“The best of all Christmas gifts around any Christmas tree: the presence of a happy family all wrapped up in each other.“ – Burton Hillis
With temperatures still hitting 20 degrees Celsius here in Palermo, Sicily, it’s hard to believe that it’s wintertime, and even more unbelievable that Christmas is just around the corner! But we are reminded in other ways that it really is the season to be jolly – one of which, being able to sit down and write this email of wonderful memories and warm nostalgia for the year that is soon coming to a close.
Looking back on it, this year has been a busy, but brilliant one! Thank you to everyone who came and stayed with us in the apartments, or spent A Day Cooking with the Duchess, sharing a magical time together.
A Day Cooking with the Duchess
I can’t believe that it was almost a year ago now, that we created a new Instagram account specifically for A Day Cooking with the Duchess. If you haven’t yet checked us out, see the page here at @cookingwiththeduchess , for exclusive instructional cooking posts, Sicilian recipes, competitions, travel advice and media articles!
In the cooking classes, this year we released our very own aprons with the family coat of arms and our favourite kitchen item, the mezzaluna, engraved with ‘A Day Cooking with the Duchess’! These have been a great success – and make for a wonderful culinary Christmas present, but can only be purchased in the classes and not online… which just gives you yet another reason to return to Sicily in 2020!
Renovations and Changes
When you do return, you’ll notice a few things have changed this year in our apartments. We decided to brighten things up in apartment 4, renovating the living room with a new, vibrant green couch and floor lamp – making the space a little bit funkier! Then in apartment 9’s bathroom, we swapped the bath for a shower decorated in 18th century tiles, and completed the makeover with the contrast of contemporary artwork.
We also changed the stoves in six of our apartments to new induction stoves, so there’ll be no excuse not to cook up a storm the next time you’re staying in your home away from home!
In the palazzo Lanza Tomasi, there were also renovations this year. We completed the installation of the Lampedusa family museum by adding all of the portraits of the writer’s ancestors and some portraits and books of and about our 17th century Saint family members, the Venerable Suor Maria Crocifissa and her brother Saint Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa.
We also now exhibit the original document in which King Philip IV of Spain gives the property of the island of Lampedusa and the title of ‘Princes of Lampedusa’ to the Tomasi family in 1638.
To balance the addition of the old, we are very proud and feel privileged to have also brought in some very new art into the palazzo too! We recently used the space to show the art exhibition of the talented German artist Gabriela Volanti.
Of Sicilian origin, Gabriela created the pieces specially for our space, inspired by our collection of 18th century French fans.
We also held our first yoga retreat at Butera 28 Apartments and created a yoga studio in Palazzo Lanza Tomasi. Hosted by Bianca Polizzi, also of Sicilian origin, with Elite Yoga Escape.
This 5-day yoga retreat brings yoga, culture and travel together and will be returning to us from April 2020! Check out Bianca’s website for more information at www.eliteyogaescape.com or email email@example.com for further details.
Awards and Events
There were many celebrations and events throughout the entire year!
Gioacchino and I were among the guests of honour at the international Dolce and Gabbana event dedicated to the Gattopardo in Palma di Montechiaro in July.
In August, we hosted the press conference of the Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa International Literary Award here in the palazzo – this year’s winner was the Italian historian, essayist and literary critic Carlo Ginzburg.
Then in October, the docufilm The Birth of The Leopard, part of which was shot here last year, was presented at the Rome Festa del Cinema. It documents so beautifully the life of Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa and is narrated by my Gioacchino.
We have so much to be grateful for and proud of this year, with us, once again, being placed in TripAdvisor’s Hall of Fame!
Whilst on the subject, if you haven’t yet, please do leave us a review on our Trip Advisor page!
I would really appreciate more reviews ! Even if you just keep them short and sweet, I would be ever so grateful for the thought!
Press and Other Mentions
As for other notable mentions, we are very proud that Butera 28 Apartments and A Day Cooking with the Duchess were both featured in the new edition of Lonely Planet and Rick Steves guidebook on Sicily.
And in The Guardian, my A Day Cooking with the Duchess was named as one of the top 20 Best Food Tours in the World!
We also appeared in The Times, Le Figaro, Daily Mail, i-Newspaper, Forbes, De Smaak van Italien, Sicilian Baedeker and many others, and last but not least Elle India! The crew stayed here and we appeared across all of their social media accounts and in an article on the Elle India August issue. It was a fabulous time!
More international media came for us when the crew of Madrileños por el Mundo shot an episode of their program here in July! Watch it here. You can admire me speaking Spanish at 51minutes 18 seconds!
Having enjoyed such a wonderful 2019, let’s have a look at what is in store for us in the coming year.
With our increasing awareness of climate change and eco-friendly living, we continue to take responsibility for our own footprint and make changes where we can in order to respect the environment. We understand that we must act today to ensure that there will be a tomorrow.
Yet we have not lost sight of the festive spirit in our endeavours! This year we have even recycled the old, spare menus from A Day Cooking with the Duchess and crafted them into paper Christmas trees! Some of our other recycled decorations include star-shaped burned biscuits painted in silver. Yes, even I don’t succeed in the kitchen all the time… but I quickly put my cooking-gaffe to a surprisingly good use!
We are proud that we Sicilians do already naturally eat very sustainably as we buy and cook local seasonal produce from the nearby markets, which also supports small local businesses.
We have always taken the time and effort to recycle and I’m a firm believer that one should never waste – especially that final lick of the watermelon jelly bowl!
So instead, our changes this year have been to buy toilet paper and table napkins made of recycled paper and we have also changed all of the light bulbs to LED.
I am also excited to announce our energy saving project for 2020: we aim to drastically reduce electricity wastage in our apartments. We will keep you posted on how that goes and if you return to stay with us, hopefully you’ll help us too!
Wrapping It All Up
Speaking of which, if you still need to wrap up the shopping… or haven’t even started yet, there is still time to book a last-minute holiday season getaway. So, surprise someone with the gift of Sicilian sunshine this winter or better yet, put this on your own wish list for Santa! Join us in time for our final 2019 Day Cooking with the Duchess on the 28th December.
Then, of course, stay until New Year, where we will be throwing a lavish New Year’s Eve party in our Palazzo for all our guests, as we do every year.
This year has seen many interns set foot in Palermo and Butera 28 Apartments for the first time. At the beginning of 2019 we welcomed Sofia, Lionel, Lily, Erin and Tommy who remained with us until the summer. Following them, we now have Clara, Florence and William who will see out the New Year with us.
It is always sad for me to say goodbye to my wonderful interns who I consider a part of our family and do so much to make sure my guests have an unforgettable experience with us. I thank every one of them for their contribution to Butera 28 Apartments and look forward to meeting all the new interns who will join us in 2020!
And on a final news note, last but certainly not least, as usual, five new baby tortoises were born! Of course you can keep up to date with all of our news throughout the year, by following us on @butera28apartments and @cookingwiththeduchess .
If you want to get back in touch, feel free to drop me a line to let me know how your year has been since visiting!
Sending all my love and wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a New Year full of peace, health and success,
Nicoletta and everyone at Butera 28 Apartments x