Monaci delle Terre Nere

Zafferana Etnea, Sicily, Italy Book from Book from £178 per night

Fabulous relaxing retreat on the slopes of Mt Etna, with beautiful rooms, stunning views and locally produced organic food
Guido Coffa felt his heart leap when he first saw Monaci delle Terre Nere in 2007, a run-down 62-acre 18th-century estate where monks once coaxed vineyards from the black volcanic earth and views stretch from Mt Etna to the Ionian Sea. He was actually looking to buy a small house to return to Sicily after years away as an automobile engineer but instead found his life's work. A decade on, the land and original Baroque house have been transformed by extensive landscaping, planting and a singular makeover into a classy and intimate hotel, perfect for foodies, romantics and families alike.

Guido, a qualified sommelier, has become an evangelist for organic agriculture, regional produce and sustainable living. Sicilian breakfasts feature home-baked breads and eggs from the resident chickens; dinners are an impressive showcase of fresh, local produce from the estate. Guido and his partner Ada have exquisite taste, as evidenced by the bold industrial-chic bar and the lovely suites and villas in the main house and renovated outbuildings. Interiors are decorated with British-Brazilian artist Olivier Mourao, modern Italian furnishings by Flos, Lago, Gervasoni or B&B Italia and the pair's own personal collection of antiques, reclaimed pieces and art. We loved it.

Information provided by Monaci delle Terre Nere on 17/07/2020.

Cleaning and hygiene
Rigorous health and safety training, highest possible hygiene standards maintained throughout.

Food and drink
Socially distanced breakfast, lunch and dinner service, seated outdoors at Pool Bar and at Restaurant's Terrace and Garden.

Policies
Fully flexible cancellation policies.

Highs

  • Conveniently located between Catania and Taormina, and close to both Mt Etna National Park and the coast
  • Beautifully realised eco-hotel whose wonderful grounds have been rejuvenated with olive trees, vineyards, orchards, vegetable gardens and lawns, plus an 18m infinity pool and chill-out areas
  • Delicious food and wine sourced from the Etna region and the estate itself
  • 500m above sea level so enjoys terrific views, and is a shade cooler in sweltering summers
  • Quietly charismatic and hands-on owners; charming staff

Lows

  • Availability can be a problem in high season
  • You'll need to hire a car to get here and around. Note there are lots of small, winding lanes hereabouts, so it takes longer to get to places than expected
  • Wines are wonderful but expensive; evening meals can be pricier than you'd expect too
  • Since our last visit the estate has expanded, and we have yet to see the latest additions
  • Most rooms are located around 300m from the main building, and Sontuoso (an Estate Villa) is also up a 70m staircase

Best time to go

Sicily is a superb destination year-round, and although it can get very hot in the summer, the hotel is 500m above sea level, so it a little cooler. Although most hotels shut in the winter, Monaci delle Terre Nere stays open.

Our top tips

Our best excursion was ascending Mt Etna. You can hike its otherworldly slopes or ski down it in season, but we took it easy: driving up to Sapienza Refuge where there are tourist facilities (car park, shops selling postcards and lava jewellery, eateries) and took the cable car up to 2500m above the snow line to an Alpine-style hut serving beverages and sandwiches. From here, more adventurous types can hike up to higher craters (2920m) and the less adventurous be shuttled there in a bus; we came back down in the cable car and explored a lower dormant vent instead. Take your camera to capture the colours and shapes of the volcanic rock - plus the views towards Catania and beyond, which are breath-taking.

Great for...

Eco
Family
Foodie
Great Outdoors
Romantic
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 27
  • Restaurant and bar
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Outdoor Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Concierge Service
  • Snooker Table
  • Games
Room:

Rooms

Monaci delle Terre Nere has expanded over the years and now comprises 27 rooms, suites and villas. The heart of the hotel is the pink and grey lava stone Baroque villa which houses suites such as 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.

Newer additions, including Estate Suites, are scattered around the property, either in original buildings with lava-stone walls or in modern cottages, and feature private patio gardens or terraces. All look to be in-keeping with the hotel's sleek elegant design, including parquet flooring, and feedback is good.

Further afield and up towards Mt Etna, separate lava stone outbuildings have been transformed into standalone Estate Villas, the Two-Bedroom Suite, and the upscale Monaci Villa. All have with gardens and small swimming pools, perfect for honeymooners or guests looking for added privacy, and long views across the estate and its vineyards to the sea.

Wherever located, all rooms exhibit the same intelligent design touch that includes smart lamps and comfortable kingsize beds dressed in organic-cotton linens. Contemporary bathrooms (some with bathtubs, others with walk-in showers) have hairdryers, robes and organic toiletries. We were impressed with the selection of Guido Coffa wines and snacks in the minibars.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Bathrobes
  • Bose sound system
  • Central heating
  • Cots Available
  • Extra beds
  • Hairdryer
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Safe box
  • Terrace
  • Toiletries
  • Turndown service
  • WiFi

Eating

Breakfasts (included in the rates) are served on the pretty terrace in warmer months, or in the former wine-pressing (palmento) room in cooler months. 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).

Other meals are served in the fine-dining restaurant, Nerello, which has a gorgeous sunny terrace. 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.

For dinner, there are à la carte options, tasting menus or daily set menus. The dishes 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. We opted for the 4-course set menu, which was truly scrummy. It began with an aubergine and Ragusa mozzarella puff pastry, followed by cuttlefish risotto and baked sea bass with home-grown salad. Dolci was pistachio semifreddo or Sicilian chocolate cake.

For pre- or post-dinner beverages, head to Convivium Bar and try some of Guido's homemade wine while admiring the gorgeous views of Mt Etna. 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 away.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Breakfast
  • Children's meals
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Organic produce
  • Picnic on request
  • Restaurant
  • Room service
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • The number one sight round here is Mt Etna - Europe's tallest, most active volcano - and its surrounding National Park. Visitors can hike up or ski down its slopes; most will drive up to various access points for stunning views, exploring vents and craters, and taking the cable car up to 2500m
  • Taormina - popular for its shopping, beaches, breath-taking setting on a rocky outcrop overlooking the Ionian Sea, and impressive ancient Greco-Roman theatre - is 40 minutes away
  • Explore the coast: fishing village Acitrezza offers boat trips and scuba diving, as well as a Lido
  • The Etna coastal region produces excellent food and drink; enjoy discovering local restaurants for lunch. Winery tours can be arranged: Pietradolce and family run micro-winery Eno-Trio welcome you into their own home for a wine tasting. For an authentic and delicious lunch on Etna, Parco Statella is a must - Massimo and his wife are on hand to prepare local seasonal produce for you
  • Or take a Sicilian cooking class with the hotel's chef and create cocktails with the barman
  • There's a day spa 8km away; in-room massages and yoga lessons can be arranged at the hotel, plus there's a weekly complimentary yoga session for guests (suitable for all levels) and other yoga lessons available
  • The property's own Guido Coffe vineyards continue to grow and a wine tasting evening can be arranged at the ancient wine press in the main house with the sommelier
  • Take a helicopter tour from the hotel's own helipad if you're feeling flush; otherwise private guides can be arranged
  • We loved simply wandering around the 40-acre estate, admiring the views, fruit trees and organic planting scheme, and listening to birdsong

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Birdwatching
  • Boat trips
  • Cycling
  • Golf
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Horse riding
  • Language courses
  • Mountain biking
  • Plantlife / flora
  • Sailing
  • Scuba diving
  • Shopping / markets
  • Surfing
  • Swimming
  • Tennis
  • Wine tasting
  • Yoga

Kids

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 sofabeds, too. There's a small playground and large pool on-site. Estate Villas, the Two-Bedroom Suite and Monaci Villa all come with small private pools.

Best for:

Babies (0-1 years), Children (4-12 years), Teens (over 12)

Family friendly accommodation:

Suite Amabile and the Villas can also take baby cots and have double sofabeds 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.

Babysitting:

Babysitting available on request

Baby equipment:

  • High chair
  • Plastic cutlery and crockery

Remember  baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking

Children's meals:

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.

Kids Activities on site:

  • Pool
  • Small playground with slide and swing
  • Box of toys
  • Badminton
  • Table tennis
  • 40 acres of pathways, woodland, lawns, terraces and fruit trees; if you have smaller children the estate can be explored via golf cart
  • Movies shown so parents can dine in peace
  • Cooking classes on request

Kids Activities nearby:

  • Beaches and watersports including scuba diving on the coast
  • Etna National Park, 30 minutes away - a guided tour can be arranged
  • Etnaland, also 30 minutes away, is an aqua theme park with zoo (largest amusement park in Southern Italy)
  • Parco Avventura Etna, a rival establishment, is in Milo, 10 minutes away
  • Ruins in Catania and Taormina, 40 minutes away

Families Should Know:

  • If you're thinking of bringing a baby monitor, note that the thick walls mean you're unlikely to get a signal
  • Some steep drops around the property
  • Unfenced pool
  • Unsupervised playground
  • Friendly dog

Distances:

  • Airport: 40 minutes
  • Doctor: 15 minutes
  • Shops: 5 minutes
Kid Friendly:

Location

Monaci delle Terre Nere is on the lower slopes of Mt Etna, near the small town of Zafferana Etnea, which is almost equidistant between Catania and Taormina, along the northeast coast of Sicily.

By Air:
Most will fly to Catania Fontanarossa (36km away, allow 30-45 minutes to drive to the hotel) but if you're touring the whole of Sicily you might fly into Comiso (117km away) or Palermo (220km away).

From the Airport
Pick up a rental car at the airport - see our car rental recommendations - then it's a quick journey along the A18 autostrada, taking the Zafferana Etnea exit. Alternatively the hotel can provide a transfer, see Rates.

By Bus:
Take a bus from the airport to the main bus station, then take another bus to Fleri. From here you will be collected by Monaci delle Terre Nere.

By Boat:
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) then follow the A18 motorway south to Catania and take the Pisano turnoff.

Detailed directions will be sent to you when you book through i-escape.

Airports:

  • Catania Fontanarossa 38.0 km CTA
  • Comiso 117.0 km CIY

Other:

  • Beach 9.0 km
  • Shops 1.5 km
  • Restaurant 3.0 km

Our guests' ratings...

Based on 6 independent reviews from i-escape guests

9/10
Room
8/10
Food
7/10
Service
7/10
Value
8/10
Overall

What a paradise on earth. Had a lovely spring escape and were blessed to stay at such an amazing place - perfect mix of chic, design and nature. Special thanks for warm welcome and care during the stay to Katerina - her tips to explore the area and places to see and taste made our stay in Sicily really something to remember. And of course not to miss the barmen (Alberto was his name?) for the greatest drinks made with so much care, taste and precision. So all in all just a great place. Can’t wait to be back again.

10/10,

This is a beautiful villa in a beautiful setting and a perfect base for exploring Mount Etna. A few comments... the breakfasts are delicious, we were in a suite under the restaurant which meant that above head noise started at 7am (not ideal), the restaurant was a little inconsistent in terms of food and service so we'd suggest just one meal there especially given the high cost. Lastly, the pool is quite small and shallow, so not ideal for swimming. It was a good start to our honeymoon in Sicily but a little too much style over substance.

8/10,

Brilliant eco bio hotel with a fantastic location and surrounding farm that you can wander through. The breakfast is amazing and varied. Easy to visit Mount Etna, Alcantara gorge, and Catania itself from here. Thanks to all the staff who were always attentive and helpful to us. The hotel's own restaurant is also superb, with delicious and inventive 'slow food' dishes.

10/10,

Such a lovely setting. The staff were very helpful and charming. Perfect location for touring the eastern side of Sicily.

9/10,

The setting was beautiful and our room large and well appointed. However, the service at the restaurant was below par and the prices high.

6/10,

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Rates for Monaci delle Terre Nere

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