An hour’s drive from Catania airport, with breath-taking views over the undulating Sicilian countryside, lies the exquisite Donna Coraly, a luxury resort privately owned by one Lucia Pascarelli. The 600-year-old estate, which has been in Lucia’s family for generations, is steeped in history and even boasts a 14th century watchtower and private family chapel, but of the most historical prominence is that this is where the Armistice was signed on 3rd September 1943.
While walking around the exquisitely cultivated grounds allows you to be fully immersed in a feeling of time gone by, the resort is first and foremost a luxury hotel, exemplifying the very epitome of opulence. The five spacious suites are cleverly styled with an expert interior designer’s eye using the finest of fabrics, all of which are locally sourced to give that authentic Sicilian touch, and are each distinguished by a beautiful hand-painted tiled mosaic in the centre of the room. The design aesthetic creates the perfect balance of history and modernity in each suite, ensuring a truly luxurious and indulgent stay.
Of course, this being Sicily, no suite would be complete without the furnishing of one of the iconic Teste di Moro pots that are so evocable of the island. For the uninitiated – so the story goes – a spurned Sicilian woman beheaded her Moorish lover after he revealed he intended to leave her in order to return to his wife and children, and turned his decapitated head into a plant pot. The pots of today are of the ceramic rather than human variety, and are found right across Sicily.
For those more interested in the provenance of their pasta than the heritage of the hotel, a daily-changing seasonal menu of farm-fresh, locally sourced produce will ensure food connoisseurs are well catered for. Pasta, bread, olive oil and wine are all homemade daily on site, while an abundant fruit and vegetable garden means that nature’s larder keeps the kitchen busy with ingredients plucked as needed for breakfasts, lunches and dinners.
This secluded, sun-drenched resort is the perfect place to while away the days, indulging in all-out relaxation. Situated at the centerpiece of the lush gardens is a thermal spring pool with “i sali della vita” – essential micro mineral salts that leave the skin wonderfully hydrated and are known to strengthen the immune system. After a reviving dip, pull out one of the white sun loungers that line the pool, or seek refuge from the sun’s rays under the white, canopied gazebo, and immerse yourself in pure tranquility. The resort even has an in-house therapist based at the on-site wellness oasis, offering massages on demand.
If you can bear to tear yourself away from all the tranquility at Donna Coraly, Lucia will organise bespoke experiences for guests, ranging from a trip to the Baroque town of Noto for a piano concerto, to Ortigia to listen to opera at the historic Greek amphitheatre, or a boat trip around the Southern coastline of Syracuse.
Alternatively, laze by the beautiful beach of San Lorenzo, or if you’re feeling particularly adventurous, Mount Etna is around an hour’s drive away. Closer to the resort, Marzamemi is one of the island’s prettiest seaside villages, well worth a visit for its old town centre, most of which dates back to the 18th century. Since the village makes much of its earnings from fishing, the seafood restaurants are arguably among the best in Sicily – we’ve certainly never had a bad meal here.
On your way back to Donna Coraly from Marzamemi, be sure to stop at Vendicari, a nature reserve established some thrity-five years ago, set out over 1500 hectares of unspoilt natural beauty. The breathtaking landscape is made up of long, golden beaches, punctuated by dramatic rocky cliffs. Twitchers can even watch flamingoes and herons up-close from one of the observation cabins.
Meanwhile, the annual Infiorata (where flowers carpet the street, stretching up the road as far as the eye can see) is held in the town of Noto on the third weekend of May every year – something to plan for next year….
Donna Coraly is a space to indulge in quiet luxury and unrivalled service – and trust us, Lucia will have you plotting your next trip back before you’ve even left….
For more information, and to book a stay at Donna Coraly Resort, go to www.donnacoraly.it.