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.’

Budapest – The City Beautiful

Budapest – The City Beautiful

It’s been just over a month since I have returned from my visit to Budapest. However, I could not allow such a magnificent experience and such a beautiful destination to pass without a devoted blog post – so here it is!

I took my fiancé to Budapest, Hungary as a surprise for his 40th birthday. Admittedly, I knew very little about the destination before I booked our trip and had absolutely no idea what  kind of city break we might actually experience.  Most city break destinations don’t need much more  than a good cityscape and some pretty bridges to justify itself as a city break destination. However, as it was a surprise for my fiance’s birthday I really needed Budapest to be extra special.

In all honesty, Budapest was not a destination I had romanticised over, like Paris, which possibly would always be my first choice for a European city break. Nevertheless, my fiance is not a big fan of Paris, we’d visited Milan, Barcelona and Berlin together in the recent years, so I needed a destination that was in Europe, that was not Amsterdam,  that neither of us had ever been to and that would wow him. Budapest completely blew us both away. And maybe, just maybe, blew Paris out of the water too!

 The features that lured me to the destination was the architecture, that I had been told was spectacular. The views of the river Danube, which I read were breathtaking and the Chain Bridge, that lights up the night with stunning lights. However, what intrigued me more so than anything was that the River Danube literally and physically splits Budapest in two, creating Buda and Pest. 

Indeed, Budapest is a striking city, arguably as pretty as Paris in its femininity, less modern than London, but more masculine and grandiose. Nevertheless, despite the beauty and the distinctive uniqueness of Budapest,  we never picked up on an ounce of pretentiousness or even arrogance, one might expect from those that inhabit such a breathtaking city and this made exploring such a striking city just as pleasurable as its appearance.

Admittedly it rained our entire trip and was significantly cold, but this gave me the opportunity to wrap up and layer my winter armour. I packed my biggest oversized knits, my recently purchased black watch check cape with giant fur hood a la Dolce and Gabnana from Zara. I walked the streets of Budapest in my longest boots and complimented my ensembles with one of my many fur accessories, be it a fur snood, a fur collar or fur scarf – a winter styling technique I have adopted from Olivia Palermo.

It turns out that pretty much everyone in Budapest was dressed this way. However, the fur, worn in abundance, was everywhere and of course, it was real. Exploring the Christmas Markets, which were naturally freezing, involved lots of standing still outdoors, whilst we ate ghoulish soup or paprika sausages, so it made complete sense why these Hungarian women walked the markets in fur coats with hemlines just around their ankles. I am not sure whether all the luscious fur on display was worn worn out of glamour, frivolity or a display of wealth, because they were indeed completely functional, but they looked divine!

We stayed in Pest, the livelier side of the country, strolling through the Christmas markets drinking mulled wine,  hanging out in the Jewish Quarter and drinking in the ruin bars. The impressive Parliament building, the third largest in the world, the extraordinary art-nouveaux Gresham Palace, which makes home to the Four Seasons Hotel and the Roman Catholic church, St. Stephen’s Basilica made for an awe-inspiring backdrop to our stay. However, it wasn’t till we hopped on board the local tram across the Danube River to Buda, that we could truly appreciate the Budapest cityscape in all its glory.

Buda sits on the right hand side of the vast Danube River and is connected to Pest with nine bridges. It’s mountainous and hilly land means it is able to offer views of both  Buda and Pest which are unimaginable. Once the tram had dropped us in Buda, we walked a steep and rolling San Francisco-eque hill with an idyllic and quaint little town atop of it. Although, completely overwhelmed by how picturesque this town was, it was what was at the heart of this town that truly overwhelmed me – St Matthias Church,  

 In the pouring rain we spent hours in awe of the looming gothic church, with it’s colourful mosaic surfaces and just when we thought Budapest had reached it’s stunning quota, we walked behind the church, to find Fisherman’s Bastion. Located at the edge of the hill, Fisherman’s Bastion offers the best views of Budapest. The panoramic view, elevated from a top the hill allowed us to take in sights of the parliament building on the Pest side of the river, lit up in all it’s glory. We could see the chain bridge twinkling with white lights and it’s glittering reflection on the Danube river. With all the castles and palaces, churches and bridges, Budapest is indeed a sight for sore eyes. The vistas were something unimaginable and despite the pouring rain, we indulged in the vistas of Budapest from the Fisherman’s Bastion for hours.

Take a look at the photos of the views, the food, the markets and the bars we visited during our time in Budapest.

Xxxx

Ayesha Charles Mini Bar Budapest
Mini Bar Budapest
Zenit Palace Budapest Hotel
Zenit Palace Budapest Hotel
Zenit Palace Hotel Budapest
At the Zenit Palace Hotel Budapest – Lift Selfie, of course!
Charms of a Dandizette's Ayesha Charles in Budapest Christmas Markets
Marzipan Stall
Ayesha Charles, Charms of a Dandizette Blogger
Budapest Christmas Markets

Charms of a Dandizette's Ayesha Charles in Budapest - Christmas MarketsCharms of a Dandizette's Ayesha Charles in Budapest

Ayesha Charles, Charms of a Dandizette Blogger Budapest HungaryCharms of a Dandizette's Ayesha Charles in Budapest Christmas Markets

Charms of a Dandizette's Ayesha Charles in Budapest Tram Line along the River Danube
Tram Line along the River Danube
Charms of a Dandizette's Ayesha Charles at Budapest St. Stephen's Basilica from Mini Bar
St Stephen’s Basilica from Mini Bar in Budapest
St Stephen's Basilica - Charms of a Dandizette's Ayesha Charles in Budapest
St. Stephen’s Basilica Budapest, Hungary
Charms of a Dandizette's Ayesha Charles at Budapest, River Bus Land and Sea Cruise
River Bus Land and Sea Cruise Budapest, Hungary
Ayesha Charles, Charms of a Dandizette Blogger at Bock Bistro, Budapest, at the Corinthia Hotel
Bock Bistro, Budapest, at the Corinthia Hotel Birthday lunch

 

 

Ayesha Charles, Charms of a Dandizette Blogger at Bock Bistro, Budapest, at the Corinthia Hotel

 

Inspired by my Marrakech Wardrobe!

Inspired by my Marrakech Wardrobe, the SS2012 trends, Carrie Bradshaw  and the Sex and the City 2 wardrobe…

Easy Breezy...

Up until three or four blog posts ago I had been slightly reluctant to post photos of myself on Charms of a Dandizette – I suppose because this blog isn’t really about what I look like. Having said that, as well as being concerned about fashion,  Charms of a Dandizette is also about my personal style. So, I thought my next Marrakech inspired post, this one,  should be about my wardrobe approach to my week in the Moroccan city.

I set myself a little fashion task for my trip, which was to implement as many of the season’s trends into my holiday wardrobe as financially, physically and tastefully possible. So neatly packed away in my powder pink Marrakech suitcase was a white Broderie Anglaise top, of course inspired by Marc Jacobs’ sweetly designed spring summer 2012 Louis Vuitton collection. Bravely I purchased three bra-lets, borrowed from the midriff baring trend that filtered across the catwalk’s of Italian fashion houses, from Dolce and Gabbana and Prada, to Versace and Miu Miu. I say ‘bravely’, because I didn’t do not even one sit up or even attempt to decrease my calorie consumption in preparation for midrif baring – but c’est la vie! My bra-lets were cleverly selected to nod towards several trends; a mint green bra-let  lends itself toward the sherbet pastel colours currently being donned all over the high street, most commonly in the form of skinny jeans. And a scarf print bra-let, the pattern taking inspiration from the ancestral Versace patterns, which D and G also took inspiration from for their ss2012 collection, which saw tiny skirts and makeshift bra tops appear very 90s Versace.

I did a significant amount of research into appropriate dress for a Marrakech visit, to find out what was suitable to wear in this particular Muslim country. Of course, a lot of the information I found online was conflicting – some sites advised to cover shoulders, others said cover legs and others said you could wear whatever you liked. I thought best to cover my legs – I suppose because of my belief that legs are a far more overtly sexual than arms.

I took most of my inspiration from Carrie Bradshaw’s wardrobe in Sex and the City 2 and invested in lots of jewellery, even more eyeliner and lots of long flowing skirts and dresses in beautiful materials. The wonderful thing about billowing floor length dresses and skirts is, I felt no pressure whatsoever to wear heels and therefore I never – not once – the entire holiday. I stress this, because this is somewhat of a revelation for me! I packed two pairs of heels and didn’t remove either of them from their shoe bags. The other wonderful thing about length is, when worn in beautiful materials, it’s instantly glamorous! So with the glamour volume turned up, heels probably would have been overkill! Yes, me, the queen of bling can even identify overkill!

So for my discovery of overkill, for my week in flat shoes, for my courage to don a bra-let and for my time in Marrakech  I feel proud!

So, here’s some snaps of the Marrakech wardrobe!

AZAR in Marrakech
At Azar in Marrakech, wearing a black open back strappy top from Zara and patterned skirt from River Island
At the Palais Charhamane Marrakech
At the Palais Charhamane Marrakech wearing black Miss Selfridge skirt and medallion scarf print crop top from Topshop
Le Jardin Majorelle - YSL Love Post Cards Marrakech
At Le Jardin Majorelle in Marrakech wearing my mum’s Broderie Anglais button back top from Next (this top is 30 years old!) Floral shorts from H and M
Atlas Medina Resort and Spa Marrakech
At the Atlas Medina Resort and Spa Marrakech, wearing pleated Primark maxi dress, woven clutch bag from Primark and earrings from Primark too! (Good old Primark!)
Atlas Medina Resort and Spa Marrakech
At the Atlas Medina Resort and Spa Marrakech, wearing royal blue Topshop dress and enamel peacock chain from H and M.
Sahara at Atlas Medina Resort and Spa Marrakech
I am sure my sister won’t want to be on my blog..but she looks so nice I had to put this pic in. She’s wearing peach sheer trousers from Forever 21, bangle from H and M and watch by  Michael Kors Watch
Gueliz Marrakech
Wearing royal blue dress from Topshop in Gueliz. This is a great picture! I love the striking blue and the whimsicality of the dress against the city…

Make everything in life inspirational! Be charmed, stay inspired! x