Tracy Mezzalingua doesn’t consider herself a diva, rather, someone who appreciates fine jewelry and really enjoys “nice things.” Then there’s her knack for competition.
So when the opportunity to peruse Bulgari jewels in Rome, and keep a few, came in the form of lot 56 -- “Viva La Diva” -- Mezzalingua engaged in one of the longest bidding wars seen Saturday.
“I said, ‘I’m going to make sure I get it,’” said Mezzalingua, who one occasion almost outbid herself in the frenzy of the auction. “It was scary.”
Her bid of $160,000 will get her and her fiance a 4 nights’ stay at a 5-star hotel in Rome and a sneak peak at Bulgari’s latest High Jewelry collection. She’ll also get a $40,000 credit toward the designer’s jewels.
“I wasn’t giving up that one,” she said.
Top 2016 Naples Winter Wine Festival auction lots
The Ultimate “First Dawn:” World’s first 2016 Rolls-Royce Dawn
Rocking at BottleRock: Six-day exclusive trips to Napa Valley music festival for six couples
L’Avventura Ferrari: One Ferrari 488 Spider customized for winning bidder
Five Decades of Napa Valley Legends: Once-in-a-lifetime dinner for eight couples with iconic Napa Valley wine producers and their wines
Guess Who’s Coming to (and Cooking) Dinner: Cooking class and dinner hosted by Mario Batali and Glenn Close for 10 people
Ay Carumba!: Four-night luxury trip to New Zealand for two couples
An Asian Adventure by Airplane & Aman: Private jet journey across Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, the Philippines and Japan for one couple
Meet the Masters: Exclusive trip to Masters golf tournament in Augusta for four people
A Truly Grand Way to Travel: Unforgettable 15-day journey through Europe
Curtain Calls, Cameras & Carats, Oh My!: Star-studded New York City experience for two couples
There’s no official count of how many bottles of wine were drank, or how many times paddles went up in the air. Eight is the number of featured vintners, 17 is the number of Master Sommeliers on hand, and at least $10.9 million is the amount of money raised to serve Collier County children in need.
By the numbers, that was Saturday’s charity auction at the Naples Winter Wine Festival, which benefits the Naples Children Education & Foundation.
The auction was the culminating event in a week-long series of festivities that attracted donors from Florida and beyond for lavish dinners, fine wine and the company of millionaires.
“It’s a marathon,” said Kathleen Mezzalingua, who splits her time between upstate New York and Naples, and was joined by her husband and daughter Saturday.
Official amounts are still being tallied, but organizers predict that the live auction raised at least $10.9 million. That money will be divided into grants toward local non-profits. The grants will be presented in March.
The organizations funded support early learning, out-of-school time, health services and child advocacy services.
“We are the largest funder of these kinds of services in Collier County,” said Maria Jimenez-Lara, the chief executive officer of the Naples Children Education & Foundation.
Lara said the 2016 event is notable in that it brought more newcomers than last year’s event, and included many who traveled from outside the state. Among them were Joe Anderson and Mary Dewane, who traveled from California. The couple own Benovia Winery in Santa Rosa.
They won a bid for a trip through Italy that will include wine tastings and a stay in Venice.
“We looked at it last night and had our eyes on it. We love Italy and love wine,” Dewane said.
The Naples Winter Wine Festival officially ends Sunday with a farewell brunch at the Ritz-Carlton Golf Resort. Official fundraising totals will be released Monday.