- Lee Marshall, Destination expert
It’s halfway between Taormina and Catania, high up on the eastern skirts of Etna, where ancient bush-trained vines spring out of the dark, lava-rich soil on drystone terraces. It’s well-placed both for days by the beach and guided treks in the Etna crater zone.
Style & character
Families who owned land on Etna’s fertile slopes would move out in the summer from Catania into ochre-washed palmento buildings – a combination of wine press and estate house. Guido Coffa’s ravishing boutique hotel centres on one such old palmento, restored with a real eye for detail and a respect for traditional materials, with floors in Etna chestnut or cocciopesto (lime mortar constellated with crushed terracotta). The mood is adventurous barefoot eco-chic, with the looming volcano conferring a special energy.
Service & facilities
This is very much of the place; not always polished, but friendly and certainly genuine. One of only three Eco-Bio certified hotels in Sicily, Monaci delle Terre Nere takes its eco-remit seriously – so don’t expect to find single-use bathroom amenities: all products (chemical-free, of course) are simply topped up when they run low.
The 13 rooms in the main house and a series of outbuildings are stylish dens, some with wood-burning stoves, exposed lavastone walls and weathered ceiling beams (like the theatrical Amabile suite), others fresh and bright, with contemporary artworks playing off against Sicilian antiques. The ‘Dependance’ suites give onto lawns and the estate’s extensive kitchen gardens and orchards, with plants carefully labelled. Rooms have no televisions or phones – a deliberate choice, as the experience is all about tuning into nature. Fireplaces in many rooms reflect the fact that this is one of the few Sicilian country hotels that is open all year.
Your passport to a better trip
Food & drink
Much of the food served at breakfast or dinner in the handsome, artsy in-house restaurant is grown right on the estate, and the part that isn’t is carefully sourced from smaller, mostly organic producers. At dinner, the approach is refined but local, with creative takes on peasant dishes. Owner Coffa is an authority on the upcoming Etna wine scene, which you can explore via his excellent wine list, or on a tasting visit of the nearby Benanti winery.
Value for money
Out-of-season base prices may seem affordable, but for the roomier suites in high season you’re looking at around €320 (£255) a night. However, this is one of the most stylish rural hotels in the whole of Sicily, and demand is correspondingly high even at these rates.
Access for guests with disabilities?