Wednesday newsletters always feature a hotel or flight review.
Early October 2020, I was supposed to travel to Namibia but that did not happen because of the ongoing pandemic (and government advice against travel outside the EU, where I am based). Instead, I planned a last-minute holiday to some of Italy’s most beautiful areas. You can read my trip reports here:
- Review: Belmond Grand Hotel Timeo, Sicily
- Review: Belmond Villa Sant’Andrea, Sicily
- Review: Verdura Golf & Spa Resort, a Rocco Forte Hotel, Sicily (today)
- Review: Lefay Resort & Spa, Lake Garda
- Review: Forestis, Dolomites
- Review: The St Regis Venice Hotel
Today (March 3, 2021, 2020): Review of Verdura Resort – A Rocco Forte Hotel (Sicily, Italy)
- Location: Google maps
- Hotel website: Verdura Golf & Spa Resort, a Rocco Forte Hotel
- Tip: get complimentary VIP perks when booking via Virtuoso
Set on a glorious stretch of coastline in Sicily, Verdura Resort offers style and sophistication for a well-traveled clientele seeking a quiet or active getaway, romance, or family time. The resort boasts 203 rooms, suites, and villas providing the ultimate privacy. Activities include world-class golfing, water sports, tennis, and fitness. For relaxation, there is a truly luxurious spa with four thalassotherapy pools and treatments by Irene Forte Skincare. Verdura’s organic farm produce is handpicked daily and used to prepare gourmet experiences in the resort’s four restaurants and five bars.
Verdura Resort features in my top 10 list of the best hotels in Sicily.
Have you ever stayed at Verdura Resort? If so, what was your experience? Leave a comment.
In this review (more info and photos below my Youtube video):
- Pros & things I like
- Cons & things to know
- My verdict
- Tips for future guests & save money
- Best time to visit
- How to get there
PROS & THINGS I LIKE
- Verdura Resort is the premier resort on Sicily, the sun-kissed island just off the toe of Italy’s ‘boot’. Its strategic location at the center of the Mediterranean Sea has made Sicily a crossroads of history and a melting pot of several ethnic groups whose merchants were attracted to its shores (e.g. Greeks, Romans, Phoenicians, Arabs, Normans and others). Although the island may be world-famous for its Mafia history or Cosa Nostra (which received further attention from the book and movie The Godfather), it is an extraordinary holiday destination, offering gorgeous scenery, a fascinating history, world-class cuisine, warm climate, and interesting people.
- Located in southwest Sicily, Verdura Resort calls the valley of the river Verdura its home. Immersed in the tranquility of the Sicilian countryside, the luxurious property occupies an enormous private area of 230 hectares, nestled within a zest of lemon and olive groves. The resort fronts nearly 2 km (1.3 miles) of a private, rocky coastline with a pebble beach at its center. The area is not well known yet by mass tourism, making the resort even more exclusive. Although the area is secluded, the historic fishing village of Sciacca is only a 15 minute drive away, the archaeological sites of Agrigento are about an hour’s drive, and the Sicilian capital of Palermo (with its airport) can be reached in about an hour and a half by car.
- Verdura Resort is managed by The Rocco Forte Hotels Group. Created in 1996 by Sir Rocco Forte and his sister Olga Polizzi, the company own 11 hotels, including iconic properties like includes The Balmoral in Edinburgh and the Astoria in St Petersburg. Run by a family of 4 generations of hoteliers, Rocco Forte hotels are united by their distinctive approach to serving guests, exclusive design, distinctive dining, and world-class leisure facilities. Verdura Resort is the only resort in Sir Rocco Forte’s empire. Mainly because the land required to build the resort was in more than seventy plots, all with different owners, the project took more than seven years since Sir Rocco first conceived the idea, before finally opening in 2009.
- Masterminded by interior designer Olga Polizzi (Sir Rocco Forte’s sister) and architect Flavio Albanese, Verdura Resort is steeped in a deep Mediterranean atmosphere with contemporary nuances. On the outside, Albanese used local colors such as Latin terracotta and ochre, and varying textures by mixing local materials such as stone, sand and wood. Strong geometrical lines characterize the buildings, likened to the design of traditional Sicilian houses. On the inside, Polizzi’s ethno-chic decor features a rich palette of earth tones and bright printed fabrics, reflecting Sicily’s rustic and rugged landscape. A warm botanical motif drawn from an antique Sicilian maiolica tile is used to accentuate the soft furnishing.
- Verdura Resort features 203 large and bright rooms & suites, all showcasing spectacular Mediterranean views. The accommodations are housed in two rows of stand-alone pavilions that spread out on either side of the main reception building. During my visit, I was upgraded to a Junior Suite, which featured a four-poster bed, spacious sitting area and a private balcony with sea views. The natural color palette, replete with shades of stone, created a relaxing feel, while the furniture and objet d’art featured local ceramic craftsmanship. The modern bathroom was equipped with a walk-in shower, deep bathtub, and two sinks. A pampering range of Irene Forte skincare products was provided and daily replenished.
- In keeping with Rocco Forte Hotels’ philosophy, the cuisine of the resort’s four restaurants is strongly connected to the authenticity of the island.
- Buongiorno offers a lavish buffet-style breakfast (replaced by a la carte dishes during the pandemic). Eggs are cooked daily at the live cooking station.
- Zagara serves Mediterranean cuisine in a candlelit setting. The menu, realized by celebrity chefs Fulvio Pierangelini & Paolo Platini, showcases the best natural produce of the island.
- Amare is a beach restaurant with an outdoor terrace on the water. It serves fresh seafood prepared as it is used in Sicilian fishing villages as well as a meat barbecue.
- Liolà is a typical Sicilian trattoria with stunning cliff top views over the sea. The menu is simple yet enticing: Sicilian caponata, arancini, panelle, homemade pasta and granita.
- Set amid olive groves, oranges and lemon trees, Verdura Spa is one of Italy’s most advanced wellness centers. Housed in pavilions grouped around an open-air courtyard, the spa has 11 extensive treatment rooms including double treatment suites, a 20 m (66 ft) indoor swimming pool, a double-height steam room, Finnish and infrared saunas, a state-of-the-art gym, a fitness studio, and relaxation areas. There are also four outdoor thalassotherapy pools, heated at different temperatures, each with varying salt densities, minerals and organisms. According to the philosophy of the resort, the wellness treatments take inspiration from the island, using local ingredients such as pure olive oil, marine salt, lavender, rosemary, oranges and lemons.
- Verdura Resort is an exceptional family friendly hotel thanks to the several facilities dedicated to younger guests. The resort’s Kids’ Club has an indoor and outdoor playground and a dedicated swimming pool. The resort’s qualified team takes care of the younger guests (1-12 years old) with entertaining and creative activities, water sports, fun cooking classes where they learn how to make Italian pizza, golf and tennis inductions, cycle trails, beach trips and much more. The teen’s club offers an extensive program of daily activities to youngsters between 13-18 years old, which include capoeira on the beach, sport tournaments and beach parties. Guests aged 5 to 16 can also practice football with professional Juventus coaches.
- A keen sportsman with a lifelong passion for golf, Sir Rocco was inspired to develop a five star golfing experience at Verdura. Together with renowned golf course designer Kyle Philips, the fabulous golf course at Verdura was created. Two 18-hole championship courses and a 9-hole par-3 course (913 m or 2995 ft) meander across terrain that undulates from mountain foothills down to the Mediterranean sea. A double ended driving range (65m or 213 ft wide) completes the golf offer as well as a clubhouse with golf shop, bar, restaurant and boutiques. For those approaching the game there is a Golf Academy with excellent practice facilities led by a PGA (Professional Golfers’ Association) professional team.
- The Verdura Resort provides a wide range of leisure facilities to its guests. The highlight is its enormous, two-tier swimming pool, which has a length of 60 m (196 ft), making it is one of the largest swimming pools in Europe. Next to the pool is bar, which offers a selection of refreshments and classic dishes for lunch. The pool is surrounded by dozens of loungers and looks out over a vast lawn that gives direct access to the resort’s private beach. The beach is part sandy beach, part pebble beach, and equipped with lounge chairs, umbrellas and a couple of shaded cabanas. The beach is also home to the a water sports club which offers a wide range of equipment and courses, and even adrenalin-pumping activities, like flyboarding, SUP, kayaking and jet surfing.
- The resort has been conceived with a particular attention to the environment. It incorporates essential ecological features, including solar energy and photovoltaic panels for electricity. There is also water-recycling which is particularly important in Sicily, where rainfall is concentrated around short periods of the year. Furthermore, there is a no-car policy in the resort in order to preserve the beauty of the landscape. For its superlative design and ecological practices, Verdura Resort was awarded the EHMA Sustainability Award shortly after its completion.
- The resort is named after the Verdura family who once owned the land on which the property exists today. The last Duke of Verdura was a cousin of the renown Italian writer Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa; his masterpiece, the novel The Leopard, can be found in every bedroom. The Leopard chronicles the changes in Sicilian life and society during the Risorgimento (Italian Unification). Published posthumously in 1958 by Feltrinelli, after two rejections by the leading Italian publishing houses Mondadori and Einaudi, it became the top-selling novel in Italian history and is considered one of the most important novels in modern Italian literature.
CONS & THINGS TO KNOW
- The resort is tucked away in what seems like the middle of nowhere, but that is what makes it so unique – secluded, quiet and serene with its own private beach, great dining options, famous wellness center, and sublime golf courses. Although the isolated location is part of the appeal for most guests, it’s important to emphasize that the resort is removed from almost everything, so you won’t find any restaurants, shops or night life within a 20 minute drive of the hotel.
- In spite of several subtle references to its Sicilian roots, the resort’s modern and minimalist design does not feel very Italian nor Sicilian. Also, the peculiar architecture of the resort – with concrete exteriors and ocher colored low-rise buildings – evokes the ambiance of mid-century modernism which may not appeal to all. Some may even find the look of the resort dated, cold or sterile. However, that isn’t a problem for most guests, who come here to enjoy the excellent facilities at one of Europe’s rare truly five star beach resorts.
- In line with its surroundings, the landscaping at the resort matches Sicily’s barren scenery. However, in some places, it may feel a bit too barren and unfinished. For example there’s an enormous grass lawn between the swimming pool and the beach, which feels somewhat ’empty’ and soulless. IMHO, a Mediterranean garden would have been a better and more creative choice of landscaping here and a great addition to an otherwise excellent resort.
- Composed of fine white sand, the resort’s private beach is artificial and partly rocky towards the water’s edge. However, the presence of rocks is typical on this stretch of the island’s coast, and reflects the property’s respect for Sicily’s untamed nature. Also, on windy days, particularly after the passing of a storm, seaweed may wash up on the shore (although the resort staff is always on hand to quickly remove it).
- The main pool – one of Europe’s largest swimming pools – is a stunning facility. It is surrounded though by an enormous concrete, ocher colored floor, which is in need of a makeover and doesn’t really fit the upscale character of the resort. Also, the pool is surrounded by dozens of tin chairs, which could use some cushions to enhance the comfort of guests.
- The four thermal spa pools are showing some wear and tear. With a little attention these could be brought up to standard pretty easily.
- Location: 8/10
- Design: 8/10
- Pool: 9/10
- Rooms: 8/10
- Food: 9/10
- Breakfast: 8/10
- Spa: 9/10
- Service: 8/10
- Value for money: 8/10
- Overall experience: very good – 8/10
TIPS FOR FUTURE GUESTS & SAVE MONEY
- Save money: get complimentary VIP perks when booking via Virtuoso (e.g. upgrade, daily breakfast, early check-in, late check-out, and 85 Euros food & beverage credit).
- Save money: read here my tips for getting the best deal at a luxury hotel like Verdura Resort & Spa (and/or receive many free perks).
- Read my tips for preparing your trip in time.
BEST TIME TO VISIT
The best time to visit Sicily is from May to June or September to October. These late spring and early fall months are both considered shoulder seasons, and offer comfortable temperatures and mostly sunny days, ideal for temple gazing, beach lazing or hiking. If you book a July or August vacation, you’ll have to deal with lots of crowds, high prices and the hottest temperatures of the year.
HOW TO GET THERE
Verdura Resort is 90 min by car from Palermo Airport (transfers can be arranged by the hotel). Click here for a constantly updated list of airlines that offer direct flights to Palermo. The resort has a helicopter landing pad so direct service via helicopter is also possible.
*** Follow me on Instagram, YouTube, Twitter or Facebook for a daily moment of travel inspiration ***
I have to say, this resort is by far my least favorite in recent months if not overall on your channel. The overall design feels empty and cold, and as you said in your cons, doesn’t resemble what i would expect from Sicily or Italy. Around the pool area you feel like on a tarmac (airport apron), the beach is disappointing and the whole surroundings looks like a construction site with palms in it. The room looks also empty and cold, poor entertainment systems and strange placed furniture. I have only stayed once at a Rocco Forte and it was nothing like this.