Relais Parco Cavalonga

near Ragusa, Sicily, Italy Book from Eur140

Chic self-catering apartments sleeping 2-7 and a delightful small hotel tucked away in a pretty valley, perfectly situated for southern Sicily’s best sights
South-eastern Sicily is a seductive mixture of rugged landscapes, pretty beaches and immaculately preserved Baroque towns (3 granted UNESCO World Heritage status) with honeyed stone carved into crisp volutes and Corinthian columns, and churches with magnificent interiors. Wandering their labyrinthine streets is delightful, but it comes as a relief to escape the chaotic traffic and droves of tourists and return to the tranquility, clean lines and polished limestone of Relais Parco Cavalonga. Tucked away in wild and fragrant gardens, it’s small enough to offer truly personalised service, but substantial enough to have a good restaurant and 2 pools; the perfect base for absorbing sunshine and Sicilian culture.

The 7 spacious and modern apartments and 15 hotel rooms are sufficiently spread out among olive and carob trees to give both privacy and lovely views of a typical southern Sicilian landscape; some even give a glimpse of distant sea. Furnishings are elegant and simple in strong plain colours, fine art on the walls is bold but always harmonious, and the beds are superb. There are many restaurants in Ragusa, and exquisite seafood a short drive away in coastal towns. But you’ll find it hard to leave the calm of Cavalonga, and the scented night air.

Highs

  • A blissful little haven, hidden away from the tourists flocking to the major sights in the area
  • Spacious interiors with elegant, but never ostentatious, design
  • Two smart swimming pools, set in flowering gardens
  • Within easy reach of Ragusa (15 minutes away), Vittoria (30 minutes away) and Scicli - and far more restful than staying in a town
  • Really exceptional service from warm and helpful staff, keen to make you feel at home
  • The apartments are great for families and kids will love the pools

Lows

  • You’ll need a car to explore the area, but there are shaded parking spaces
  • If you want to dine off site, good restaurants in Ragusa or Vittoria require more driving than you might feel like in the evening (the 3 options in nearby Donnafugata aren’t very sophisticated)
  • Self-catering guests might find the kitchens in some apartments too small for conjuring up elaborate meals
  • This is a quiet, gentle place to stay: don’t expect entertainment in the evenings (though all rooms have cable TV)

Best time to go

Sicily is a destination for almost year-round sun, but it suffers oppressively hot temperatures in summer. It’s best to visit in April or May, when the spring flowers are gorgeous and it’s not yet too hot. September and October are also great months to come (the sea is warm enough for swimming until November), but October can get very busy because of school holidays so reserve well in advance. August is also very busy, despite the searing heat, and lots of families come with children at this time so the pool areas can be quite noisy.

Our top tips

Spend at least a week here. Hire a car and avoid the crowded sights if you can, but do explore Vittoria, Scicli, Vendicari and Marina di Ragusa.

Great for...

Family
Foodie
Great Outdoors
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Hotel & Apartments
  • 15 rooms, 7 self-catering apartments
  • Breakfast (+ other meals on request) or self-catering
  • All ages welcome
  • Closed: 4 Nov 2015 - 25 Mar 2016
  • Outdoor Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Daily Maid Service
  • Towels & Bedlinen
  • Bicycles Available
Room:

Rooms

All rooms and apartments share the same appealing aesthetic: sleek, modern, simple and stylish. Polished limestone floors, white walls and high-quality textiles in neutral shades ensure the interiors never compete with the landscape outside. They’re comfortable and elegant, with deep armchairs and restful, airy bedrooms. Splashes of aubergine on bedcovers sit well with expanses of pink plaster, hessian panels and wooden rafters. Window shutters keep out the fierce Sicilian sun; some apartments have quirky wrought-iron chairs.

Bathrooms are luxurious, though, with honey-coloured marble and modern white suites. There are bathtubs in the apartments, but the hotel rooms have showers only (except 3 of the Garden Deluxe Rooms). Toothbrushes, shower caps, sewing kits and toiletries are provided.

The hotel rooms are in the main building, the Casale Antico. Nine Superior Rooms and the spacious Superior Deluxe Room have double or twin beds and panoramic views from the first floor; the five ground-floor Garden Deluxe Rooms have private terraces with table and chairs, and can be joined together for families.

The apartments have a wonderful feeling of space. Five are set in the estate’s old villa, closest to the road (though noise isn’t a problem), and have a double and twin bedroom plus a sofabed, sleeping up to 5. These all have private terraces or courtyards; Donnafugata also has a garden (great for children). Particularly private are the split-level Olive Tree, with a large kitchen, and Gelsomino, with quaint touches such as exposed stone walls and carved niches for bedside tables. Ibiscus and Carob Tree only have corner kitchens in their living rooms, though the latter has stunning elevated views.

The other 2 apartments sit in stone buildings in the grounds and sleep up to 7. Kamarina and Ibla, where we stayed, has 2 doubles and a twin. Both have 3 bathrooms and large terraces with lovely views. We loved our open-plan living area, with sofas at one end and a dining table at the other - even with 7 people, there would be plenty of room to sprawl out. The true test of comfort is a longer stay, however, and it remained a pleasure to return to after several days.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Central heating
  • Cots Available
  • Extra beds
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Phone
  • Safe box
  • Satellite tv
  • Terrace
  • Toiletries
  • WiFi

Eating

There are other rustic hotels and self-catering options in this part of Sicily, but few have such a superb restaurant on site. Cavalonga is blessed with I Paladini, with lovely valley and garden views. The name comes from the painting covering the back wall of the chic dining area - a stylish rendition of soldiers from the Middle Ages by the owner’s wife, celebrated artist Laura d’Andrea.

Dinner is available from 8-10pm four/five nights a week (check prior to arriving). The excellent Sicilian-style fixed menu (antipasto, primi, secondi, contorni and dolci) changes daily, see Rates - sometimes it’s fish-based, but vegetarians are always catered for. It’s more than the cheap eateries in Donnafugata, but you can sit back and enjoy the sunset with a glass of Nero d’Avola, without having to drive (the bar also serves cocktails and coffee).

Lunch from 1230-230pm (book the evening before or at breakfast) is delightful out on the terrace: salads, toasted sandwiches, soups and cold meats, and you can arrange to have it poolside. Afternoon tea is served from the bar at any time, with delicious cakes and pastries.

Breakfast (included in the rates for hotel guests and available for a charge for those in the apartments, see Rates) is a generous spread of fresh fruit, cereals, yoghurt, superb cold meats, Provola cheese (the local ricotta), sweet baby plum tomatoes, artisan home-made jams and honeys, and excellent Sicilian sweet pastries plus croissants and breads for toasting. Eggs are cooked on request, and you can have continental breakfast delivered to your room - ideal for honeymooners (who are offered a basket of fruit on arrival).

Self-catering in the apartments is easy. The kitchens are a little small for cooking on a grand scale, but there’s everything you need to prepare dinner: kettles, pots, dishwashers and china in bold colours. Piles of attractive serving bowls are useful for those self-catering in lazy style, with salads, meats and cheeses. Note no basic ingredients are supplied but there’s a good supermarket 8 minutes’ drive away towards Ragusa (staff will give you directions).

And don't forget you're in a gastronomic part of Sicily, so there are plenty of options within driving distance if you want to eat out (book ahead at weekends) - click here for details. And finally, there are cooking lessons with the chef on request if you want to cook Sicilian-style back home, see Rates.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Breakfast
  • Chef on request
  • Children meals
  • Cooking classes
  • Lunch by arrangement
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Restaurant
  • Room service
  • Vegetarian menu
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Go for strolls in the 18 acres of gardens, practise yoga on the yoga platform, or borrow a bike and cycle to the coast

  • Explore Donnafugata’s castle - the inspiration for the setting in the novel (and film) The Leopard - with a stunning location and evocative interiors of a bygone age, plus extensive lavender-scented grounds

  • Visit the Unesco-listed Baroque towns of Ragusa, Vittoria, Modica and Scicli - fascinating for their jumble of crumbling buildings and ornate churches. We found Scicli the most delightful; Vittoria, though less polished, is also interesting, with more of a ‘real town’ feel

  • Take a wine tour - many of Sicily’s best wines are produced around Vittoria. The famous winery in Valle dell’ Acate offers tastings

  • History nuts will be spoiled for choice: Palazzolo Acreide (45 minutes’ drive away) is an ancient hilltop city, once home to 7,000 inhabitants, with Greek amphitheatre and lovely views; Roman Villa de Tellaro has a small but stunning collection of mosaics from the 4th-century AD; 1.5 hours away is Agrigento, with the magnificent remains of a Greek colony in the Valle di Templi

  • Day trip destinations an hour away could include Siracusa and its old town of Ortigia (spectacular Greek amphitheatre and excellent fish restaurants) or the Vendicari Nature Reserve - beautiful, windswept and unspoilt, for birding and walking. Take water, snacks and a good map

  • Don’t miss the charming seaside resort of Marina di Ragusa, with quiet warm waters, a long beach, some great fish restaurants and superb ice cream shops

  • Golf can be arranged at the 18-hole Donnafugata golf resort - book at reception (cheaper than at the course itself) who can also arrange horse-riding and mountain biking through the surrounding landscapes

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Birdwatching
  • Cooking classes
  • Cycling
  • Golf
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Horse-riding
  • Mountain biking
  • Museums / galleries
  • Plantlife / flora
  • Shopping / markets
  • Swimming
  • Tennis
  • Well being
  • Windsurfing
  • Wine tasting
  • Yoga

Kids

Children are warmly welcomed here and it’s a great place for families, with spacious apartments and plenty of room to run around in the grounds. The Piscine Irminio is great for children and both pools are covered by lifeguards. Cots and extra beds can be provided, and babysitting is available. Teens may find a rural retreat less exciting but there are beaches close by, lots of fascinating history and watersports on the coast.

Best for:

Babies (0-1 years), Toddlers (1-4 years), Children (4-12 years)

Family friendly accommodation:

The Garden Deluxe Rooms in the hotel have great views down the valley and can be joined together for families, and the apartments have private terraces or courtyards, giving children a safe space to play outdoors - we made friends easily with the family next door. Note that the 'garden' descriptor is a bit of a misnomer but then 'gravel patio deluxe room' doesn't quite have the same ring.

Babysitting:

Available by arrangement

Baby equipment:

Baby cots can be provided on request

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

Children's meals:

Kids menu in the restaurant, enough choices at breakfast to suit all

Kids Activities on site:

  • Pool with lifeguards
  • Grounds to roam around

Kids Activities nearby:

  • Donnafugata castle, 5 minutes away, has a formal garden of rosemary bushes (which looks and behaves like a maze) and battlements, plus interesting interiors
  • The beach is 15 minutes away
  • Ragusa may be a little dry for children, we sight saw there for an hour then took the kids to the playground
  • Marina di Ragusa also has a playground
  • Greek and Roman ruins abound in SE Sicily - Agrigento is generally thought outstanding
  • There's an Aquapark in both Siracusa and Catania

Families Should Know:

The pools have lifeguards, but parents should keep an eye on children in the grounds as there are some drops to the little rivers which drain rainwater through the gardens

Distances:

  • Airport: 1 hour 30 minutes
  • Doctor: 20 minutes
  • Shops: 15 minutes
Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

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

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Rates for Relais Parco Cavalonga