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The Tables of the Gattopards

For the first time, the piano nobile of Palazzo Arezzo di Donnafugata in the heart of Ragusa Ibla opens to the public for the exhibition ‘The Tables of the Gattopards’. From Monday 24 July 2023

Ragusa – The main floor of Palazzo Arezzo di Donnafugata, in the baroque heart of Ragusa Ibla, opens to the public for the first time. A historic event for the whole of Sicily that takes place on the occasion of the opening of the exhibition “Le tavole dei Gattopardi”. Starting on 24 July, some of the halls of the piano nobile will in fact be open to the public and will host a special display of the precious painted ceramic tableware, part of the ancient residence’s collection. The exhibition, organised by the Associazione Donnafugata 2000, is curated by the art historian Costantino D’Orazio, with the setting up by Sciveres Guarini Associati, and is promoted by the Sicilian Region – Department of Cultural Heritage and Sicilian Identity, the Libero Consorzio Comunale of Ragusa in partnership with the Municipality of Ragusa.

The Arezzo di Donnafugata Palace is one of the most imposing residences in the historical centre of Ragusa Ibla, today belonging to the heirs of the barons Arezzo Donnafugata. It was built in the second half of the 17th century. Destroyed by an earthquake in 1693, the residence was rebuilt a century later at the behest of Baron Corrado M. Arezzo, who enlarged its dimensions and arranged the garden. It was, however, Baron Corrado Arezzo de Spuches, in the mid 19th century, who determined the neoclassical image that the palace still presents today and who built, piece by piece, a large part of the art and object collections still kept by the family. Visitors, who will be admitted in groups of 12 for each turn, will be invited to take a journey back in time, passing through the barrel-vaulted gallery supported by twenty stone columns, before climbing the monumental staircase and finding themselves inside some of the halls that make up the palace’s famous ‘quarter parade’.

Walking on the pitch floors, guests will be able to admire one of the residence’s most majestic rooms, which overlooks the inner garden, cross the frescoed dining room, one of the lounges with silk-covered walls and the billiard room, and finally pass through a secret trapdoor and find themselves inside the Donnafugata Theatre, along a route that will reveal part of the “behind the scenes” of this famous and refined Sicilian residence.

The exhibition “Le tavole dei Gattopardi” (The Gattopardi’s Tables) will be set up inside the rooms where three extraordinary tables will be ready as if to welcome a gala dinner, with some of the family’s historical services: a precious painted ceramic service by Nove di Bassano dating back to the 19th century, with a series of references to the previous century, and two services that open interesting windows on the history of the family and the palace. Alongside plates, soup tureens, refreshment bowls, gravy boats, baskets, centrepieces and sugar sprinklers, visitors will be able to admire the antique rosoliera, period samovars and a series of curious figured tableware. In the exhibition catalogue, writer Costanza DiQuattro will retrace some of the historical events linked to the public occasions on which the Nove di Bassano del Grappa ceramic service was used by the city authorities, after having obtained it on loan from the family.

“It is above all at the table,” writes Mary Taylor Simeti, author of the volume “La tavola del Gattopardo” (The Leopard’s Table) in the catalogue, “that the Sicilian aristocrat can best demonstrate his rank, the largesse of his hospitality and the good governance of his family, all of which is highlighted by the refinement and abundance of the food on offer, and by the elegance and preciousness of the table settings. Extensive service, including dishes of all sizes and destinations, as well as elevations, candelabras and centrepieces of all kinds, became increasingly prevalent in the first half of the 19th century, either as a result of the Bourbon court’s Sicilian exile during the Napoleonic wars, or perhaps as a reaction to a sense of immanent twilight.

The luxury, the splendour of times long gone, the charm of a life surrounded by wonder: this is the experience that visitors to the exhibition “Le tavole dei Gattopardi” will be able to enjoy inside rooms where one can still breathe in that late 19th century atmosphere. “The Donnafugata Association is delighted to present the exhibition ‘The Tables of the Gattopardi’,” comments Vicky DiQuattro, artistic director of the association, “with the support of prestigious collaborators to activate the collection of Palazzo Arezzo di Donnafugata, guarded with care and attention by my family, as a cultural heritage of value for the community. Our commitment is to promote research and study of the past because we are convinced that this can be an opportunity to stimulate and learn about stories and values to be handed down for the future’.

The Region accompanies this initiative, which is also a treat for tourists. “Our Sicily enjoys a historical and cultural heritage that is admired by other regions and countries around the world, and it is through initiatives such as this one that it is possible to properly valorise it so that knowledge and knowledge, as well as beauty, may spread,” commented the Regional Councillor for Culture and Sicilian Identity, Francesco Paolo Scarpinato.

Antonino De Marco, superintendent of the Environmental and Cultural Heritage of the province of Ragusa, also refers to the inestimable value of the exhibition: ‘The Sicilian aristocratic ambience, which has nourished the cultural-historical imagination for years, is evoked by the dwellings where one can still breathe in that late 19th century atmosphere.

“We support the project with immense pride. We are always ready to promote initiatives for the dissemination of knowledge, culture and beauty. This initiative is also of interest to tourists, and in this sense we are intervening to offer tourists an extra opportunity,’ explains commissioner Salvatore Piazza of the Libero Consorzio Comunale di Ragusa, which is promoting the initiative together with the Municipality of Ragusa: ‘We expect that many tourists, as well as Ragusans, will seize this opportunity to visit places unveiled to the public for the first time. Palazzo Arezzo di Donnafugata is one of the most imposing residences in the historical centre of Ragusa Ibla, Ragusa’s ancient baroque district, whose style is unique and admired by visitors from all over the world,” emphasise mayor Peppe Cassì and councillor for Historical Centres, Giovanni Gurrieri.

In addition to a text by Costantino D’Orazio, the exhibition catalogue, published by Dario Cimorelli Editore and edited by art historian Valentina Bruschi, features contributions by the artistic directors of the Donnafugata Association, Vicky and Costanza DiQuattro, architect Nunzio Gabriele Sciveres, author with the Sciveres Guarini Associati studio, of the exhibition layout and a text by historian Mary Taylor Simeti. The photographs in the catalogue are by Laura Di Martino. The exhibition, open from 24 July to 23 September 2023, is open from 10.45 a.m. to 7.45 p.m. (last admission) every day except Mondays. Admission (15 euros plus pre-sale) is limited for each shift. For info and online booking, go to mob. 334 220 8186 –


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