and I sense the essence of Italy by the weather of San Francisco, the beauty of its landscape like Tuscany, mountains and setting as ‘America’s Riviera.’ I searched for a place in the States that would have no mosquitoes, a temperate climate, culture and good cuisine, finding the Bay reminiscent of Europe.”
She explains how writing and art became part of her life. “I write because I have much inside me. As a child, I was a chatterbox and this has continued on paper. I write because I observe. I write because it fuels my mind. I paint and sculpt because it fuels my soul. Writing is not easy for me. Each of us has a book inside - a story to tell - and perhaps it is years of discipline that brings this idea to reality.
My first wish was to be an actress! Of course! This is very Neapolitan! My Mother forbid me and so I went to art school developing whatever talent I contained. Not until I reached Rome, did I sculpt.
I am first and foremost a wife and a mother. I have a huge appetite for life and the table! So, I love to cook and have dinner parties where the art of conversation - so very Italian - shines while friends dine.”
When asked why she chose to write about the mysterious true story of Countess Francesca Agusta, she replied, “Each book is a part of me so it will be no surprise that I knew the beautiful Francesca and was riveted to the details of her demise. I became fascinated with the mystery that occurred in Portofino, thus I wrote the story from the vantage point of my other protagonist, Victoria Simmons, a journalist, as I imagined it, researched it and in some cases lived it. It was important for me to also portray ‘la dolce vita’, marriage Italian style, the 1%, and the Italian lover, or, shall I say, lovers and the vulnerable situation a woman can be in because of a need to love and be loved.”
Capece returns to San Francisco’s Commonwealth Club for the third time on May 17 to speak about Portofino Souvenir. What does she want her audience to know about her books? “The objective of the three books is to show my love of Italy. Secondly, to let women believe they can accomplish anything no matter what odds present themselves. Many times I’ve been underestimated . . . maybe because I’m blonde with a devilish Italian wit, but all women carry this stigma of being underestimated. I hope my male audience respects the protagonists and the female readers come away with a spark of courage to make their dreams come true.”