“An original concept: a boutique resort in a working vineyard with an old lighthouse, whose beam mingles with sparks from distant Stromboli”
Half a dozen low, white buildings are generously spaced among the rolling vineyards - so generously as to warrant a golf cart for you and your bags upon arrival. Between them, grouped in 2's and 3's, are 8 Standard Rooms, 6 larger Superior Rooms, 2 Junior Suites Deluxe (distinguished by their ample indoor and outdoor sitting areas) and 2 Exclusive Suites with Jacuzzis.
All rooms get a terrace of some sort, with a cannizzi (woven cane) roof on bulging columns, a muslin screen (if you or your neighbours want more privacy), and a pair of wicker or linen-clad easy chairs where, if you’re anything like us, you’ll spend a large chunk of each evening, glass of chilled Malvasia in hand, watching the yellow vines darken and distant Stromboli glow red in the setting sun.
Inside, all is white, smooth and blissfully uncluttered. Whitewashed walls are broken up with arches and niches in which sit decorative vases and flatscreen TVs. Small white-shuttered and netted windows reveal square parcels of vineyard and sea. The only furniture is a lovely wooden storage unit with wicker pull-out baskets, and a stack of woven reed bowls for your bedside stuff. And the only colours - a muted ochre, a warm terracotta - come from a silky spread on the queensize bed. If you look, you’ll find air conditioning, heating, a phone and a minibar, but it’s the simplicity that impresses most.
Bathrooms are yin to the bedrooms’ yang, with black floor and wall tiling, sleek chrome cross-tube taps, stacks of robes and towels, and a platter of aloe vera-based toiletries. Glass-walled wetrooms have pancake-sized shower heads and an additional hand-held jet.
There’s a very romantic, lamp-lit dining terrace by the pool, serving delicate portions of beautifully cooked seafood and local produce. The menu is fresh and varied (it changes every day), but not overly so, with 3 starters and 4 mains - perfect. Service is friendly too: young staff, swishing past in white linens, stop to introduce themselves before lighting your paraffin lamp and aligning your silver cutlery with a smile. All in all, there’s little incentive to drive the 5km to Santa Marina, and you’ll probably end up eating in more often than not.
Portions are smallish but beautifully presented and full of prime ingredients. We experimented with a trio of tasters: an involtino of swordfish sushi filled with fennel (superb - why do we cook it so much?), a slice of tender-baked aubergine with tomatoes and capers (all grown within 0.5km), and some tongue-like sardines wrapped around sultanas and breadcrumbs for that salty-sweet yumminess. Pasta came very al dente but full of flavour - fresh basil, flaked almonds and green olive oil in this case. Which left just enough room for the mackerel gratin and orange sorbet (now you know why portions aren't larger…). There’s a decent wine list, with a plug - not undeserved - for the Leone, as it’s from the owners’ tenuta on Sicily. And of course there’s a gulp of honeyed Malvasia from last year’s harvest to finish with.
For breakfast, there’s an excellent buffet with beautifully arranged fresh fruit (interspersed with flowers), jam tarts, cold cuts, cheeses, croissants, yoghurt and mini jams (all the way from Wilkins of Tiptree) - and sun-drenched views from the poolside terrace to Panarea and the smoking cone of Stromboli.