La Moresca

Marina di Ragusa, Sicily, Italy Book from

Reviewed by Abi Dare
A true maison de charme: pared-down style, a warm welcome and bags of character in a historic villa near Marina di Ragusa’s golden beach
There’s a story behind almost every fixture and fitting at La Moresca. Once the home of a wealthy family, this Art Nouveau villa, set a short stroll from the beach in the small resort town of Marina di Ragusa, was left to decay for decades before being brought back to life as an elegant hotel. Today, it’s a wonderful patchwork of past and present: tiled floors, jasmine-scented courtyards and carved doors have been beautifully restored, and contemporary layers have been added in the form of steel walkways and a sleek, glass-walled breakfast room.

The man behind the transformation is genial host Carlomaria, a Milanese architect who spent years working for major chains such as The Hilton before stumbling across this, his dream project. Under his guidance, the house has been sensitively divided into 15 simple yet stylish bedrooms, and everywhere you look there are quirky reminders of its history - a collection of 1920s jars, a vintage sewing machine, a portrait of the original owner (affectionately dubbed ‘the grandfather’ by staff). But the main draws are Carlomaria’s warmth and knowledge: he will happily share the house’s secrets, point you in the direction of ornate churches or quiet coves, and recommend his favourite restaurants. If you want top-dollar luxury then look elsewhere; if you’re seeking a personal touch and a real passion for this beautiful land, you’ll love it here.

Highs

  • A great base if you want to combine sightseeing with beach time; it's 100m from a long stretch of golden sand, and southern Sicily's Baroque towns, nature reserves and ancient ruins lie a short drive away
  • Breakfast is a delicious local spread - think herby bread drizzled with olive oil, ricotta with honey, and homemade almond tarts
  • Wonderful communal areas, including a tower-top terrace and a beautiful guest lounge, all lit by glowing candles come evening
  • Whimsical touches - miniature ducks crafted from pebbles, black and white photos of local residents and matching gargoyles - add a laid-back, homely feel
  • Carlomaria has put into practice eco principles developed through years in the hotel industry, including solar panels and organic cleaning products

Lows

  • We found the prices a little steep considering the lack of amenities (no pool or restaurant)
  • No children aged 2-10 are accepted, and there are no twin rooms - it’s geared towards quiet breaks à deux (though there is a duplex sleeping 4)
  • Can lack atmosphere when not full; we were the only guests during our stay and felt a little self-conscious at breakfast
  • Marina di Ragusa is packed in the summer months, and has its fair share of tacky tourist bars

Best time to go

Sicily is at its balmy best in spring (April-early June) and early autumn (September and October). Summer can be scorching, and Marina di Ragusa is packed with Italian tourists during July and August. Don’t rule out late autumn and winter visits: the sea is often warm enough for swimming until November, though be aware that many restaurants in the town close from the end of October to the beginning of April.

Our top tips

This corner of Sicily produces much of the island’s foodie delights, including delicious caciocavallo ragusana cheese, flavourful olive oil, crumbly Modica chocolate, and Cerasuolo di Vittoria wine. Ask staff for a list of farms and local producers offering tastings and guided tours, and spend a happy day expanding your knowledge - and your waistline.

Great for...

Beach
Eco
Honeymoon
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 15
  • Breakfast only (+ restaurants nearby)
  • Under 2s and over 10s only
  • Open all year
  • Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Concierge Service
Room: Double Room

Rooms

The 15 rooms are clustered around a series of courtyards, all fragrant with jasmine and herbs. Some are on the ground floor, others reached via steel walkways, but all are bright, airy and simply furnished with an eclectic mix of old and new.

We stayed in one of the standard Double Rooms. These differ slightly in size and layout, but all have original tiled floors, wooden shutters painted in pistachio green, antique bedsteads topped with modern kingsize mattresses, and oversized anglepoise lamps extending like tentacles from whitewashed walls. Wherever possible, bits and bobs from the house’s past have been reused in imaginative ways: dressers from the pantry act as a wardrobe in one room, kitchen chopping blocks form bedside tables in another. Ours had a coffee table fashioned from an old travelling trunk, plus a cream sofa, a table and a couple of chairs.

If you're coming with children (under 2s and over 10s are accepted) - or you just want a little more space - opt for the Tower Room, a duplex sleeping 4 at the top of the villa. Its kingsize bed sits under swathes of sail-like white fabric, and steps lead up to a mezzanine with 2 single beds.

Bathrooms throughout are small and rather plain but have everything you need: rain showers (no tubs), bidets, hairdryers, slippers and a selection of toiletries. Rooms also come with air conditioning, fans, flat-screen TVs, WiFi, mini-fridges, radios, fresh flowers and safe boxes. Further treats arrive at turndown in the form of spicy sweets and little cakes, but best of all is the complete silence at night: the hotel sits on a quiet side street, and effective sound-proofing ensured we didn’t hear a peep from beyond our room.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Central heating
  • Cots Available
  • Fan
  • Fresh flowers
  • Hairdryer
  • Internet access
  • Internet access
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Phone
  • Radio
  • Safe box
  • Satellite tv
  • Slippers
  • Terrace
  • Toiletries
  • Turndown service
  • WiFi
  • Wifi internet

Eating

Breakfast is served in the striking glass-fronted extension or in the shade of a 150-year-old lemon tree on the patio outside. The dazzling white walls provide a perfect backdrop for the colourful array of food on offer: chunks of herby bread drizzled in olive oil, honey trickled over creamy ricotta, pane cunzato (a Sicilian version of bruschetta with tomatoes, oregano and anchovies), plump olives, platters of fresh fruit (perhaps watermelon, kiwi and strawberries), homemade almond tarts, and gooey chocolate cake. You also get yoghurts, espressos or cappuccinos, tea, and fresh orange juice squeezed in front of your eyes by the attentive staff.

No other meals are available at La Moresca, but Marina di Ragusa has plenty of restaurants to choose from. We headed to Il Lido Azzurro, sister restaurant of the renowned Locanda Don Serafino in Ragusa, and dined on the moonlit beach within earshot of waves washing on the shore. Our starters of delicious seafood soup and tuna carpaccio sprinkled with pistachios were followed by taglione with salted ricotta, squid and tomatoes, and a velvety chocolate and cardamom ricotta mousse - all as memorable as the setting.

There are also more informal pizzerias-cum-cocktail bars strung out along the seafront (Shosholoza is perhaps the pick of the bunch). And if you’re out and about on day trips, you’ll find plenty of top-notch eateries in and around local towns, including Michelin stars at Duomo in Ragusa and La Gazza Ladra in Modica. Highly recommended by Carlomaria is Ristorante Majore in nearby Chiaramonte Gulfi, which has been in the hands of the same family since 1896 and only sells dishes made from local pork, including pork-stuffed ravioli, pork risotto and salami antipasti.

Features include:

  • Breakfast
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Restaurants nearby
  • Room service wine
Eating:
Activity: Marina di Ragusa

Activities

    Make the most of Marina di Ragusa’s long, golden beach, just 100m or so from La Moresca. The sand is clean and the water wonderfully clear, though it can get very busy in summer

  • Spend a day in the breathtaking Baroque town of Ragusa, just 20 minutes away. Explore the ornate church and atmospheric alleys of Ragusa Ibla and the refined centre of the newer town, Ragusa Superiore. The 2 halves are separated by a deep ravine spanned by several bridges

  • You’ll find more Baroque splendour in Modica, Scicli and Noto, all within an hour’s drive. Modica is particularly worth a visit for its dramatic setting in a steep-sided gorge and the sweet treats on sale in its many chocolatiers

  • Meander along the coast to the ruins of the ancient Greek colonies of Kamarina and Kaukana (20-40 minutes’ drive), then head inland to the mosaicked Roman remains at Unesco-listed Villa Casale

  • Hike through the Cava d’Ispica gorge to the north of Modica, where ancient tombs and cave dwellings pock the cliff face

  • Further east, explore the Vendicari Nature Reserve, with lovely walks, unspoilt sandy beaches and salt lagoons that attract migratory birds such as flamingos. You’ll find plenty of near-deserted coves - our favourites are Calamosche and Balsamo, both 30 minutes' walk from the medieval tower of Vendicari, where you can leave your car

  • On the way to Vendicari, stop for lunch in the pretty fishing village of Marzamemi. Restaurants cooking up the morning’s catch line the main square - we recommend Taverna La Cialoma for its lemon-infused ricotta and tuna cannelloni

  • Back in Marina di Ragusa, join the locals for the evening passeggiata, when families stroll along the seafront and the beachside gelaterie fill with chatter. The town also has a lively nightlife, with plenty of alfresco bars

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Birdwatching
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Museums / galleries
  • Nightlife
  • Plantlife / flora
  • Shopping / markets
  • Snorkelling
  • Swimming
  • Wine tasting

Kids

La Moresca is a peaceful retreat that's geared towards couples. That said, children aged under 2 or over 10 are accepted, and will enjoy splashing around on the beach nearby. Baby cots can be added to all rooms, and the duplex Tower Room sleeps up to 4 in a kingsize bed and 2 single beds.

Best for:

Babies (0-1 years), Teens (over 12)

Family friendly accommodation:

Cots Available, Family Rooms

Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

10/
Rooms
8/
Food
10/
Service
9/
Value
9/
Overall

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