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Sam Stanley exploring the Aeolian Islands of Sicily (image supplied) Sam Stanley exploring the Aeolian Islands of Sicily (image supplied)

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Sam Stanley — Sicily’s host with the most

Sam Stanley exploring the Aeolian Islands of Sicily (image supplied)

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Sam Stanley and his partner Laurence Hicks relocated from London to Sicily, where they’ve established Casa Piccolo Paradiso — a home-stay accommodation.

Sam also runs a fitness studio and offers personal training for guests.

I caught up with Sam to see if we should be adding Sicily to our travel wish-list.

What makes Sicily a great vacation destination?

Sicily has a lot of history, having been invaded by many different forces — these different influences are apparent across the island.

Places worth checking out include Palermo, Catania, Taormina, and Giardini Naxos — where the first Greek colony settled. We live in Gioiosa Marea. The many beautiful old hill towns always go down well with visitors. Not to forget Mount Etna, which is something to behold.

Plus, the weather is obviously a main attraction.

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Where do most of the guests at your home-stay come from?

We started in July 2017, and so far we’ve had guests from nine different countries. The UK is where the majority come from, but it’s nice that we’ve had a good mix of different cultures and mindsets come and stay.

How is a home-stay different to a hotel or an Airbnb?

A homestay is very similar to a B&B — where breakfast is provided within the cost — but it’s more intimate than a B&B. As opposed to shutting yourself off — which you can still do if you want to — it’s like renting a room, with the ability to use the facilities, and be welcomed into the everyday lives of whoever owns it.

What sort of personal training or fitness advice do you offer to guests staying with you?

It really depends on what the guests have come to stay for. A lot of them associate the holiday with relaxing and doing nothing, or just travelling to different towns. The few that have been up for training I just normally give them advice on what they’re thinking about when performing exercises.

There’s not a lot you can really do in one or two sessions, so it’s important for them to take away something worthwhile — our movement, and how we perform an exercise is the most important thing.

What’s the easiest way to maintain health and fitness while on vacation?

It depends on what you want out of your holiday. Some people come to Sicily for the pizza and pasta, so it’s not easy to maintain a high standard of eating and exercising.

My advice is to try and compensate — eat less throughout the day if you know you’re going to be eating a big amount in the evening. It comes down to calories-in versus calories-out — if you’re on a weight-loss journey, just have a think about how much you’re consuming.

What’s the best time of year to visit Sicily?

If you’re someone who enjoy’s the heat, then June to mid-September is the best. There have also been some beautiful days in April and May. Hottest month is definitely August.

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Arts & Culture

Are you ready to seal it with a kiss?

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Billy Winn (image supplied)
Billy Winn (image supplied)

I caught up with singer/songwriter Billy Winn to talk about his latest release - Seal It with a Kiss.

What was the inspiration for Seal It with a Kiss?

It was mostly inspired by me wanting to return to dance music, and trying to figure out what that would sound like in 2018. I’d been working with my new produces Johnie & Elliot for a few months, and we’d spent that time experimenting with sounds - trying to pin down what my music sounds like now.

I’d written parts of the song as part of a different project that didn’t work out - but when I rearranged what I’d written and brought it into the studio, Johnie immediately heard what I was hearing, and from there the song just came to life.

I didn’t just want to put out a random dance record - I wanted something that would become synonymous with my name - and Seal It with a Kiss just felt like that.

Seal It with a Kiss will be included on your upcoming EP - is this single indicative of the sound of the EP?

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The name of my EP is Dreamland I. I’d describe its sound as guilty pleasures - so Seal It with a Kiss is definitely a representation of that. The sound and overall mood of the EP was based a lot on how Seal It with a Kiss turned out - and so it’s definitely played a major role in helping me craft the EP sound and redefining myself as an artist.

How does the sound and the lyrics of Seal It with a Kiss reflect where you’re at in your career?

I think lyrically Seal It with a Kiss is a lot like songs I’ve written in the past. The only difference would be my level of maturity and confidence behind the writing and intent of the song. I feel more confident now to talk about and do things that are provocative or even taboo, and to blur the lines of situations that on the surface seem a bit naughty - but in reality are things we’d all like to experience.

The sound of Seal It with a Kiss absolutely reflects my growth as a musician, and an artist. I took on a huge role in the production of this record, which is something I’d never done before. The result was exactly what I wanted - a song that represents me as I am right now.

What was the casting process for the video?

It was a little bit of a nightmare. The model we originally cast for the role dropped out a few days before the shoot, and so Aiden - the director, Dwayne - my manager, and I were scrambling to find a replacement.

We’d considered changing the concept and everything because we couldn’t find anyone. Then finally, the night before the shoot - I think it was almost midnight - someone sent photos of Ahmad, and I saw him and thought he was perfect for the role.

Fun fact about the video - the silhouette is actually a second model - Camal Pugh, who’s s one of my backup dancers. He was on set with me and we only had Ahmad for a certain amount time, so Camal stepped in to be a body double so we could shoot the silhouette scene.

What next for Billy Winn?

Next is definitely the release of my EP Dreamland I. My team and I have really been working hard on it, and I’m excited to finally deliver a collection of songs rather than just a single. It’s definitely a story I want to share with everyone.

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