There’s a new spot to visit on your next trip to Sicily – perfectly placed near Syracuse, elegant Donna Coraly Resort is a peaceful bolthole for the weary traveller
Echoing the white-topped slopes of Sicily’s majestic Etna, glimpsed as we sped away from the bustle of Catania, drifts of snowy white roses fringe the approach to Donna Coraly Resort, where the sleek lines of the wide verandah offer shelter from the glorious Sicilian sun. And there’s an even warmer welcome from charismatic Lucia Pascarelli, our charming hostess and owner of this sophisticated Sicilian hideaway set among the fragrant orange groves and farmland of Cassibile in the Syracuse countryside.
Just an hour’s drive from Catania airport, this tiny oasis of calm known as the Donna Coraly Resort forms part of the family-run San Michele estate. Steeped in 600 years of history, echoes of the past include a moat and La Fortezza watchtower; while in more recent times, a simple stone in the bowered gardens marks the moment when the estate played host to the signing of the World War II armistice between the Allies and the Italians on the 3rd of September 1943.
A sense of place
The resort is inspired by Lucia’s grandmother, Coraly Grande Sinatra, a great patron of the arts and supporter of women’s rights in the 20th century. Lucia undertook the extensive restoration to bring back some of the elegance and repose of bygone days and you can see her personal touches everywhere you go. With just five individually designed suites around the covered terrace, this is certainly a place that invites you to kick back and relax.
Air-conditioned and wifi-ready (if you really must), the rooms are sumptuous and spacious, with dramatic Caltagirone ceramics, vivid blue and gold hand-painted tiles, contemporary art, restful white walls, and carefully chosen pieces of antique furniture. Walk-in wardrobes and generously stocked bathrooms (Ortigia bath goodies, towelling robes, even toothpaste and razors) cosset you further into relax mode.
Fling open the French windows onto delightfully secret gardens, one for each suite, where you can take breakfast and gaze across the lush, jasmine-scented gardens, musing on your options for the fresh new day.
A treatment at the resort’s own spa ‘Cocoti’, a dip in the outdoor pool or a wander around the estate – the choice is yours. A stroll around the botanical gardens reveals an array of unusual tropical plants – spot the crabbed Hand of Buddha and Sicilian quince nestling among the olive and citrus trees, while the aromatic kitchen garden is full of fresh herbs and vegetables for the chef’s table.
Further afield, there’s the baroque splendour of Noto, rebuilt after a devastating earthquake in 1693. With cream-hued stone buildings (which turn subtle shades of pink in the right light) and broad piazzas, it’s a beautiful place.
An equally elegant spot is the island city of Ortigia near Syracuse. Off the beaten track, exquisite Marzamemi, a traditional fishing village with excellent restaurants is not far away either, as is the spectacular Vendicari nature reserve. An oasis of coast and hinterland, there is much history to discover here as well as prolific wildlife like flamingo and stork.
Chic and subtle
In such an immaculate setting, expect nothing but amazing food (breakfast is included, lunch and dinner on request): abundant fruit and vegetables come from that extensive, organic kitchen garden, olive oil and cheese are made here and as much of the produce is sourced as locally as possible.
In-house chef Max will create his menu from whatever the market has to offer that day and you can enjoy an aperitivo with Lucia as the sun goes down before you are served Sicilian fare like pasta alla Norma, seafood, cannoli and cassata on the terrace, or in your private garden
Perfectly placed for exploring the wider area or for a short break, Donna Coraly Resort is a fusion of its illustrious Sicilian heritage with modern comfort and style in a tranquil setting: a sophisticated slice of la dolce vita for the independent traveller to Sicily.
What to see and do:
Vendicari Nature reserve
Around half an hour’s drive south along the coast, this tranquil nature reserve is beckoning. It has so much to offer the dedicated hiker or the Sunday walker, with three itineraries covering different aspects of the park, from beautiful beaches like Calamosche to the archeological treasures of the Byzantine catacombs and La Tonnara. The snorkelling is superb in the crystal waters and birdwatching is a must.
Head to www.vendicari.net
Caltagirone and the Teste di Moro
Most towns in the area will have souvenir ceramics for sale, but the most famous and best quality come from Caltagirone, especially the ceramic flower pots shaped like ornate heads. These ‘Moorish Heads’, or Teste di Moro, hark back to the Muslim occupation of Sicily from the 9th to the 11th century. The Moors introduced the art of majolica ceramics and these fancy planters were traditionally used to decorate gateposts and gardens, although they are more usually found indoors these days.
The greek theatre of syracuse
The Teatro Greco amphitheatre in Syracuse is one of the largest ever built. Dating from 500BC, you’ll find it in Syracuse’s Neapolis Archeological Park – a site full of many historic treasures and well worth a visit. Greek playwrights would stage their latest works here and it is still used for open-air performances in May and June, as well as music concerts in the summer months.
Contact: +39 0931 487248 or go to www.indafondazione.org
Teatro Greco, Parco Archeologico della Neapolis, Viale Paradiso, 1 – Syracuse