Originally from Rome, Sebregondi, commuted to Milan for many years to visit her clients. In 1997, after her children had left home, she decided to move north full-time. She now lives with her partner, who works in tech.
Full-length windows look beyond her terrace, and its winter roses, to treetops and grass over the archaeological park, which contains the ruined columns of a first-century amphitheatre that once hosted gladiator contests in front of 20,000 spectators. “A mini-Colosseum”, says Sebregondi. “Being Roman, I couldn’t resist.”
We discuss the paradox of Moleskine notebooks’ enduring popularity in the digital age, as Sebregondi makes moka espresso in a white kitchen with blue tiles, the only book-free zone in the house.
Over the past 20 years Moleskine notebooks have achieved a cult appeal. “There are collectors, addicts even,” Sebregondi says. And while the digital revolution continues to threaten paper industries, Moleskine has successfully bucked the trend. Since 2011, the company has made hardware devices in partnership with Evernote, which enable notes and sketches to be uploaded and shared, and iPad covers in the characteristic low-key Moleskine style; but those same e-devices show no sign of killing off the brand’s core business.
Moleskine had a turnover of €145.2m in 2016 and employs 500 people between its Milan headquarters and 80 shops around the world.
We return to the “library” where lighting is well-adapted and a reader can settle down in magnificent cream leather and wood 1960s chairs that recall a Riva speedboat or a Gio Ponti-style red armchair.
The books on her shelves have magical names like Alphabet of Dreams and Atlas of Emotion. William Blake’s illustrations of Dante’s Divine Comedy sits alongside the Codex Seraphinianus, an encyclopedia to an alternative universe, a collectors’ item that sells for thousands. The author, artist Luigi Serafini, illustrated Sebregondi’s first book, Etimologiario, a satirical etymological dictionary in the vein of Ambrose Bierce’s Devil’s Dictionary.
“Our ideas are more tangible and real when we can see them physically,” Sebregondi continues. “A pile of notebooks recalls the sense of thought, concentration, memory of a project. Everything you don’t see in a digital device. A laptop can contain a million ideas but you can’t see them.”