For New York actor Debi Mazar (Goodfellas, Entourage, Younger), the dream of living in Italy was once something only imaginable on the big screen. Everything changed when she met Gabriele Corcos (food entrepreneur and TV host, Extra Virgin) on holiday in Florence during the summer of 2001. After marriage, kids and 20 years of living in the US, the pair recently made the decision to move back to Gabriele’s hometown of Fiesole. Just over 13 years since our last interview, we caught up with Debi and Gabriele over a readers’ breakfast at 25hours Hotel Piazza San Paolino.
You made this transition during the pandemic. How was shifting your life to Tuscany in the middle of all the chaos?
Debi: To give you a little backstory, when I married him I said to his mother, I promise you I’ll bring him home someday. The journey of coming back has been a huge leap of faith because this is Gabriele’s world. One daughter is now loving it. She’s more rustic and Tuscan, like my husband. For me, I was always afraid to live here because it’s kind of like Green Acres, in a way. I’m a city girl, so leaving New York was very emotional for me.
Gabriele: We moved into a full house because my father passed away three years ago. So, my mother offered us the house, saying, Look, it’s too big for me. If you’re really thinking of coming back, come here and start covering all the expenses because I can’t take it anymore. I was like, yeah, alright we’ll do it.
Debi: Gabriele’s dad passed away driving his Ducati up towards Mugello. He did the same motorcycle ride every Sunday. We think he had a heart attack, which is better than getting into an accident. At least he died doing what he loved. I feel like the pandemic made everybody realize what was important in life. Even though I now have Italian citizenship, I will always be a tourist here. There’s just so much to see! It’s a really great place to reconnect with your soul. I go so fast all the time, and here I’m driving through Fiesole and I can see the Duomo and I’m like, Oh my God! What did I do to deserve this?
Gabriele: I almost feel guilty in a way because this year of pondering and suffering for a lot of people has been a fantastic year for me. I didn’t feel the breathing on my neck work-wise and the fact that I could spend a year isolated in my home, living the dream, working in the garden and cooking a few things, it was really wonderful.
So, how’s the farming going?
Gabriele: The farming is like going back to school. I hate the bugs! It’s really hard work. You learn why a good salad is more expensive than a burger and the weather is absolutely not helping. Right now, we’re desperate because there’s no olives and the trees just aren’t producing. It’s been a terrible season. One thing I have always dreamed of is to bring technology to the farming season here, to figure out what the future of a farm could be in a place like Tuscany. But, for the most part, I’m just happy to be living the dream with Debi, my kids and the dog, who is finally living like a dog!
Debi: We have a huge dog, who weighs 60 kilos. Living in Brooklyn he couldn’t move around, he started having leg problems. We got him here and now he’s buff! He’s running around and living his best life, so I’m really happy about that.
How’s your Italian, Debi?
Debi: It’s not great. I manage, but I’m embarrassed because I have children and so I need to speak Italian. I have to go to all these Italian bureaucratic offices to explain myself, and they get mad at you if you don’t speak properly.
Gabriele: She’s very New York. As long as she moves her hands, she gets understood! One of the interesting things is, now we’re back, instead of talking Italian we try to speak English (at least I do!) as much as we can. My youngest daughter said I’m already starting to get more of an accent, and I’m starting to forget English words here and there. It’s natural, but I love the English language. It’s so direct and efficient, except for the fact that sometimes you can have one word that has so many different meanings!
Who cooks at home?
Gabriele: Well, you can guess!
Debi: I’m a really good cook actually! It’s funny because I appreciated it for so long, but now that I’m living here I don’t really want to eat Tuscan food. I long for certain things like Mexican, Puerto Rican and Cuban food, so I’m the one who does the international cooking in the house.
Gabriele: To me, cooking was the strongest glue to create a family bond in New York. It’s what I had to raise my kids and to show them I was there. Now that I’m here, it’s very different because good food is always available. Now, all of a sudden, it’s more about meeting new people. It’s about art and reclaiming this land that I’ve been away from for so long.
Debi: He’s definitely a better cook than me. He was in the military, so he’s like a soldier in the way he gets up. He still serves me coffee in bed! For 20 years we’ve sat together in the morning and he tells me to be quiet because I like to talk…
Gabriele: The alarm goes off, I have to get out of bed and she starts talking! I’m like ‘no!’ At least one cup of coffee, a half mug, I’m not asking for much!
Debi, what have you been up to on the acting front?
Debi: I was on a series called Younger, so I got here and they decided to shoot the final season. So, I was like Ciao! Good luck unpacking those boxes!
Gabriele: We arrived at the beginning of August, she left the second week of September and came back in March. I’ve done all the unpacking, the painting, the electrical work. But it’s good because that’s the stuff that stresses her out!
Debi: And you can watch Arde Madrid, which is on Amazon Prime. It’s a Spanish series based in 1961, shot in black and white and directed by Paco León. It’s incredible, I’m really proud of it. Plus, I just did a series with Mike Myers called Pentaverate. It was shot in London, which was great because I got to live there for two months and I’ve never lived in England before! But now I’m back to square one (as actors are). They asked me to write a book and I said I’m not old enough yet! Well, I am old enough, but I just feel that I’m not done telling stories.
Any final thoughts on returning to Florence?
Debi: They say one door isn’t open until the other door is closed. So, in order to be here and really exist in Florence, I needed to get rid of the United States, period. There’s just so much I want to do here that I couldn’t do in the US really.
Gabriele: There is also a calmness and tranquility that comes with living in a city where you can truly cross the city by foot two or three times in one day, run your errands and just feel at home as you look around. The chef Fabio Picchi once said that what he adores about Florence is the fact that, no matter how much you love a certain corner of the city, at every hour of the day it will always look different. Even though the city is small, it offers a rainbow of experiences and a sensory stimulus that has been there since the birth of Florence. That’s just what Florence is.