Sicilianita’ T’amero Ppi Sempre

Sicilianita’ T’amero Ppi Sempre

Sicilianita’

Image used for Platform Magazine, taken by Paolo Torrisi

To explore Sicily and have no interest in the mafia is like loving the Island but hating the cuisine. They are both very much intrinsic and integral to this amazing and mystifying land that we see in the great visions of Martin Scorsese or read through the page turning words of Mario Puzzo.  Films, sitcoms and books often depict the Sicilian/Italian American way of life – often peppered with mafia dealings. Usually the women are unbelievably sexy and sassy, the men, macho and adulterous and the fashion, flashy and opulent.

For some, The Godfather, The Sopranos and other Italian American media portrayals may be the closest they’ll get to the sizzling culture of Sicily, fictitious and glamourised accounts of a culture and a land that for its media popularity is comparatively obscure in actuality. It is almost prerequisite to mention Sicily and the Mafia in the same breath, something that the proud Sicilian may not be too proud of. There is so much more to Sicily beyond the fascination and criticism of the Mafiosi. It is a land that is just as fascinating and attractive outside of the Hollywood movie scene.

Sicilian authors, designers and photographers add a great depth to Sicily, taking their subject to the classic and traditional capital, Palermo, the bustling, contemporary city of Catania (home to one of the largest clubs in Europe), to the rustic foothills of Mount Etna, the Greek mythology that lingers on the seafront of Aci Trezza and the beautiful terracotta pottery of Caltagirone. Sicilians live a life that is just as rich and admirable as the Italians, appreciating all the finer things in life. The people are colourful, vivid and defiantly respectful, with an overwhelming sense of generosity. The temperament may be a little more passionate and the land more condensed with all its contradictions, but Sicily, regardless of its location (just off the toe of the boot that is Italy) is the true spirit and dialogue of Italy.

Sicily, for many centuries was the host and participant to the torments of war, colonisation and conquer. The now Italian island has been under the rule of Greek, Arabic, Norman, Austrian, French and Spanish monarchies, kingdoms and empires. Towards the final years of the lands turmoil it was once even a protected state of Britain. On May 11th 1860 Giuseppe Garibaldi, the Italian custodian, fought for the unification of Sicily and Italy, battling with the island’s Spanish oppressors. After fighting for several days , the British Navy, omnipresent as always, interceded and called armistice. The Spaniards surrendered and Sicily became favourably united with Italy and henceforth Italian.

The history of Sicily not only remains extremely intense, but there is an extraordinary sense that it remains extremely close to the present. The centuries of war and colonisation is so prevalent it can be heard in the language and witnessed in the architecture. Sicily’s battle has created a wonderland for the enthusiast of life, love, cuisine and a palpable and rich playground of history, architecture, etymology and genealogy.

The language is a fusion of Italian and that of its predecessors’. Although most Sicilians are bilingual in Italian and Sicilian, Italians will struggle with the comprehension of the Sicilian language. The history, like the mestizo race, is also evident in the aesthetic of the Sicilian people. The further and further south of Italy one ventures, the greater the mix of skin colours and hair textures becomes. The darkest of Sicilians have skin the colour of Indians and hair that curls so tightly that if they were black it would be called afro, yet the lightest of them, so fair, they are as blonde and blue eyed as any Aryan.

Like the language and the people, the architecture and the land itself are just as diverse and intermixed. There is an architectural juxtaposition due to both the unrest of wars and an unfortunate natural disaster, which was the great volcanic eruption of Mount Etna. Many buildings take the shape of Arabic and Norman influences, disseminated throughout the island. An assemblage of Arab castles altered to the Norman tastes form breathtaking palaces, churches and cathedrals. The Palazzio dei Normanni, situated in Palermo, the capital of Sicily, is an example of this. Meanwhile, Sicily’s infamous Mount Etna’s 1693 earthquake, coined Earthquake Baroque, wiped out the southern part of Italy, killing two thirds of the Catanese* population and with it many of the island’s construction – this initiated the construction of the highly ornamental style, Sicilian Baroque .

There has only been one eruption of this kind since the Earthquake Baroque, which took place in 1928, nevertheless the volcano stands proudly setting the scene for the eastern region of Sicily. Etna is the highest active volcano in Europe and the inspiration for many of the world’s great thinkers, writers and poets. Frequently  molten lava seeps through  Etna’s flank, painting the  Sicilian night sky with a great crimson red streak – sat in the  Piazza Catanese* at night against this back drop is a remarkable sight, foreigners are often unable to peel their eyes away from the assertive looming existence of the Sicilian volcano.

Like Jorge Luis Borges’ The Aleph, the Aleph was the central point at which all corners of the universe met and could be witnessed without any disorder or confusion. This great, powerful phenomenon in the world was kept hidden in an old man’s basement, away from the exposure of the world. Many have said the same about Sicily, maybe not in the poetic language of the Argentine literary, but the essence remains the same; in this respect the universe is Italy and the Aleph, Sicily – lost in the eclipse of Italy, obscured by its shadow.

Italy has a wealth of diverse characteristics that allow for prosperity and whilst remaining true to its essence, Italians, like the French, have mastered the art of good living – their method: to find enjoyment in the experience of luxury and beauty, whilst being respectful of tradition, remaining classic and adhering to form. Travellers venture to Italy to witness the chic and sharpness of the distinguished Milanese fashion, to take pilgrimage or be spectator to the masterpieces of Leonardo DaVinci at the Vatican city, to celebrate love and float along the canals of the sinking Venezia or travel south to indulge in the simple pleasures of life – good people, good wine and even better food. Nevertheless, it was the great Goethe, along the lines of Borges’ Aleph that wrote, ‘Without seeing Sicily it is impossible to understand Italy – Sicily is the key to everything.’

My Dolce and Gabbana Milan Pilgrimage

Why the Dolce and Gabbana Milan  Pilgrimage?

Dolce and Gabbana Crown and Jewls

I recently travelled to Milan to visit my fiance, who was sent to the famous Corso Venezia number 15 Dolce and Gabbana Milan store to work on the launch of the first ever Dolce and Gabbana atelier in the world for bespoke menswear garments only. The Dolce and Gabbana atelier, titled Sartoria, expands even further upon the luxury fashion and lifestyle experience the palazzo already offers to its shoppers and guests.

If you have visited the Dolce and Gabbana palace before, you will know that I am by no means exaggerating when I call its quarters a ‘palace’ and a visit to the palace an ‘experience’ – as a visit to any palace would be. Keep reading to find out more about my Dolce and Gabbana and Milan fashion pilgrimage….

Although I have been travelling back and forth to Italy for nine years now, I was still yet to make it to what my fiance calls ‘the ultimate fashion capital’. ‘Arguably, maybe Paris might be the home of womenswear fashion, but, hands down, the menswear capital is Milan.’ He told me, with his proud Sicilian-ness.

I dare not call him biased.

Milan – The Fashion Capital I Wanted to Love Me Back

Milan street style fashion

Milan was indeed the last fashion capital on my list to be crossed off. Regular Charms of a Dandizette readers will know that I have a special affection for Italy, because of my fiance and my close ties with the country , my love of its culture, its food, its language and its traditions . It’s become part of the world that I have grown familiar with and have started to look upon it as my home away from home.

However,  while I was excited to finally travel to a more northern region of Italy and naturally, excited to see this fashion capital, anticipating my travel to Milan evoked a sense of nervousness in me. I had it on a pedestal and I really wanted to fall in love with it.

I had fallen in love with Parisienne Chic fashion and the romance of the culture in Paris. I was ignited by the energy, the lifestyle and the spectacularly designed stores belonging to the major fashion houses on the iconic 5th Avenue and of course, I already live in London – one of the braver and more pioneering fashion capitals (in my books). But this was the Italian fashion capital. I wanted to fall in love with it and, I would be lying if I didn’t say, I also wanted Milan to fall in love with me too. I wanted to fit in, to feel at home and make a good impression on this great fashion capital. And as any fashion lover will know, first impressions start with clothes.

I landed in Milan, wearing a a khaki, leather piping zip up jumpsuit from Zara. On my feet a pair of silver Terry De Havilland wedges, in my hand my Alexander Wang black Rocco bag and on my face my  Anouk Tom Ford sunglasses. A jumpsuit seems to do wonders for my figure, although I am already of a good height, the jumpsuit slims and elongates and they are perfect for flying. My shoes, bag and sunglasses added that high fashion edge to the ensemble, which I felt was completely necessary for my fashion pilgrimage in Milan – a metallic Terry De Havilland wedge can do wonders for any ensemble. I jumped in a taxi, giddy with fashion excitement, and headed straight for the number 15 Corso Venezia store, with no idea what to expect from the new store, the Milanese fashion or the people.  

Dolce and Gabbana Corso Venezia- A Palace Fit for a King

Corso Venezia is Milan’s elite shopping district – think Bond Street or Sloane Street – lined with the stores of world famous fashion houses, Prada, Gucci and, of course, Dolce and Gabbana, having a presence in a very big way. When my taxi pulled up  outside 15 Corso Venezia I could barely believe what I was seeing – this was no ordinary store. I stepped out of the car to meet my fiance, who walked me through a quaint and picturesque courtyard where petite yet curvy beautiful women, wearing dresses of the typical Dolce and Gabbana silhouette and lace court shoes, were serving drinks to patrons sitting in the courtyard. I continued walking further into the enclosed outdoor space to meet some of the Dolce and Gabanna employees – men, groomed to perfection, dark haired, sun kissed skin and perfectly manicured hands, wearing impeccably cut black suits.

Like I said, it was later understood that, indeed, the Dolce and Gabbana store on Corso Venezia was no ordinary store at all, in fact, it occupies a palace. An entire neoclassical palace of the 16th century, that once belonged to a wealthy Italian family.  The palace makes home to a Dolce and Gabbana leather goods and accessories store complete with an in store shoe mender.  The main store, which covers four floors, selling the most comprehensive selection of Dolce and Gabbana goods, including jewellery, casual wear, fashion suits, knitwear, classic and season goods and the most recently opened and more specialist space, Dolce and Gabbana Sartoria, for which my fiance went to assist with the opening.

Dolce and Gabbana Sartoria is dedicated solely to bespoke menswear. All garments are handcrafted and cut and finished by Dolce and Gabbana tailors. The Sartoria offers a a one to one fashion experience for men that want their garments made from cloth to finish entirely, designed for their tastes, cut as sharp as a razor and fit to perfection.

Can you smell the opulence and the ultimate luxury? There’s more still. In addition to leather goods, handmade garments and all things Dolce and Gabbana, men can also be coiffed by Dolce and Gabbana at the Dolce and Gabbana Barber shop.  This barber shop makes the designer beard (in the literal sense of the word) completely achievable. In a time when men’s hair and facial hair is just as crucial  a statement to be made as his shoes, his watch or his jacket, this is the perfect way to finish off any desired look and for those that can’t afford handcrafted garments designed by Dolce and Gabbana, the barber shop offers the chance to experience the luxury of the fashion house in an alternative, but just as fashionable way.

The Fashion, the Approach, La Dolce Vita

Dolce and Gabbana SS2014

So, that covers the garments and the grooming. There I am, sat inside the palace walls, in the courtyard of the famous Dolce and Gabbana Bar Martini, ambient house music filtering through the speakers. I am presented with an endless list of delicious cocktails, each coming in their appropriately shaped Martini glass.  In addition to Bar Martini, across the courtyard of the palace is Dolce and Gabbana Bistrot Martini,  a fine dining restaurant serving Italian cuisine with a chic and modern influence, again with it’s own al fresco dining area in another courtyard. Alone, waiting for my fiance to finish his work, I was  feeling extremely excited to have a reason to be here and proud of my very small association with this groundbreaking and unbelievably glamorous fashion house.

Bar Martini slowly began to fill with patrons that had clearly been shopping and working in this fabulous Milan shopping district, giving me the opportunity to get a feel for the fashion and style in the city. Unlike Sicily, where women dress in slightly more typical Italian fashions and I often feel I need to tone down my dress to avoid being overdressed, in Milan it’s just fashion. It’s the street style fashion you see on street style fashion blogs, it’s the glamour you see in Italian Vogue, it’s the way of dress you see on Giovanna Battaglia. It’s fashion for fashion sake. The fashion isn’t alternative, you can’t be too cool for it, it isn’t considered shallow or irrelevant and there’s nothing wrong with loving it, embracing it and aspiring to it.

For the first time ever in Italy, I had no concern of being overdressed at all. Everybody was dressed, adorned with pride, expensively clad, stylishly and tastefully. I definitely noticed more glamour and opulence than what you might see in Paris, but what you might expect to see in elite locations in London. Italian Vogue is certainly reflective of the Milanese fashion spirit and its style. Women and men alike had taken the time to present their best self and of course, if you’re enjoying an aperitivo in the bar of one of Italy’s most notoriously luxurious fashion houses, then of course, you must dress the part and both sexes did.

It was this, the approach to fashion as opposed to the fashion itself, that made me fall head over heels for Milan, that reaffirmed my adoration for Dolce and Gabbana and gave me a sense of pride for my dedication and love for fashion. Milan is unashamedly glamorous, it’s unapologetically fashionable and the life here for a fashion lover can’t help be anything but La Dolce Vita – with endless places and opportunity to dress, to see and be seen and most importantly, for your efforts to be appreciated.

 The Italian duo are known for doing nothing by halves and this spectacular palace, complete with gardens and courtyards, was not just here to satisfy the rich and famous’ desire to shop. This was a Dolce and Gabbana brand experience, a lifestyle experience and Dolce and Gabbana were providing the clothes and showing you the lifestyle in which their clothes belong to.

After drinking two…. or maybe three of the Sartoria Spritz cocktails, created and named after the new atelier, my fiance joined me and we enjoyed an apperitivo of oysters, smoke salmon and a cold and spicy lobster bisque. It’s pretty fair to say, it was possibly one of the most decadent appertivo I have ever had in Italy. Through fear of eating too much before our dinner, we left the Dolce and Gabbana palace to continue to buzz without us.

‘Tomorrow,’ my fiance said, ‘I will take you to the Duomo di Milano. Then for drinks at Maio at La Rinascente and then to the Dolce and Gabbana Gold restaurant for lunch.’! Indeed this Milan/ Dolce and Gabbana lifestyle was one I could most certainly get used to living.

MARTINI
Bar Martini – Dolce and Gabbana
Aperitivo Bar Martini
Aperitivo Bar Martini
Oysters at Bar Martini at Dolce and Gabbana
Oysters at Bar Martini at Dolce and Gabbana
Ayesha Charles Dandizette Charms
Dinner Il Navigli
Dinner at Il Navigli
Dinner at Il Navigli
Duomo di Milano
Duomo di Milano

Duomo di Milano

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II Milano
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II Milano
galleria vittorio emanuele - Versace store board
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele – that Versace head is impressive
Versace galleria vittorio emanuele
The perfect place to make a serious fashion statement
This is why you've got to love a fashion city!
This is why you’ve got to love a fashion city!
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele chilling with the Carabinieri - look at how immaculately adorned they are
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele chilling with the Carabinieri – look at how immaculately adorned they are
La Rinascente
Maio at La Rinascente
Maio at La Rinascente
Prosecco at Maio La Rinascente
Prosecco at Maio La Rinascente
Maio at La Rinascente
Maio at La Rinascente
Dolce and Gabbana Gold Restaurant Via Carlo Poerio, 2/A, 20129 Milano, Italy
Dolce and Gabbana Gold Restaurant Via Carlo Poerio, 2/A, 20129 Milano, Italy

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Pasta alla Norma at Dolce and Gabbana Gold Restaurant
Pasta alla Norma at Dolce and Gabbana Gold Restaurant
Dolce and Gabbana Gold Restaurant
Dolce and Gabbana Gold Restaurant

Dolce and Gabbana Gold Restaurant

Yes, there are TV screens in the bathroom doors - in case you wish to watch Goldfinger whilst you're on the john! Love it!
Yes, there are TV screens in the bathroom doors – in case you wish to watch Goldfinger whilst you’re on the john! Love it!

Dolce and Gabbana Gold restaurant - the bathroom Dolce and Gabbana Gold restaurant - the bathroom

spaghetti alle vongole
spaghetti alle vongole
cotoletta alla milanese
cotoletta alla milanese – my first coteletta in Milan!

 Let the shopping begin….

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And last but by no means least – Dolce and Gabbana accessories shopping!
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Adore these beauties!
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Love leopard

IMG_2776 IMG_2768 IMG_2767  IMG_2763 IMG_2762

Dolce and Gabbana leopard print clutch, across the body bag and flip flops
My lovely leopard Dolce and Gabbana purchases and some gold too!

Be charmed, stay inspired! x

Dolce and Gabbana Catwalk Report: Sicilianita’

It is impossible to speak with the Sicilian artist about their work without them slip into a profound nostalgia of their land and its spirit in their creations. Their devotion is thrilling, poignant and undeniably powerful, all the core ingredients that created Dolce and Gabbana’s collection this season.

The two Italians managed to communicate an affectionate homage to Sicily and the fashion house’s core essence by creating classic Dolce and Gabbana; perfect tailoring and seductive femininity. The show was entitled ‘Sicilianita’, translating Sicilian-ness, the quintessence of Sicily.

Amidst the minimal chic humdrum, it had seemed that the woman had been robbed of her real meaning. Thankfully, Dolce and Gabbana served up a beautiful myriad of dresses, made from Sicilian lace, velvet and satin that brought sexy back. The dresses were breathtaking to the eye, made from materials that were sumptuous to the touch.  Knee length fitted leopard print and polka dotted dresses, form fitting and to the knee were extraordinary.  Underwear as outerwear appeared in an array of sensuous 1950’s inspired body suits. Bustiers and French knickers peaked out beneath tailored jackets and caramel coloured corsets were decorated with contrasting black lace. The theme here was not minimal, but intense and dreamy, just as rich and alluring as Italian ice cream.

There was a constant dance between logic and emotion, romance and reality. Whether the Dolce and Gabbana woman wore the classic tailored short suit, or played on the under wear as outer wear, in feminine lace and sheer materials, there was a sense of the strong Sicilian woman in every ensemble.

The Italian Sicilian duo redefined and distinguished, with total clarity all that is exquisite about the continent, the island and the woman. It was an assemblage that set apart the Dolce and Gabbana woman from any other woman this season and presented her with what it truly means to be a woman’s woman; sexy, sensuous, classy and elegant.

The collection kept its strength, it remained Sicilian, it remained classic and extremely ‘sexy woman.’ If there was ever a moment for the Sicilian to be proud, now would be as good as any.

With Miss Campbell taking respite from her diamond debacle on the island, Sicily is only seconds away from becoming the next destination a la moda.

Sono Arrivata – I Have Arrived!

(Sorry people – this is a rough and first draft entry. I am working on the Sicilian’s sister’s computer and have limited time on here. It will be edited when i am back home, just wanted to get this online in the moment – enjoy!!)

I have officially arrived in what i like to think of my home away from home, except here seems far more exciting and far more richer and warmer in all the elements of life that i love that little bit more than in London. On my arrival i was greeted by the Sicilian’s in laws, waiting with beaming faces and skin as dark as a golden desert. They wave to us through the glass windows while we await our baggage and once we meet them on the other side of the doors rapturous gestures, big hugs and kisses are exchanged. They show their affections to their son, the Sicilian. His mum looks at him with pride and happiness to have her son back home. Then they turn to me and bombard me with hugs, kisses and the italian language, which my mind is working over time to understand. The Sicilian’s father, a huge Sicilian masculine character in side a four foot something tiny body tells me my italian is improvng, “Now, let’s work on your Sicilian!” he jokes. He can only be joking.We step outside of the airport and are greeted with a still, intense humid heat, it’s nine o clock at night and the temperature is twenty nine degrees centigrade – the Sicilian’s father looks at me with all my London armour as though i am a crazy person, my new leopard print oversize scarf that i bought earlier this morning from Primark and my black blazer is most certainly NOT NEEDED HERE. As we walk to the car the in laws hustle me out of my excessive attire, leaving me with a vest, jeans and pumps on – it’s still ridiculously hot, there’s no breeze, the leaves on the trees stand as still as stone and the heat leaves sweat beads on the Sicilian’s face.In the car we have the inevitable important conversation and i am so glad that this conversation has come so soon, ‘Cosa mangiamao? – WHERE SHALL WE EAT?’ The options are Carne di Cavallo (Horse Meat) at Achilles, a trattoria specialising in horse meat which the Sicilian and i frequent with his family every Sunday for lunch or Pizza in the mountains – the Pizzeria is located on the drive towards Etna, the Sicilian tells me that during the summer the Catanese (people of Catania) and general city folk head to the mountains where it’s cooler to do their essentials for the day – which is of course eating dinner and eating ice cream.

So – eventually we decide to head to Achilles; Achilles is located in what you could call the ghetto, although amazingly picturesque with beautiful rustic terraced houses and a back drop of castles and cathederals, it is the urban part of Catania. People here are on the grind and doing what they can to make a living, most of which are making their living from food – so you can imagine how good the food is here. As we make our way up to Achille i am surprised at how many people there are simply hanging out, on every street corner there are people, Sicilian people from the age of two right through to eight years old – i am yet to see one foreigner or holiday maker. Every bar or restaurant or Carrozzoni (a food place in the style of a mini hut or mini van usually selling pannini’s and beers) has a gathering of people surrounding it. Achilles’s is set on a narrow main road, along this strip there are probably another twenty trattorias just like Achille. They have huge grills outside where they grill the horse meat, creating fumes and a smell of cooking meat in the hot air, due to the heat the trattorias have had to extend their outside space to accomodate their loyal customers, who want to site outside. So all the trattoria’s have placed their grills on the edges of the road, some have even placed some tables and chairs in the road just so they can get as many people outside. Cars and bikes struggle to pass down the now narrowed main road and of course abusive rhetoric is exchanged even more frequently from the drivers than usual. It is not long after our arrival in Achilles that the Polizia arrive and initiate some havok, telling all restauranteurs to set back their tables and chairs and get their grills out of the road. ‘You would have these tables bang in the middle of the road if you could,’ the police man continues, he cusses like a Jamaican -the Sicilian is known for their oral expressive nature. They are quick, witty and sharp tongued and they never miss a beat.Once we have finished watching the Polizia raid the trattoria’s we eat – for starter’s we head up to the buffet where me and the Sicilian load our plates with Parmagiana (an aubergine cake, layered with egg, parma ham and sometimes cheese), a spinach and cheese cake, red peppers with bread crumbs, Finochio (Fennel) and Crochette di patate. We order half a bottle of the local red wine, which is served in a jug cold, when Salvo (the waiter) brings our wine without any glasses the Sicilian’s mother yells, ‘Salvo!’ Here there are no airs or graces, if you want something just ask and if you can’t be heard, talk louder and if you can’t be seen then shout! So at Achilles this is how you dine and my meal is punctuated with the yells amongst the wiaters and customers calling out at each other, ‘Vanessa! Agata! Salvo!’ When you are a foreigner here it is so easy to take delight in the colorfulness of this culture and the Sicilian people and i always catch myself taking a moment, studying and falling more and more in love with this island. My thoughts are interrupted by my Polpetti di Cavallo (horse meatballs) which are placed in front of me, the rest of the table have a mixture of horse meat, which is cooked like a steak only cut thinly and Salsiccia condida (seasoned sausage), in the centre of the table a tomato, garlic, onion and cheese salad to accompany the meat. I tuck into my food, how i have missed these meatballs – ‘Ho!’ The Sicilian father says, (Ho is the equivalent to Oi), ‘Do you come here to see us or eat our food?’ He jokes. They joke about me arriving looking too skinny and tell me that they will take even more pride in fattening me up. Grazie!So after finishing at Achille only naturally we head to Quaranta, a gelateria (ice cream bar, it is completely packed – inside people push their way to the ice cream counter which features Mars, Forrero Roche, Kit Kat and Nutella flavoured ice cream as well as many many more. Outside there are wicker chairs and tables where we sit and enjoy our ice cream as we would enjoy a glass of wine in a bar in London…