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A SUBLIME SICILIAN ADVENTURE – PALERMO

james Andrew Grand Hotel Villa Igiea

james Andrew Grand Hotel Villa Igiea

Palermo was the first stop on our Sicilian adventure, and I was quite pleased that we were able to tour nearly all of the palazzos we had on our list!

Certainly at the top of said list was the exotic Chinoiserie fantasy, Palazzo Cinese, an absolutely delicious example of 18th century taste for the exotic and all things Eastern.

Palazzo Cinese

Palazzo Cinese

Palazzo Cinese ceiling detail

Palazzo Cinese ceiling detail – click to enlarge

Palazzo Cinese interior detail

Palazzo Cinese interior detail – click to enlarge

James Andrew Palazzo Cinese exterior

James Andrew Palazzo Cinese exterior

Another dream realized, was our visit to Palazzo Valguarnera-Gangi, which you may recall provided much of the backdrop for Visconti’s masterpiece, Il Gattopardo. It was also captured in several iconic photos by Slim Aarons. There we were received by the ravishing Princess Carine Vanni Mantegna who gave us a tremendous tour of the Palazzo and a marvelous lesson in its history. Sadly, no photos were allowed. I did go prepared just in case – with leopard espadrilles no less, to be photographed in the beautiful ballroom there. But Alas.

Another highlight was Palazzo Mirto – a nobleman’s mansion preserved with its original furnishings. Think: a Palerm version of New York’s Frick. The 18th century palazzo was lived in by its last heir until 1980. It was interesting to see that some of the walls had been upholstered in silk damask which had disintegrated over the years revealing original painted frescoes underneath.

Palazzo Mirto – interior detail

Palazzo Mirto – interior detail – click to enlarge

Another palazzo of note was del Normanni with its fascinating Arab-Norman architecture.

When traveling, one must also allow time to wander and get lost. Often one stumbles upon some real gems, which is an easy thing in Sicily.

Our very favorite restaurant in Palermo was certainly Lo Scudiero, an old school establishment serving Sicilian delights which we asked to be paired with the best Sicilian wines. Bliss!

Next stop Agrigiento!

For our last dinner in Palermo we dined al fresco on the terrace at the Grand Hotel Villa Igiea, a rather fabulous farewell to Palermo!

Dressed for dinner in a Tom Ford linen silk floral dinner jacket, black linen pants, white cotton shirt, fushcia silk pocket square, fuschia ikat velvet slippers, shell cuff links with pink tourmalines, Cartier Tank Divan watch, black suede espadrilles, and my fragrance is Tom Ford Neroli Portofino.

A SUBLIME SICILIAN ADVENTURE

Anna Paterno Monroy Marquesa di Spedalotto and James Andrew.

Anna Paterno Monroy Marquesa di Spedalotto and James Andrew.

I acquired the tremendous Rizzoli tome, Palaces of Sicily, many years ago and ever since I’ve been mesmerized by the unusual and magnificent architecture. Not too long ago our super chic friend Jean-Charles de Ravenel gave us a book on Sicily…and my obsession mounted. The place is so rich in ancient history, with the most ravishing ruins throughout – it goes without saying that Sicily and its most important houses has been at the top of our list to visit for some time.

Having announced our intention to finally go, our friends connected us to Marchesas, Princesses and Barons who welcomed us to take private tours of some of the most tremendous villas and palaces of Sicily. But even if you aren’t blessed with the connections, don’t be dissuaded from visiting yourself! Access to many of these homes is available through www.stsitalia.it – get in touch with the managing director Maria Carolina Castelucci and she can arrange tours for you.

Our first stop was Palermo where we made the Grand Hotel Villa Igiea our base of operations. Located a bit away from the town center, it offered us a blissful place to collect ourselves while still being reasonably handy to town.

Our exploration began with a trip to Bagheria – which was once the most fashionable among the great aristocratic families of Sicily.

The extraordinary Villa Gravina di Palagonia was magical, and the mirrored ceiling of the ball room certainly influenced my own opalescent dining room ceiling. One should never forget the 5th wall!

Villa Gravina di Palagonia

Villa Gravina di Palagonia

Ceiling detail - Villa Gravina di Palagonia

Ceiling detail – Villa Gravina di Palagonia

Villa Gravina di Palagonia

Villa Gravina di Palagonia

Villa Gravina di Palagonia

Villa Gravina di Palagonia

 Villa Gravina di Palagonia

Villa Gravina di Palagonia

Next, we were welcomed to Villa Paterno di Spedalotto. Many of you may recall the legendary Slim Aarons’ images of Donna Anna Monroy di Giampilieri in the early empire drawing room of the Villa Spedalotto. Somehow we spent a heavenly hour and a half together with the the Marchesa there, despite the fact that she only spoke French and Italian (and we knew only a few words of each). It was an absolute dream to visit – certainly one of the most important house-museums in Sicily and still in the hands of the original family. Very few have had access to the home making this a rare treat indeed. To top it all off, we departed with a jar of the most delicious apricot jam from the Marchesa’s own garden!

At top, I’m photographed with the lovely Marchesa di Spedalotto. She is certainly a rather iconic beauty and an absolute delight!

Dressed in a Tom Ford era Gucci black linen denim jacket, Tom Ford white cotton shirt and pink floral silk pocket square, Seaman Schepps shell and pink tourmaline cuff links, Dior shocking pink jeans, Tom Ford fuchsia ikat velvet slippers, Cartier Tank Divan watch, and my fragrance Tom Ford Neroli Portofino