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Tuesday, 3 April 2007

When in Sicily, Do as They Do

Source: The New York Times - Travel

Dolce & Gabbana is as synonymous with Sicily as old ladies in veils and young Romeos on scooters. Since founding the label in 1985, the designers Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana have mined the island for inspiration with the zeal of latter-day Viscontis. They have made stylistic allusions to its sartorial traditions - ecclesiastic and aristocratic - named one of their fragrances after it and used it as the backdrop for some of their most memorable advertising images. They have also frequently vacationed there, spending two weeks every summer de-stressing on the secluded island of Stromboli and dancing under the mirrored balls in the bustling resort town of Taormina. "We love Sicily," says Dolce, a native Sicilian. "It is the perfect place to just relax - eat, read and not worry about the stress of work. And we always come back with so many ideas. It is very magical."
Gabbana's account of a typical day in Taormina certainly sounds enchanting. "We like to rent scooters or stay on the beach or meet friends in Mazzarò Bay," he says. "In the afternoon, you can go antiques shopping in the center or have a granita and brioche at a bar."
But it's at night that they come alive. "We meet our friends at around 10 in the piazza in front of the Chiesa Santa Caterina," Gabbana says. "We go to a restaurant or to a pizzeria if we want a light dinner. Then we might scooter over to a club. We usually finish very late, with a good cornetto in some small pub, or watch the sunrise."
So, who better to play travel guides than the men who helped put Sicily on the style map? The images on these pages were shot at some of Dolce and Gabbana's favorite haunts in Taormina. Given their passion for Italian cinema - Anna Magnani and Sophia Loren are their perennial muses - we cast two emerging stars of Italian film, Valeria Solarino and Adriano Giannini, as our models. Solarino appeared in the critically acclaimed "La Febbre" and "La Felicità Non Costa Niente." She was born in Venezuela and raised in Turin, but her heart belongs to Daddy's home. "To me, Sicily is my father," she says. "He lived there, and I would visit him every childhood summer. Going there to work felt weird."
Not so for Giannini, who is the son of the actor Giancarlo Giannini and who starred alongside Madonna in "Swept Away." Before acting, the younger Giannini spent several months as a cameraman's assistant on the island, which has often been mythologized in Italian neorealist films. "The image of Sicily in the movies is valid up to a point," he says. "There are definitely towns that look like they are stuck 40 years ago, but it's obviously evolved beyond the cinematic cliché. It's a really strange place, even for us Italians, but it has to be seen to be believed."

When in Sicily, Do as They Do

Seasoned travelers know about Taormina's gardens and palazzi - not to mention the Caffè Wunderbar, where Liz and Richard drank the locals under the table. Here are Domenico Dolce and Stefano Gabbana's favorite spots.


Hotel Sant'Andrea (Via Zara 36; 011 39 0789 65205). "This place is great, especially in summer," Gabbana says. "It's an old villa facing the sea with a nice private beach and a good restaurant. And it's close to the market."

Grand Hotel Timeo (Via Teatro Greco 59; 011 39 0942 23801). "Beautiful views of Mount Etna, beautiful people, beautiful gardens and very close to the Greek theater," Dolce says, referring to the town's famous second-century auditorium, which holds the Taormina Arte festival in summer. "Bellissimo."


Gambero Rosso (Via Naumachia 11; 011 39 0942 24863). "I especially like the fried fish and spaghetti with ricci di mare" (or sea urchin roe), Gabbana says. "It's a little restaurant, not trendy, but very good. Il Delfino, near the Hotel Sant'Andrea, serves mainly seafood and is also worth trying."

Il Baccanale (Piazzetta Filea 1; 011 39 0942 625390). "The food in Sicily is fantastic, especially the fish," says Dolce, who is a particular fan of swordfish rolls, a local specialty. "But if you want meat, try Il Baccanale. It's really, really small, the size of a pizza."

Lighter Fare

BAM Bar (Via di Giovanni 45; 011 39 0942 24355). "For me, one of the simple luxuries in Sicily is to take granita" - flavored, crushed ice - "and brioche at the BAM Bar," Gabbana says.

Pasticceria Minotauro (Corso Umberto 8; 011 39 0942 24767). "The other great thing is to have Sicilian cannoli at an old pasticceria near Etna," Dolce says. "They're delicious, and the view of the volcano is unbelievable."

Bars and Clubs

La Giara (Vico La Floresta 1; 011 39 0942 23360). "There are so many great places for an aperitif or after-dinner drink," Dolce says, "but we like the bar at La Giara. After 7 p.m., it's possible to get a good cocktail surrounded by cute young people, but it doesn't get crowded until at least 10."

Marabù (Via Iannuzzo; 011 39 0942 653029). "For late-night dancing on the weekend," Gabbana says, "we scooter down to the Giardini Naxos to Marabù, a beautiful, open-air discothèque. But that's only when you want to have a late night."

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