Iconic heart and soul of Naxxar’s Parisio palace, Christiane Ramsay Scicluna, passes away

Christiane Ramsay Scicluna, Baroness of Tabria, has passed away at the age of 73

Christiane Ramsay Scicluna. Photo: Palazzo Parisio
Christiane Ramsay Scicluna. Photo: Palazzo Parisio

Christiane Ramsay Scicluna, the beating heart and soul of the stately home Palazzo Parisio in Naxxar, has died. She was 73.

Born Marie Christine Ramsay de Miniac, she was styled Baroness of Tabria, a title inherited years after it was left vacant on the death of her mother Marie Corinne Ramsay, granddaughter of the Marquis Joseph Scicluna.

Her death was announced by Palazzo Parisio, the 19th century home and gardens where she lived and turned into the island’s most sought-after hosting venue.

‘Muffy’, as she was known to friends, led Parisio’s rebirth as Naxxar’s baroque home of opulent style and fine food, together with her daughter Justine Pergola. Those bewitched by her presence and flamboyance deferred by calling her ‘Baroness’. “Oh please... do remember to call me Muffy,” she would remind her interviewers.

Kenneth Zammit Tabona, the artist, was a friend. “I was meant to have lunch with Muffy tomorrow to make arrangements for Charlie Siem’s concert next January... I was at Frankfurt airport when I got the news and I’m still in shock. I’ve known Muffy all my life and her leaving us has created an enormous void… She was truly inimitable,” he commented on Facebook upon the announcement by Palazzo Parisio.

Chef Michael Diacono’s Giuseppi’s Restaurant paid tribute to Ramsay Scicluna. “Our sincere condolences – the Baroness will always be remembered by all of us here as a true example of class, grace and kindness. A trend-setter in our industry whom will never be forgotten. Tonight we raise a glass of wine in your honour.”

The stylist Carina Camilleri said Malta had lost an icon of style and class. “Farewell dear Muffy. Show them how it’s done up in heaven.”

Ramsay Scicluna was the daughter of Lt Cmdr R.A. Ramsay de Miniac – the son of surgeon Robert Anstruther Ramsay – and Marie Corinne Scicluna, the daughter of the Marquis John Scicluna, and Mary Violet Testaferrata Moroni Viani, 7th Baroness di Tabria.

She started her career in the airline industry, working for Alitalia in Rome where she met her husband, the renowned dancer and Italian television choreographer Umberto Pergola. They married in 1974 and had one daughter, Justine Pergola.

Together with her husband and mother, Ramsay Scicluna ran a successful dance school in Rome until moving to Malta.

In 2007 she set her heart into restoring and redeveloping Palazzo Parisio, creating an award-winning, fine dining restaurant, luxury events location and historic tourist attraction from the restored house and grounds. “Food and service must be passionate as without passion there is just blandness. For blandness there are many places and destinations available,” she said of the mystique that Palazzo Parisio represented for all those who visited its restaurant and café.

She was a director of Farsons, the beverages company borne out of the merger of her great-grandfather’s Malta Export Brewery and Simonds Farsons in 1948. It was Farsons’ most celebrated beer, Cisk Lager, that bore the name of the Sciclunas’ banking legacy: the introduction of the cheque to the Maltese islands, by Scicluna’s Bank. The word’s Maltese corruption into ‘cisk’ was not only the moniker for the Marquis, but a byword for wealth.

In 2020, Ramsay Scicluna was honoured as Cavaliere dell’Ordine della Stella d’Italia, by the Italian republic, for her strong ties to Italy with her promotion of Italian gastronomy and wine culture, and her work at Palazzo Parisio, part of the Grandi Giardini Italiani network.