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For over 30 years, Sardatur Holidays have been the leading UK independent tour operator specialising in holiday travel to Italy
It is safe to say that Emperor Frederick II (1194-1250) could confidently take the crown off any king. Sporadic periods between 1198 and 1250 saw him King of Sicily, Germany, Jerusalem and Italy, and whose reign saw the Holy Roman Empire expand to its greatest territorial extent. Yet despite being well-travelled, when asked about where he most desired to live he is reported to have said: "I do not envy God’s paradise because I am so satisfied to live in Sicily." The marvellous and maddening island has over the centuries seen more bodies than a Venetian courtesan; ruled- but never truly conquered- by the Vandals, the Ostrogoths, the Muslim Moors, the Normans, the Bourbons and then reunified into Italy following Garibaldi's and Cavour's Risorgimento It's no wonder Sicilians have developed such a deep sense of separatism – outsiders have tried to rule them for centuries.
Verdura Resort, part of the Rocco Forte Hotels group, is set in a valley of olive groves on the southwest coast of Sicily, close to the seaside town of Sciacca. It is perfectly positioned for visitors to discover Sicily’s UNESCO World Heritage ruins, the rocky mountain ranges, or enjoy the villages along the coast. The south-west of the island where Verdura Resort lies is peacefully serene in comparison to the sliver of Sorrentine coastline. An easy one hour drive from Palermo, guests can also arrive at Verdura Resort via helicopter to the resort's helipad, which has certainly seen its fair share of use – Google hosted its annual three-day camp at the resort, hiring out the temple at Agrigento for a dinner and concert with the likes of Prince Harry, Elton John and Larry Sergey in attendance.
Style & Interiors
Those looking for a traditional Baroque palazzo may want to look elsewhere; the resort plays the minimalist card with few curved lines in sight, and inside is a similar affair - expect earthy modern interiors by Olga Polizzi, Sir Rocco Forte's sister. The location of the resort might just be its winning formula for those truly wanting to escape. The 2km private beach is both beautiful and peaceful and those who want privacy and direct views onto the Med should opt for the Landscape suites – spacious beach-facing apartments which blend in with the contours of the grassy hillocks just back from the coast. The grand suites are particularly decadent, with central courtyards reminiscent of Roman villas.
Likely to have made Emperor Frederick II a very happy man is The Spa. Spreading over 4,000 coolly modernist metres, the Verdura’s standalone wellness centre is probably the top facility in the whole of Sicily, and well up there among Italy’s leading hotel spas. There are numerous programmes to choose from, from Golfer's programmes to skin consultations to complete full-body detoxes, involving nutritionists and hand-picked international staff. All of this indulgent spa treatment, of course, shouldn't take place until you've earned it on one of the resort's 18-hole golf courses (designed by the esteemed Kyle Phillips) or on an adventure to the nearby sites. Those with their brood in tow will also appreciate the facilities and activities on their doorstep. Away from the dedicated clubhouse to children and teens, children aged 5 to 16 can also make the most of Juventus' soccer academy, bicycles and fully qualified carers - an achievement recognised by the travel awards it has won for family-friendliness.
Of course, what trip to Sicily would be complete without food. With no less than five restaurants to choose from, our favourite has to be Amare, where sublimely fresh seafood is served right on the beachfront after a walk across the sand. Order the catch of the day, brought ashore by local fishermen that day, and ask for it served grilled or ‘crudo’, just as they’ve enjoyed it for generations in surrounding Sicilian fishing villages – thinly sliced, anointed with local extra virgin olive oil, juice from citrus fruits grown nearby, and a pinch of rock salt. The food sums up the resort pretty well in fact - simple, elegant, unfussy and above all, life-affirming.
Prices from £1882 per person (prices include: half board accommodation, transfers and return flight from Heathrow); Book a holiday at the Verdura Resort with Sardatur Holidays, click here for your exclusive Luxury London Reader offer if booked before 30th July 2019.