AFGHANISTAN,MIDDLE EAST: The Quiet Life of the Rich

It was one of those rare times when life and art not only converged but paused to entwine and intermingle. For the lovely and the loaded in Italy, La Dolce Vita of Federico Fellini's 1959 cinema masterpiece really did exist. It was served up in 1,001 nights of frenetic cafe hopping along Rome's Via Veneto, swathed in the smart fashions of Florence and Rome and recorded by swarms of flash-happy paparazzi.

The era was dominated by members of Rome's "black aristocracy" (families that received their noble titles by papal decree) and by an international...

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