“Working olive farm with beautiful bedrooms, home-cooked food, African gardens and a spring-fed pool on Sicily's south coast near Agrigento”
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 14 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 one of the Superior Double Rooms, which have space for 2 extra beds; one, Nocellara, also has a terrace. Larger still are the 2 suites, Arancio and Cerasuola, which each have a double bedroom and a living room with either 2 sofabeds or space for a rollaway bed. 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.
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 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)
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.
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.