“Working olive farm with beautiful bedrooms, home-cooked food, African gardens and a spring-fed pool on Sicily's south coast near Agrigento”
It lies near the main road amid unspectacular agricultural countryside, but don't let that put you off. There's a string of empty beaches a 20-minute drive away, plus 2 towns of fading grandeur (Palma di Montechiaro and Licata) and the uniquely preserved Roman mosaics at Piazza Armerina. Above all, the famous Greek temples of Agrigento lie just half an hour along the coast. That's what most guests come for; but it's the memories of Silvia and Giuseppe's hospitality that will linger longest in the mind.
- The classiest place to stay within striking distance of Agrigento
- A warm family welcome from Silvia, Giuseppe and their teenage sons
- Superb home cooking served at communal tables - very sociable
- Lovely tree-filled garden with shady corners for afternoon tea or reading, plus a pretty spring-fed pool overlooking endless olive groves
- One of the few places in Sicily to offer the use of a speedboat
- Some road noise from the SS115 (100m away), noticeable from the garden
- The immediate surroundings aren't the most spectacular: poly-tunnelled fields and largely modern towns
- This is a family-run azienda agricola, so don't expect teams of staff waiting on you hand on foot
- Mixed feedback on the cookery lessons: lots of food preparation, not much food instruction!
Best time to go
Our top tips
- Boutique Hotel
- 15 rooms + 1 cottage (for 4-6)
- Breakfast + other meals on request (cottage self-catering)
- All ages welcome
- Closed: 24 Jan 2020 - 27 Mar 2020
- Outdoor Pool
- Spa Treatments
- Pet Friendly
- Disabled Access
- Beach Nearby
- Off-street Parking
- Restaurants Nearby
- Air Conditioning
- Guest Lounge
- Daily Maid Service
- Towels & Bedlinen
- Pool Table
- Cooking lessons
- Tractor tours
The rooms and suites have been beautifully but unpretentiously restored, with old iron or cherry-wood beds, wooden granary doors and patterned pavimenti (majolica floors). Their muted colours are lifted straight from the Sicilian landscape (olive green, warm grey, pale yellow), and feel simple, bright and uncluttered - the epitome of comfortable farmhouse living. You'll find rustic wardrobes, fluffy white duvets, lamps fashioned from Mandranova oil tins, and perhaps a plexiglass Philippe Starck table ("to show we are looking forwards as well as backwards", explains Giuseppe). Windows look out over olive groves and low rocky hills; you can hear occasional cars on the main road, but it's not intrusive. Bathrooms are simple but adequate, with tiled showers or tubs and rainfall heads.
Of the 10 Double Rooms, 4 (which we haven't seen yet) are in the casello building in the grounds; the rest are in the main house. Piccionaia is the most romantic: a penthouse room in terracotta and sky blue, with French windows to the shared (though little used) roof terrace. Agave also caught our eye with its cosy eaves, while Tunisina is a ground-floor room that can be converted into a twin. Eritrina and Ficodindia both have single sofabeds - useful for families with a child.
If you have a couple of kids in tow, it’s worth choosing a Superior Room, which have space for up to 2 extra beds. Biggest of all is the Frantoio Suite, formed from a Superior double and the adjacent living room, and Oliva, a Master Suite with a lovely double bedroom with an ensuite bathtub, a rather cell-like single with an ensuite shower, and a sitting room with a double sofabed.
There is also a self-catering cottage La Robazza, available for weekly rentals. It's is blessed with a panoramic terrace and a private pool, plus 2 double bedrooms with ensuite shower rooms, wrought-iron four-posters and space for an extra bed; there's also a further twin room.
- Air conditioning
- Central heating
- Cots Available
- Extra beds
- Internet access
Dinner is one of the highlights of any stay here: home-grown, home-cooked and highly sociable. It's prepared with a deft, assured touch by the charming Silvia, who also offers cookery lessons to anyone wanting to take a leaf out of her herb garden. Giuseppe seats the guests at shared wooden tables in the warm ochre dining room, so that everyone gets a chance to chat and compare sightseeing notes; their sons (when not studying in Palermo) serve, pour wine and translate.
Expect a choice of 2 pastas - perhaps creamy lasagna with fresh artichokes, or anelletti (hoops) with spicy fennel and juicy minced veal; both are delicious, but don't accept too many refills! Then comes a meat or fish course, such as involtini di maiale: rolls of succulent beef softened with melted cheese, garlic and parsley, and wrapped in breadcrumbs. All the savouries come drizzled in one of their 3 olive oils; you'll soon learn to differentiate between them. Assuming you've any space left, dessert might be a mousse, some sorbet or (if someone happens to have a birthday) a huge cake. Book half-board throughout your stay and you won't regret it.
You can also book a light lunch; just tell your hosts the evening before. Bear in mind that in winter, when the family shuttles between here and Palermo, meals are not always available.
Breakfast, served from an unhurried 9am, is "continental plus" i.e. half a dozen homemade jams (including a delicious citrus marmalade and a pistachio paste), various yoghurts, fruit juices and several cakes. These also re-appear at tea time, along with flasks of hot tea and coffee.
- Children's meals
- Communal dining
- Dinner by arrangement
- Lunch by arrangement
- Organic produce
- Vegetarian menu
- Basic kitchen supplies in cottage
- Visit the Valley of the Temples at Agrigento: one of the finest Greek sites in the world, and just half an hour away by car. Perched on low hills overlooking the sea are 3 well preserved Doric temples from the 5th century BC, plus various jumbled ruins and a rich museum
- Explore the sandy beaches which line the coast between Licata and Agrigento. Many of them are inaccessible by road, so consider booking the hotel-owned speedboat or a skippered 8-berth yacht for the day (available May-September only; see Rates). Alternatively, ride on horseback across the deserted sands of Punta Biancha (5km away), walk across chalky hills to find your own secluded bathing spot, or drive to Malerba (10km away) for clean waters and child-friendly sands
- Stop off at the 15th-century castles of Palma (5km away), Montechiaro (10km away) and Falconara (25km away), all occupying atmospheric hilltop sites above the rugged coast with good swimming spots nearby
- Don't miss the spectacular mosaics at the Roman Villa del Casale, 1 hour's drive (80km) inland near the pretty town of Piazza Armerina. You could tack on a visit to the nearby Greco-Roman ruins of Morgantina, too
- For a dose of modern urban life, head to the bustling port and market town of Licata, with its Art Deco town hall, colourful Piazza Progresso, Prehistory Museum, Byzantine rock-hewn chapels and Michelin-worthy restaurant. Or explore the crumbling medieval centre of dusty Palma di Montechiaro, where Benedictine nuns silently sell marzipan in their wedding-cake chapel. The neighbouring palazzo is the setting for Tancredi and Angelica's hide-and-seek courtship in Lampedusa's The Leopard, not that you would guess from its down-at-heel appearance
- Back at the ranch, join one of Silvia’s daily cooking classes (enquire in advance) or ask Giuseppe for a bumpy tractor tour of the estate. Come in October and you can join in the olive harvest, too
Activities on site or nearby include:
- Boat trips
- Cooking classes
- Farm tours
- Historical sites
- Horse riding
- Mountain biking
- Museums / galleries
- Pool table
- Shopping / markets
Children of all ages are warmly welcomed, though we'd say it's better for older children than toddlers - there are some big steps, the pool is deep, and there's limited shade.
Older children will be entertained by tractor rides around the olive groves, occasional family cookery lessons and games of pool (note they must be accompanied by an adult around the pool table). Teens might get bored - it's a little distance from anywhere else and there's not a lot to do independently.
Babies (0-1 years), Children (4-12 years)
Family friendly accommodation:
Our pick would be La Robazza, the self-catering cottage, which has 2 double bedrooms, a twin room, space for an extra bed, a large terrace, and a private pool. In the main hotel, 2 of the Double Rooms (Eritrina and Ficodindia) have single sofabeds, and the Superior Double Rooms and the various suites all sleep 3-4 (see Rooms) in a combination of double beds, rollaway beds and sofabeds. Cots are available in all rooms on request.
Remember baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking
The breakfast and high tea are very child-friendly. Talk to Silvia about early dinners - they can be flexible where needed. Cottages have small kitchens with everything you need to self-cater.
Kids Activities on site:
- Tractor rides around the olive groves
- Spring-fed pool (suitable for older children only)
- Shady tree-filled garden to play hide and seek in
- Occasional cookery classes for children
- Pool table (must be accompanied by an adult)
Kids Activities nearby:
- Beaches (20-minute drive)
- Greek and Roman ruins (30-minute drive)
- Speedboat hire (see Rates; May-September only)
Families Should Know:
There are unprotected drops, large steps and 4 dogs running free around the estate. The spring-fed pool is too deep for little ones and isn't shaded.
- Airport: 2 hours (Catania)
- Hospital: 5 minutes
Mandranova is 22km southeast of Agrigento and about 2km beyond Palma di Montechiaro, on Sicily's southern coast.
Fly into Comiso (62km away/ 1.5-hours drive) or Catania (150km / a 2-hour drive away) or Palermo (180km / a 2.5-hour drive away). Click on the links below for a list of airlines serving these airports.
You'll need a hire car to get here: see our car rental recommendations.
If you're driving from southern mainland Italy, take the regular ferry from Villa San Giovanni to Messina (every 20 minutes; sailing time of 20 minutes) and then follow the A18 motorway south to Catania (155km / 1.5 hours) before picking up country roads from there.
Detailed directions will be provided when you book through i-escape.
More on getting to Sicily and getting around
- Comiso 92.0 km CIY
- Catania Fontanarossa 150.0 km CTA
- Beach 5.0 km
- Shops 3.0 km
- Restaurant 3.0 km