“Fabulous relaxing retreat on the slopes of Mt Etna, with beautiful rooms, stunning views and locally produced organic food”
The heart of the hotel is the pink and grey lava stone Baroque villa, where some of the rooms and suites are found. Its ground floor is home to the dramatic reception/guest lounge area with designer pieces, a bespoke modern black hearth, coffee-table books and bar.
Two guest rooms are adjacent. Light and white split-level Suite Fresco, where we stayed, has a fireplace, living room, a private balcony and patio, and next door Classic Schietto can connect with this to make a family suite.
Upstairs a balcony runs the length of the building; the first door opens onto elegant Deluxe Floreale, decorated in pale blue with an original frescoed vaulted ceiling. To the back is show-stopper Suite Amabile, which has an oval bath, bare stone walls, a fabulous fireplace, a bathroom in the eaves and views of Mt Etna.
Beside the breakfast room, a stone barn has been transformed into 2 Superior rooms which share a cobbled yard and open onto the front garden. Further afield, 2 separate lava stone outbuildings, are now standalone Dependance Deluxes, perfect for honeymooners. Once a wine-making structure, Sontuoso has superb sea views; Complesso has a big picture window to Etna and a bedroom accessed through a glass corridor.
Since our visit a number of outbuildings have been transformed into new room types (5 Dependance suites, Superior Room Dolce, Deluxe Cristallino, the Royal Suite and the Exclusive Suite). All look to be in-keeping with the hotel's sleek design, and feedback is good. Note that 2 of the Dependence rooms (Tannico and Fragrante) are located in a modern building, though do feature Jacuzzi's on their terraces.
Wherever located, all rooms exhibit the same intelligent design touch that includes smart lamps and comfortable kingsize beds dressed in organic-cotton linens. Contemporary shower bathrooms (Amabile and Floreale have tubs as well) have hairdryers, robes and toiletries. We were impressed with the selection of regional wines and beers in the minibar.
Breakfasts are taken in the former wine-pressing (palmento) room. The original mechanism remains; the buffet is laid out beneath its wooden shaft. Choose from cereals, yoghurt, home-baked breads and up to 4 kinds of cake, along with artisan jams, Etna cheeses and hard-boiled eggs (produced by their own chickens). I liked the freshly-squeezed blood orange juice in flagons, my husband rated the coffee highly.
Other meals are available on request - let them know at breakfast. Lunches are light: perhaps a simple plate of pasta or tasty tomato and rocket salad dressed in the estate's own virgin olive oil, which has a delicious peppery taste (you are given a bottle for booking through i-escape). You can also request a picnic basket.
We absolutely loved the 4-course set menu dinners, served in the convivial dining room, which feels like eating in Guido's home. These showcase the very best in local produce, much sourced from the farm itself. Guido is passionate about the Etna region's bounty and a fervent advocate for zero food kilometres and sustainability - and is also a trained sommelier whose recommendations were always spot on. Starters may be beans and prawns in a cream sauce, or aubergine and Ragusa mozzarella puff pastry. Next may be cuttlefish risotto or fennel veal ragu, followed by baked sea bass with home-grown salad or veal with grilled courgettes. Dolci could be pistachio semifreddo or Sicilian chocolate cake. There's a bar in the main reception/guest lounge area.
If eating out, Guido recommends intimate and classy All'Angolo 8km away, which offers traditional fare, or seafood specialist La Grotta on the coast, 12km distant.
Although a tranquil grown-up retreat, children are warmly welcomed here – as ours can testify – and we think it will make a great base for a family wanting to explore the fun activities and charm of the Etna region of Sicily, especially one with older children you can trust to be around nice objets d'art, and lots of terraces and steps.
Cots and extra beds are available on request; larger rooms have a sofabed, too. There's a small playground and pool on-site.
Babies (0-1 years), Children (4-12 years), Teens (over 12)
Split-level Suite Fresco, where we stayed, has a double sofabed in the living room and can also take a baby cot in the bedroom. It has a connecting door with Classic Schietto next door so is ideal for a family bringing their grandparents or a nanny along, or one with older children. Royal Suite, Suite Amabile and the Dependence Deluxes can also take a baby cot and have a double sofabed in their living rooms; note that the latter are removed from the main building so provide privacy but you are further from the pool and playground. Deluxe Floreale can take an extra bed and a baby cot, the 2 Superior rooms just a baby cot.
Babysitting available on request, see Rates
Remember baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking
Smaller portions of the evening meal are provided for children and there's a basic kids menu too; you can also make special requests with a little advance notice; picnic baskets on request, see Rates