Verdura Resort review: splendid isolation in Sicily
Based on last year, the islands of Europe might be a better bet than the mainland for a quarantine-free vacation this summer. And Sicily, the largest of all the Mediterranean islands, with its rugged interior and wide beaches, might be the best of all.
Rocco Forte’s Verdura Resort, on the island’s west coast, is equally well-appointed for natural social distancing. Spread along a private 500-acre coastline, its spacious villas and manicured gardens are ideal for a post-lockdown retreat.
Why come here?
The Verdura Resort is a short drive from the Valley of the Temples, Sicily’s most important archaeological site. Despite their name, the seven temples dating from the 6th century BC to the 6th century AD are not in a valley but on a ridge that stretches between the city of Agrigento and the sparkling sea. It is a beautiful place to visit in the late afternoon: allow a few hours to walk among the ruins at sunset.
The hotel itself also makes the most of its prime location. Its stoneware and stucco rooms all offer a direct view of the sea from their balconies or terraces. Inside, high ceilings and huge bathrooms create a sense of spaciousness, while dark wood and light fabric furnishings lend the rooms a restful air.
What to do
Verdura is home to a destination spa, spread over more than 4000 square meters and incorporating Finnish and infrared saunas, an indoor pool and an outdoor circuit of thalassotherapy pools. These, heated to different temperatures and saturated with a range of minerals from the sea and the coast, are intended to improve the tone of your skin and relieve muscle pain. Potential medical benefits aside, they offer a very relaxing way to spend an afternoon admiring the orange groves and olive groves of the Sicilian countryside.
Part of the surrounding landscape is devoted to two golf courses – an 18-hole championship course and a nine-hole par 3 course – which offer private lessons and clinics for golfers of all skill levels. The Junior Golf Academy offers three- and five-day introductions to the sport, while more established players can enroll in programs run by PGA professionals.
For this summer season, Verdura is planning an ambitious program of “activity weeks” covering leisure activities as diverse as fencing, beach volleyball, rugby and hip-hop dance. Those who like to stick to the more traditional swimming and sunbathing activities have the choice between two large pools by the sea and a sheltered and supervised beach.
Beyond the Valley of the Temples lies a rugged and little-visited stretch of coast dotted with idyllic, little-visited beaches. The Verdura Resort can organize a guided tour, including lunch, behind the wheel of a Porsche Boxster, if you don’t have a supercar.
To the north, the town of Marsala is world famous for its fortified wine, and worth a visit for a tour and tasting at Cantine Florio, one of the main producers. Continue along the coast and you’ll first come to San Vito Lo Capo, a charming seaside town built around an Arab fort, and then to Palermo, the island’s capital. Its medieval streets, Byzantine mosaics and Arab-Norman architecture are a treat for those who love their grandeur with a dose of grain.
What to eat
It’s hard to eat badly in Sicily. The island prides itself on its cuisine, which transforms fresh ingredients into bold, unpretentious flavors. Caponata is a good example – a rich tomato and eggplant stew topped with capers and red wine vinegar. Seafood is also a highlight, with sardines and red prawns featured on many menus.
The restaurants at Verdura Resort are no exception: at rustic Amare, where tables are almost bathed by the sea, expect a market stall of fresh produce every evening, from which you can select your fish and chat with the chef the way you would like it to be prepared. Its elegant partner restaurant, Zagara (below), emphasizes fresh fish, meat and vegetables, some of which are grown on the hotel grounds.
How to get there
British Airways, easyJet and Ryanair offer direct flights from the UK to Sicily’s two main airports, Palermo and Catania. Palermo is better placed for Verdura Resort.
How to book
British Airways Holidays is offering seven nights at the Verdura Resort in late August from £ 1,876 per person, including flights from Heathrow. Or book direct through the Rocco Forte website, with rooms starting at around £ 600 per night.