Sicilian Mercatini di Natale

I have always been a sucker for Italian open air markets, it is wonderfully civilized to go out once a week to buy your fresh fruit and vegetables, local produce and on special occasions like Christmas pick up cute little gifts, antiques and fashion.

Baby shoes at Sicilian markets

I am always on the look out for a special gift for my little boy, but I always end up buying him shoes, as Italian shoes are so stylish.

Shoes at Markets

Then I always see some beauties for me … those heels are deadly but they are really a work of art aren’t they?

Sicilian antique gramophone

I’m always surprised by what I find, this gramophone was impressive, I asked to photograph it but I should have asked how much he wanted for it.

Scarves textures

There is something chaotic and unexpected about markets, it’s not about rummaging through bargain basement bins, rather discovering different textures, sights and enjoying the sensual experience.

Scarf and jewelry at markets

It is part Moroccan bazaar and an extended expression of creativity and Italian style with many stores choosing to sell their latest creations at the markets

Italian fashion markets

Sicilian markets are a feast for the senses, frying panini bread rolls, barbecues, roasting chestnuts, kebabs, impressive spruiking, handmade fashion, things that have fallen off the back of a truck, scarves galore and literally hundreds of stalls to explore.

Candy at Christmas market

The Sicilian Mercatini di Natale are a cornucopia of colours, tastes and experiences. The island of the sun gives us wonderfully sunny days of shopping to enjoy it all.

Torrone at Christmas Markets

Hazelnut and almond sugar-coated slabs of Torrone are consumed at every festa during the year but, they taste better at Christmas.

Mercatini di Natale

The Christmas market above all reminds you Christmas is around the corner …

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Italian Fashion Insights

Freelance journalist Mary Johnston shares her insights about the world of Italian Fashion.

Charlotte Casiraghi, Gucci
Charlotte Casiraghi, Gucci

Gucci by fervent-adepte-de-la-mode (CC BY 2.0).

During my time in Italy, I have learned that there are a few things that are just innate in the people of this beautiful country. They are just born knowing how to love food, traditions, art and fashion. Fashion has always been an important aspect of the Italian lifestyle and it is something that has been going on for centuries.

In fact, Italy has been one of the leading countries in the fashion industry together with France, Great Britain, Japan and the U.S., standing out in the crowd throughout the 11th and 16th centuries, when the very first fashion designers in cities like Milan, Rome and Venice started creating and producing luxury goods, hats and jewellery of high quality. They soon became very well known and appreciated and celebrities from all over the world came to Italy to buy original clothes and accessories. But then unfortunately Italy lost its lustre in the 17th century and was replaced in the kingdom of fashion by the French haute couture for the courtiers of Louis XIV.

Then, since 1950, Italy has found its allure again and major fashion designers like Armani, Versace, Valentino, Dolce & Gabbana, Cavalli and Gucci have been lighting up the catwalks of the best fashion shows of every continent, with Milan being one of the top fashion capitals of the world. A huge number of the most important Italian fashion houses are now based in Milan. Just think of Prada, Armani, Moschino, Miu Miu, Trussardi and many others, you will find them in the Lombard capital. And of course, Milan is full of fashion agencies. Also, twice a year, Milan fashion weeks, the most important Italian clothing and fashion exhibitions, are organized by the National Chamber for Italian Fashion. If you would like to participate, you should know, that the first fashion week of the year dedicated to autumn and winter collections is always held always in spring (precisely in February or March), meanwhile the spring and summer collections are presented during autumn (in September or October). Once the dates have been established, it’s preferable to book your stay almost immediately, because during important events, Milan gets really overcrowded and the accommodation prices tend to increase. Also, Milan isn’t as big as for example Rome and that’s the reason why also public transport gets easily full. Fortunately there are online booking providers such as venere.com that make the search for a nice and not too expensive accommodation in Milan easier.

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Cavalli by fervent-adepte-de-la-mode

Returning to Italian fashion, it has to be said that Hollywood stars addressed – and still do – to the most famous Italian designers to get a unique piece of clothing for a première or a gala, knowing that Italian glamour has always been a synonym of high quality and style. However, lately, many think that the Italian fashion and style have been declining and that Italian designers have nothing new to say. While other fashion capitals like London, New York and Seoul, are constantly producing young talents that design and create collections with different influences and a more contemporary approach, the best and most famous Italian fashion designers are still those you heard about ten or twenty years ago, whose style is very well known and probably too conventional for 2014. Italian fashion is considered to be all about conservatism, appropriateness and tradition, and when you think about the Italian glamour, you think about the past and something that does not exude personality, but only elegance and old style.

But this is starting to change. The big brand names of the fashion history are moving to the side, giving more opportunities to young designers and fashion talents. The creative direction of these huge brands does not pass through the family anymore: designers like Gucci or Valentino are betting everything on new talents such as Frida Giannini, Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierpaolo Piccioli. The recently closed “Glamour of Italian Fashion” exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London is the proof of this new reverse trend: it celebrated the history and beauty of the Italian glamour looking at its future and the ideas of the new guard.

 

About the contributor:

Mary Johnson collaborates and writes for various local and international websites and magazines since 2010. She is British, likes reading, hiking, she loves animals and is also a passionate traveller.

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Thanks so much to Mary for this article and guest post, hope to collaborate with her again soon .

Window shopping in Sicily

Italy is a place where fashion comes alive. Italians have a real flare for it whether it be elderly ladies dressed in colorful silk tops and high heels, or the latest shop window display from Dolce and Gabanna there is an astounding level of creative expression happening deep within the Italian psyche which is inspiring.

A favorite pass-time of mine whenever I find myself in a major city on my meridional home in southern Italy is to wonder around a particular fashion district and drool over the latest fashion or simply marvel at what there is to admire in the displays.

 

Tourist kitsch in Sicily
Tourist kitsch in Sicily

I don’t mind the frivolous tourist shops, I know it’s kitschy but there is still something mildly Sicilian about it and there is colour in it just the same.

Sicilian puppets always an evergreen!
Sicilian puppets always an evergreen!

Then comes my favorite Sicilian craft, which is the ceramics, I simply can’t get enough of the different styles and designs, my dream is to fill my house with ceramics!

My mania for ceramics placated in this store at Taormina
My mania for ceramics placated in this store at Taormina

The jewelry and silver work available all over Sicily leaves me speechless. I’m particularly in love with the characteristic use of red coral and lava stone in original designs. These two contrasting elements from the sea, to the earth are a perfect metaphor for the nature of this island. I’m still looking for the perfect piece to add to my collection to aptly depict my love of Sicilian jewelry.

 

Silver in Sicily

 

Coral in Sicily

 

Lava works in Sicily

 

Then there are those shop windows or shop fronts who leave you simply surprised and prick your curiosity. The timeless artisan traditions of Sicily are reflected in objects like elaborate hand made baptism gowns for babies or the hodgepodge of antique shops filled with new discoveries and treasures.

 

Baptism baby dress

 

 

Antiques at Taormina

I will never grow tired of window shopping in Sicily and Italy in general.

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