“If we want things to stay as they are, things will have to change”
– Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, The Leopard
As we edge cautiously into 2021, alas, it doesn’t feel much different to last year. With COVID restrictions and lockdowns most definitely following us close behind into the New Year.
However, it is still worth reflecting on 2020. How we all managed to get through, possibly one of the most turbulent times of our lives. 2020 taught us that every moment should be appreciated. That the time spent with loved ones is priceless.. And that nature will always be our space to find solace, gifting us with a certain stability and security in a time of so many unknowns.
The holidays were even more welcomed because of this, as a time to return home (for those fortunate enough to be able to!). To be pulled back into the embrace of our families and to give appreciation to those who supported us and showed us the most love during the year. It was a time to reflect and be comforted by a sense of security in our traditions, arriving on time and as expected.
The year of madness thrust exponential changes into every single one of our lives, that was felt across the entire globe. It gave us a common enemy, something to work against, together. We are living through history and so, I feel that that should be documented.
To kick off 2020, I was very proud to be involved in The Grand Dishes Project in January. I shared some of my personal recipes in the pages of this cookbook. Grand Dishes celebrates the time-perfected dishes of the world’s grandmothers. It is dedicated to capturing the stories and recipes that risk being lost forever.
This was just the beginning of a year of thoughtful words, articles – and documentaries that our 18th Century Palazzo Lanza Tomasi and A Day Cooking with the Duchess starred in worldwide…
Wintertime Publicity & Article Mentions
In January, we appeared in UK’s The Times “Deliziosa! My dream Sicilian cookery course”. Then, the USA’s Town and Country. In March, a beautifully written article was published titled Was für ein Theater! What a theatre! in the German newspaper Die Zeit. Then, we were also grateful to appear in the French newspaper, Le Figaro.
At the beginning of March, in Palermo we presented the docufilm The Birth of The Leopard. Successfully, hosting a big party in our home which turned out to be the last event in town before the first Coronavirus lockdown. In October 2019, this docufilm premiered at the Rome Film Fest and we had the pleasure of attending. My husband, Gioacchino Lanza Tomasi, narrates in it, telling the story of the life of his adoptive father, author of The Leopard, Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa. We were so grateful to be able to welcome into our home everyone involved in the making of the film.
Springtime Lockdown & Spring Cleaning
Suddenly, COVID-19 shut Italy down and our entire world turned upside down. Last year slowed my business entirely – sadly to say, bringing it to an almost complete stop for most of the year. However, I managed to stay busy with lots of work done all throughout Butera 28 Apartments. Spending my time making this space one to really call home away from home for all my guests that I am so looking forward to welcoming back in 2021.
We started spring cleaning and discovered hidden treasures in the depths of our storage space. These came in the form of two beautiful sewing machines, their wooden cases and tables, still in wonderful condition. We lovingly restored each of them and decided it most fitting to showcase the Singer and the Naumann in our deserved Deluxe Apartments Number 9 and Number 14.
We went further than this though and kept ourselves busy renovating! We renovated the bathroom in apartment 4 changing from bathtub to shower for better convenience. Following this, we decorated the shower with a group of 4 beautiful 18th century majolica tiles. Next, we restored and repaved the hallway of apartment 4, decorating its walls with 19th century British nautical charts. These have been in the family for years and used to be housed on my husband’s grand-father’s yacht.
From this we were inspired to level up all of our hallways, absolutely covering the landing between apartments 11 and 14 in flowers and pot plants. Afterwards, we brought this energy to the landing outside of the lift on the third floor, repaving it and beautifully rearranging the plants.
Following all of these physical activities, we had to share the fruits of our labour and change up the website photos too to reflect this!
In April, I had really gotten the hang of the technical world. I joined an Instagram live with the Mediterranean Diet Roundtable. I spoke about the virtues and the culinary uses of the Mediterranean herbs that I grow myself on my terrace garden. It was such fun. Consequently, this is what we have all learnt from this year, that social distancing means virtual connecting… So in May, I decided to launch my cooking classes to be online!
I now host these Sicilian cooking classes from my 18th century Palazzo kitchen in Palermo, all the way to my students, in the comfort – and safety! – of their own home. Wherever that may be in the world, via live streaming. These were a huge success. As I created online PDFs of my recipes, I revised all of them, removing mistakes and re-measuring every ingredient. This sets me up nicely to move forward into the creation of my much overdue, long-promised cookbook.
Summertime Brings Some Hope
In June, lockdown lifted. As soon as health and safety information about Coronavirus had been released, we did a full sanitisation cleansing of all apartments. Although, here at Butera 28 Apartments, we have always followed careful health and safety regulations. Through this, we already included regular disinfecting and cleaning of our air conditioning systems.
We also opted for an eco-friendly cleaning system, instead of harsh, terribly polluting chemicals, only using eco-friendly products. As suggested by the World Health Organisation, we steam clean the apartments with 100 degrees to ensure no viruses, nor bacteria, live on any of our surfaces. Of course, all staff wear masks! You can even choose self check in and book out an entire floor with multiple apartments for safe family gatherings, spent together, away from everyone else.
In September, we had another wonderful write up about A Day Cooking with the Duchess in the fabulous Amica magazine. This year we also proudly appeared in the Guide Gallimard, the most important French travel and tourism guidebook. We were also interviewed by the German magazine Salon – so keep an eye out for this one. Then in September, I also appeared on two episodes of Ray Winstone’s Sicily which aired in the UK and online.
On October 4th, we were able to host an important event. This was the 10th National Day of ADSI, the Italian Association of Historical Houses. My husband, Gioacchino Lanza Tomasi, Duke of Palma, is the President of the Sicilian section of ADSI. For this association, we opened our palazzo for free tours. It all went very smoothly and felt great to be getting back to a new kind of normal.
Of course, we respected all COVID rules, wearing masks with guests only arriving upon reservation.
Wintertime & Moving Into 2021
But by the end of October we alas headed into new lockdown restrictions, and our business came to a halt once again. The winter months became much slower… In December, however, the good news was that Italy was named The Best Country in the World for the 2020 Readers’ Choice Awards. This just goes to show that there is always positive news to focus on – and that the travel industry can feel hopeful that next spring or summer…
2020 has been hard on all of us. The unexpected arrival of great change and the many unknowns encompassing all of our lives at present is difficult. However, we must remember that from the darkness, there must always come light, just as the sun sets to surely rise again.
It was a year of discovery and growth for all of us. The world has come together at a time when we have needed it most and we have moved into a new age together, but with our traditions arriving every year, on time, and the balance in nature, we can find some peace of mind.