Farmhouse in the olive groves
Coast into country
Get this when you book through us:
A bottle of Mandranova extra-virgin olive oil
Rates from (inc tax)$240.42 If you haven’t entered any dates, the rate shown is provided directly by the hotel and represents the cheapest double room (including tax) available in the next 21 days. Prices have been converted from the hotel’s local currency (21EUR), via openexchangerates.org, using today’s exchange rate.
If you haven’t entered any dates, the rate shown is provided directly by the hotel and represents the cheapest double room (including tax) available in the next 21 days.
Prices have been converted from the hotel’s local currency (21EUR), via openexchangerates.org, using today’s exchange rate.
Farmhouse in the olive groves
Coast into country
Get this when you book through us:
A bottle of Mandranova extra-virgin olive oil
13, including four suites.
11am – though later check-out may be possible, availability permitting. Earliest check-in, 2pm; however, the reception closes at 7pm so it's not possible to check in after this time.
Double rooms from $240.42 (€214), excluding tax at 10 per cent.
If you haven’t entered any dates, the rate shown is provided directly by the hotel and represents the cheapest double room (including tax) available in the next 21 days. Prices have been converted from the hotel’s local currency (EUR235.00), via openexchangerates.org, using today’s exchange rate.
Prices have been converted from the hotel’s local currency (EUR235.00), via openexchangerates.org, using today’s exchange rate.
Rates include breakfast.
La Robazza and Il Casello apartments can both be rented as self-catering properties by the week, but they’re used on a B&B basis during peak season. Visit between September and November if you want to catch the olive harvest, although tours of the groves and press can be arranged all year. A new addition to Azienda Agricola Mandranova's offerings is classes in olive-oil soap making: classes cost €20 a person, including soap.
Library of books, music and films, pool table. In rooms: air-conditioning, bottled water and bath products by Culti; flatscreen TVs in suites. There’s no WiFi, but an internet point is available between 9am and 11 am every morning.
L’Oliva is a deluxe two-bedroom suite big enough for three, with a huge cosy sitting room, a small single bedroom and two bathrooms (shower in one, tub in the other). It’s beautifully tiled, with a quartz and cement floor and an antique bed adorned with carved cherubs with a rich maroon coverlet. Rooms in the newest building are closest to the road – avoid these if you are sensitive to the occasional car horn or rush of traffic.
The little square little infinity pool (once an irrigation tank) looks down over the olive trees and fields beyond from its hillside perch above the farm. The violet-tinted water does wonders for the skin, thanks to its high sulphur content.
It’s more a case of what not to pack. Travel light as you’ll want to bring home as much of Mandranova’s home-made pistachio pesto or olive-oil soap from your soap-making class as possible.
There’s a two-night minimum stay. The restaurant and one dedicated suite are wheelchair-accessible. The hotel is perched by a main road, so you might hear some occasional traffic noise.
Though the hotel is geared towards adults, kids are welcome. Baby cots are free, and older children can stay on a sofa bed in the suites for €25 a night (including breakfast). Babysitting (€10 an hour) and children’s menus are available on request.
The Mandranova restaurant is where co-owner Silvia serves up traditional Sicilian dishes such as torta di mandorle (almond cake) and timballo di anelletti (Sicilian ring pasta with peas and aubergine), all made with fresh-from-the-garden ingredients. Don’t be surprised if the hotel’s dogs settle by your feet throughout the meal.
There’s no actual bar, but guests can take aperitivi and digestivi until 11pm in the two living rooms or on one of the stylish mint-green plastic sofas set in the gardens.
The restaurant stops serving at 8.30pm; the last glasses of local wine are poured around midnight.
Tapenade, local cheeses, Sicilian wines, bread and, of course, olive oil can be brought to your room between 9am and 8pm.
Flights from London Stansted, Brussels Charleroi and Rome Ciampino arrive at Comiso Airport (www.soaco.it), which is a 90-minute drive from the hotel. The hotel is also two and a half hours from the airports in Catania and Palermo. From Catania, Etna Transport (www.etnatrasporti.it) runs buses to Licata, which is 25 minutes from the hotel.
The nearest train station is in Licata, a 20-minute drive from the hotel. It’s possible to get to the Italian mainland without leaving your train; the carriages simply load onto a ferry across the Strait of Messina. See Trenitalia (www.trenitalia.com) for train times and prices, but railways don’t cover the whole island.
The hotel is along the E931, 40 minutes from the city of Agrigento and three and a half hours from Etna National Park. There's valet parking. You can pick up a hire car at Comiso Airport.
Spice up your culinary skills with the hotel's cookery class (€60) – Silvia will discuss the menu with you the day before and take you through all the steps in preparing it, using locally sourced ingredients and garden-grown vegetables. For ocean-bound fun, ride the Tornado – Mandranova's 38-foot boat – along the coastline, stopping at an island for lunch and spotting dolphins on the way, before returning to Port Licati to take in the daily fish market.
Half an hour down the coast in the little port of Licata is one of Sicily’s culinary headliners; La Madia has netted a twinset of Michelin stars thanks to homegrown chef Pino Cuttaia, whose punchy, playful menu draws from his childhood memories of the area. Pine-cone-smoked fish is one of his most flavoursome signatures (+39 09 2277 1443; ristorantelamadia.it). Nearby, L’Oste e il Sacrestano is much more down-to-earth; a family-run trattoria serving simple, home-made pasta, straight-from-the-sea fish dishes, and a wide-ranging selection of Sicilian wine (+39 09 2277 4736). In Agrigento, Spizzulio is a lovely little wine bar with more than 300 different bottles in its cellar, as well as lots of local cheeses and cured meats (+39 09 222 0712).
There’s an Italian restaurant near my house that comes with its own ‘Shakey Hand Man’. Few things better symbolise Italian hospitality; his sole job, it seems, is to greet visitors with a warm handshake and a beaming grin. It makes you feel happy. Likewise, as we roll up the drive of Azienda Agricola Mandranova, our hotel in Sicily, a gentleman approaches us with a beckoning grip and the kind of magnanimous smile that provokes almost instant soppiness. We discover he is Giuseppe and I get a sudden urge to ask him to be my uncle.
If I had a pound for every hotel I’ve Googled upon with a guffy line exclaiming ‘home away from home!’, I wouldn’t be a journalist any more. But this Italian retreat nails it. It’s the smiling Giuseppe upon arrival that sets the tone, letting guests know that they matter. Although there are a handful of other cars in the drive, variously hired at Catania or Palermo airports, we can’t see anyone else.
One of the perks of the Mandranova’s semi-isolated location on Sicily’s southern coast is the obligatory adventure en route. Italian motorways are some of the best in the business. While other roads dip and dive tracing the undulation of the land, here they follow a remarkably level course. At various points you find yourself careering into mid-air supported by gargantuan pillars as the parched Sicilian countryside sprawls beneath you. Moments later you are ploughing through mountains, emerging on the verge of dramatic escarpments coated with terraced vineyards. We get rather carried away. The basic directions instruct us to turn left somewhere near the southern coast. Mesmerised, we opt for an hour-long, three-point turn around southwestern Sicily.
And when we arrive… that smile. Giuseppe takes us on a brief tour of this magnificent farmhouse property. Blanketing the hefty acreage are thousands of the olive trees that yield Mandranova’s prize-winning oil. Whereas other corners of this island can seem scorched and lava-scarred, here there is an almost lush richness. The farmhouse is the centrepiece; an imposing white-walled building staggered in height and arranged with a distinct geometric beauty – a softer take, perhaps, on the ancient Parthenon at Agrigento, half an hour to the west of the property.
Our tour ends abruptly when we reach the swimming pool. Perched above the hotel on a hill, it is dug from the rock around it; a natural water storage tank inherited from the Moors. From here we can see the farmhouse poking above the landscaped foliage sprinkled around the pool. Beyond that, cascades of olive groves amble down hillsides in glorious non-uniformity, framed by craggy peaks and soft cambers – the Sicilian countryside has the beautiful ability to roll and jut almost simultaneously. We notice the sun making a break for the horizon, and then notice a couple deckchairs by the pool. Guiseppe, you’ve been great, but we must loaf. We fetch a bottle of fruity Bacca Rossa red from the house, the first of many, and recline with happy grins on our faces.
As the evening arrives, Mandranova’s guests begin to loiter around the stone patio next to the farmhouse. They know what’s coming. Us newbies get involved, and chat gamely with about eight others, lolling around wicker chairs and wrought-iron tables adorned with candlelit lanterns. If you ever need an indication of taste, lighting is the giveaway. This hip hotel has got it. A selection of trees around the terrace are beautifully spotlit from their lower trunks, and golden yellow beams of light soar from the base of the farmhouse, dissolving as they reach the upper storeys.
Giuseppe drifts from table to table, charming pants off. His English has an almost lyrical quality. His favourite word is ‘beautiful’, pronounced ‘bee-yoootiful’ in the manner of a pining sigh. Half a dozen tables are laid out in front of the house, with waitresses dipping in and out of the amber glow of the interior dining room, distributing twinkling goblets on the tables. When the guests settle down for dinner, tables are shuffled together, and it starts to feel like a dinner party. We are with a honeymooning couple and a middle-aged pair who say ‘cool’ a lot.
And then the scoop. Giuseppe might be the face of the operation, but his wife Sylvia is the mastermind, plotting a gastronomic tour de force from the kitchen. First up is perfectly al dente thin penne in pesto. Next is swordfish baked and basted to disintegrate on your tongue. Almost everything is lubricated with the best olive oil I have ever tasted, borne of trees a few hundred yards from our tables. I could drink the stuff neat. Then chocolate cake, subtly spiked with chilli for a gorgeous, light heat. And, of course, lots of wine. Giuseppe and Silvia’s two teenage sons help serve up. Predictably, they are both dreamboats, studying economics in Palermo when not matching Silvia recipe for recipe. Take them home to your mother. The family and guests josh and chat and get drunk. It really does feel like you are having supper at a friend’s rather spectacular house.
Our cups runneth over, and we retire to bed. Like the rest of the hotel, our room isn’t ostentatious, instead it is charming and elegant in a very simple way; buzzspeak would have it as ‘rustic chic’. Old wooden doors open onto restored majolica floors under beamed ceilings. Tiled showers with superb rainfall heads. Crisp stucco walls and cherry-wood beds. That’s the secret formula. A grinning Giuseppe upon arrival, ceramic tiles and exposed wood, tastefully illuminated trees, perfectly al dente pasta. Italian hospitality at its best: simple things done very, very well.
The room (Cerasuola is quiet, large and simply but beautifully decorated), the spectacular setting amongst olive groves and an African-inspired garden, the communal dinners (the food is some of the best in the area), the relaxed hosts who allow you to go to the kitchen whenever you want a glass of vino or something to eat, the many gorgeous seating areas inside and out to read a book or have a drink, the peace and the laid back guests. If you want to experience an interesting 2 star michelin meal in a random super modern interior restaurant in the middle of an old town, try La Madia. The Temples of Agrigento. If super hot, go at night. Very beautiful all lit up. The Villa Romana del Casale to see the unforgettable mosaics, ask Host Sylvie for directions to Cala del Re, a beautiful beach with a fabulous restaurant. She will reserve an umbrella for you.
Pampering or fawning hosts. They assume you will treat the place like your own house and you only really see them at dinner. Room service (they do have coffee and tea in the rooms), a large pool area, "activities" or 5 star facilities. This is a very relaxed country house where guests entertain themselves or just relax.
Beautiful evening meals cooked by Sylvie and staff.
Wifi is only available on outside terraces, not good if you are staying on a cold wet night! Staff are keen to help if you can find them. You have to go to the kitchen to get milk for tea and coffee or a drink in the evening where you seem to be interrupting the chefs.
Olive grove farm setting, olive oil, traditional home cooked Sicilian dinner
In room bar or lively nights
The ambiance of being on a working olive growing farm. Close to theValley of theTemples but definitely not the city of Agregento which was downright ugly. The owners were present to greet new guests. Beautiful and extensive landscaping surrounding the compound. Olive trees as far as one could see. Attentive staff although, they probably need a few more people from time to time. We were there during the olive harvest late September so it is the most busy time of the year. A very sophisticated we'll run place overall. Go to Valley of the Temples in Agregento, the reason we stayed at Mandranova. We all felt that it was our favoriteplace among the six hotels or agroturismos in Sicily and not too expensive.
To find it on your first attempt. Tricky directions but once we found our way it was fine.
The food in the evening was great, all cooked in the kitchen by the owners or by a team who came for cooking classes. The owners are absolutely lovely people; good luck to them. Go to the beaches in local natural reserves, close to Agrigento. Also you must go to Valle dei Templi – something out of this world! (If in summer, be prepared for heat - take a parasol or umbrella to protect yourself from the burning sun. All worth it though!)
Fridge in the room or all around bar: you have to go to the kitchen to ask for a glass of wine. Also, if you want to stay after dinner, I felt under pressure a bit to go to the room as the staff have to switch off lights. Be prepared, you are actually on a olive farm, which may be nice surprise for some and nasty surprise for others. I didn't personally like the landscape around and the noise of highway close by.
Breakfast, hospitality, dinner.
Luxury appointments in the rooms, and, outside, there's some noise from the nearby highway.
The tranquility of the rooms, the garden and the location of the property. The family went out of their way to ensure guests had the best stay possible.
It to be easy to find, but one of the family happily came and found me.
The location the food the style and decor Owners very nice and friendly
Lovely dinner in the garden
The location is great with only a 15 min drive to the beach. The cookery class is great fun and the owners are really hospitable. Sky movies in English was a pleasant surprise in the room.
You do need to have a car if you want to go exploring. The WiFi only works between 9-11 so you need to have data roaming if you need Internet access.
The gorgeous food, the beautiful food and Giseppe is the best host - such fun and with great stories. We loved meeting other people from all over the world round the dinner table each night.
Conditioner in the bathroom - and the front of house staff are quite hard to find when you want something.
The warm welcome - after less than a week there we felt like family. Beautiful, delicious fresh food (and LOTS of it) and an utterly relaxing location. We left only once in 6 days and it was idyllic.
Little things like the shower not staying warm for long, toiletries not replenished even though empty, and no safe. Only very minor gripes.