Verdura Resort review: splendid isolation in Sicily
With its private beach, spacious suites and glorious gardens, Rocco Forte’s Sicilian resort is perfect for a post-lockdown retreat
If last year is anything to go by, Europe’s islands may be a better bet than the mainland for a quarantine-free holiday this summer. And Sicily, the biggest of all the Mediterranean islands, with its rugged interior and wide beaches, could be the best of all.
Rocco Forte’s Verdura Resort, on the west coast of the island, is just as well set up for natural social distancing. Spread along a 500-acre stretch of private coastline, its spacious villas and well tended gardens are ideal for a post-lockdown retreat.
Why come here?
Verdura Resort is a short drive from the Valley of the Temples, Sicily’s foremost archeological site. Despite their name, the seven temples dating from the 6th century BC to the 6th century AD sit not in a valley but on a ridge that runs between the town of Agrigento and the shimmering sea. It is a glorious place to visit in the late afternoon: set aside a few hours to stroll among the ruins as the sun goes down.
The hotel itself also makes the most of its prime location. Its sandstone and stucco-clad rooms all offer direct sea views from their balconies or terraces. Inside, high ceilings and huge bathrooms create a sense of space, while dark timber and light fabric furnishings lend a restful air to the bedrooms.
What to do
Verdura is home to a destination spa, laid out across more than 4,000 square metres and incorporating Finnish and infrared saunas, an indoor lap pool and an outdoor circuit of thalassotherapy pools. The latter, heated to various temperatures and saturated with a range of minerals from the sea and shoreline, are intended to improve your skin tone and ease muscle aches and pains. Potential medical benefits aside, they provide a thoroughly relaxing way to while away an afternoon admiring the orange trees and olive groves of the Sicilian countryside.
Part of the surrounding landscape is given over 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 abilities. The Junior Golf Academy offers three and five-day introductions to the sport, while more established players can sign up for programmes led by PGA professionals.
For this summer season, Verdura is planning an ambitious programme of “activity weeks” covering pastimes as diverse as fencing, beach volleyball, rugby and hip-hop dance. Those happy to stick with the more traditional activities of swimming and sunbathing have a choice of two large seafront pools and a sheltered, supervised stretch of beach.
Beyond the Valley of Temples is a rugged and little-visited stretch of coastline flecked with idyllic and little-visited beaches. Verdura Resort can arrange a guided tour, including lunch, at the wheel of a Porsche Boxster, if you don’t have a supercar of your own.
To the north, the town of Marsala is world-renowned for its fortified wine, and well worth visiting for a tour and tasting at Cantine Florio, one of the foremost producers. Carry on around the coast and you will come first to San Vito Lo Capo, a charming beachside town built around an Arab fort, and then Palermo, the island’s capital. Its medieval streets, Byzantine mosaics and Arab-Norman architecture are a treat for those who like their grandeur with a dose of grit.
What to eat
It’s hard to eat badly in Sicily. The island takes pride in its cooking, which turns fresh ingredients into bold, unpretentious flavours. Caponata is a case in point - a rich stew of tomato and aubergine spiked with capers and red wine vinegar. Seafood is also a strong suit, with sardines and red prawns featuring on many menus.
The Verdura Resort’s restaurants are no exception: at rustic Amare, where the tables are all but lapped by the sea, expect a nightly fresh market stand, from which you can select your fish and talk to the chef about how you would like it prepared. Its elegant sister restaurant, Zagara (below), puts equal emphasis on fish, meat and fresh vegetables, some grown in the grounds of the hotel.
How to get there
British Airways, easyJet and Ryanair have 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 Verdura Resort at the end of August from £1,876 per person, including flights from Heathrow. Or book directly on the Rocco Forte website, with rooms starting at about £600 per night.