If peace is what you’re after, look no further than Country House Villadorata, a transformed 19h-century farmhouse perched among Noto’s rolling hills. Spread across 25 acres of olive, almond, carob and citrus groves, this is a place that embodies everything that is great about Sicily and her people; warm and hospitable with a deep respect for Mother Nature. Spend your days soaking up mineral salts in the palm-flanked pool, sampling artful variations of nonna’s classics in the restaurant, or head to the wine cellar to swish and swill your way through the hotel’s own biodynamic vino.
11am, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 2pm.
Double rooms from £414.96 (€484), including tax at 10 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional local city tax of €5.00 per person per night on check-out.
Rates include a Continental breakfast of local products in the restaurant. Or, for an additional charge, have breakfast come to you.
There is one wheelchair-accessible Deluxe Room available for those with mobility issues.
Country House Villadorata opens annually from April to October.
At the hotel
Free on-site parking, vast gardens, laundry service (at a charge), guided tours (on request) and free Wifi throughout. In rooms: Nespresso coffee machine, beach towels and sun umbrellas, yoga mat and block, plug adaptors, Officine Villadorata bath products (made with home-grown olive oil) and a Smart TV.
Our favourite rooms
We love the cubic design of the Eco Rooms, not to mention the floor-to-ceiling windows and private plunge pool, but if you’re looking to splurge, the Pool Suites offer the most bang for your buck with a private swimming pool, super-high ceilings and a huge square bath tub built into the bathroom floor with views of the rolling hills to keep you company as you soak.
While Pool Suites and Eco rooms come with their own private plunge pool, the bulk of the action is centred around Aqua Madre, the hotel’s L-shaped splash spot, which, as well as being surrounded by leafy palms and loungers, is filled with mineral salts known to ease all kinds of ills from inflammation to arthritis. Failing that, a trio of cocktails works just as well, and luckily for you, the pool bar is open daily from 11am to 6pm.
There’s no spa, but massages and private beauty treatments can be arranged in your room, on request.
Leave space for a couple of bottles of the estate’s hand-made olive oil. With a flavour so light and buttery, it’s the only salad dressing you’ll ever need.
Leave the little ones at home: Country House Villadorata only accepts children aged 14 and up.
Sustainability is a serious business at Country House Villadorata, which has taken great strides in recent years to reduce its C02 emissions by installing solar panels and implementing osmosis systems. The estate follows biodynamic principles, which means no nasty pesticides or fertilisers, resulting in tasty, nutrient-dense produce which the kitchen uses whenever possible. Anything else is sourced from the neighbouring organic farm and local fishermen. Nothing goes to waste, either, with leftover fruit used in juices, extracts and candies. What’s more, Chef Viviana Varese and her team work alongside social co-operatives including Si Puo Fare in Noto and Eta Beta of Bologna, both of which help disadvantaged locals gain meaningful employment.
Head to the terrace, which surveys Country House’s carpet of greenery below.
Dress up your airy white linens with a bold red lip… you’re in Sicily, after all.
Dynamic chef Viviana Varese has been cited as a vision of modern Italy thanks to her creative, contemporary take on Italian classics, and after dinner at W Villadorata, the hotel’s fine-dining restaurant, you’ll understand why. With a focus on fresh fish and vegetables, the kitchen uses what it can from the produce grown on the estate, and works closely with local farmers and fishermen for what they can’t. Because of attention to seasonality, the menu changes every month or so, but you can expect dishes like fish-of-the-day carpaccio made with wild herb salmoriglio and fermented salted lemon and tagliolini made with with Timilia wheat and served with pistachio, orange and tuna bottarga. We recommend the tasting menu (vegetarian options are also available) where each dish is artfully presented and well-versed servers can provide excellent pairings.
During the day, head to the pool bar for a post-paddle pick-me-up. In the evening, things get a little more formal at the restaurant bar. Expect an extensive list of local and international wines, Sicilian spirits and homemade cocktails. After a long day of lounging, the signature Villadorata gin and tonic goes down a treat with its addition of fresh lemon or orange juice pressed on the estate.
Breakfast runs from 8am to 10.30am. Lunch is served from 12.30pm to 2pm and dinner from 7pm through to 9.30pm. The pool bar is open daily from 11am to 6pm.
Available from 8am to 9:30pm and subject to an additional charge.
You’ll find Country House Villadorata sitting pretty among fields of olive and almond trees, a 10-minute drive outside of the baroque town of Noto.
Catania’s Fontanarossa Airport is just over an hour’s drive away, with flights arriving from all over Europe and the US. Domestic travellers can also fly into Comiso in Ragusa, around 70 kilometres west of the hotel. With 24 hours’ notice, the hotel can arrange transfers (from €160 each way, depending on the number of guests).
Italy may not be well known for exceptional public transport, but navigating the south-east of Sicily by train is surprisingly painless. Noto station is just a 10-minute drive away from Country House Villadorata. Transfers can be arranged for around €40 each way.
Wheels will allow you to speed things up when daytripping around south-eastern Sicily’s baroque triangle, and there’s free on-site parking for guests.
Worth getting out of bed for
Sicily is all about slow living, and there’s plenty of that to be getting on with here. When, or rather if, you tire of sipping Aperol spritz from a poolside lounger, sign up for a cooking lesson, salute the Sicilian sun in a morning yoga class or put your sommelier hat on and join a wine-tasting session in the cellar. The walking tour of the estate will delight dendrophiles, with every kind of dolce-vita grove from olive and almond to carob and citrus. And, with Noto’s centro storico just a 15-minute drive away, it’d be silly not to indulge her honey-hued charms with a visit or two. In 1693, a devastating earthquake toppled the town – and around 70 of her neighbours. When it came to rebuilding the city, great baroque architects left no gargoyle or plump-faced cherub unturned. The city is awash with curvy, terracotta stone, willowy, wrought-iron balconies, buttressed with all kinds of fantastical embellishments. The hotel’s sister property Seven Rooms Villadorata can be found in Noto’s largest palazzo, the 16th-century residence of Prince Nicolaci, whose balconies are among the most photographed on the island with their carved lions, sphinxes and hippogriffs. The historic centre is almost perfectly symmetrical so it’s easy to navigate and you can tell the churches from the municipal buildings based on height alone – the former towering directly over the latter atop two, three, even four flights of stairs. A reminder of who held the power, not to mention the sheer volume of them. Yes, Noto has 33 churches in total, but our favourites have to be Chiesa Madonna del Carmine and the awe-inspiring Basilica di San Nicolò. Fans of design should make a beeline for Palazzo Castelluccio, an 18th-century palace masterfully restored to its former glory with interiors that seem like they’ve been conjured by the Sicilian lovechild of Sofia Coppola and Wes Anderson. Follow it up with a spot of retail therapy at Venerabili Ragazze, where you’ll find the hotel’s own brand of soaps and potions, Officine Villadorata, for sale alongside funky homewares and artisan accessories. By train, you’re in easy reach of the island’s other baroque belles too, sample the Aztec-inspired chocolate of Modica, trace the steps of Montalbano in Scicli and taste your way round foodie favourite, Ragusa. Or, if you’ve a car, Vendicari Nature Reserve, San Lorenzo or Isola delle Correnti are some of the most serene spots in south-east Italy to top-up your tan.
At the side of Palazzo Nicolaci in the centre of Noto’s old town, Viva Il Bistro is the place to be for stylish cocktails and a modern menu of Sicilian favourites. The setting is cool and contemporary with abstract artworks and neons lining the walls, but it’s Chef Ida Brenna’s menu that steals the show here with dishes like fried pizza, tomatoes and Sicilian stracciatella; roasted octopus with mango brunoise, chilli pepper and lime; or maccheroni with white genovese ragout, raw red tuna and wild fennel. Otherwise, Anche Gli Angeli is one of Noto’s most beloved trattorias and chicest LGBTQ spot. Housed in an 18th-century crypt (an admittedly unlikely spot for a lively evening), the restaurant makes a fine place to cool off after a day of sun-worshipping. Chef Giovanni combines contemporary techniques and time-honoured tradition in his best-of-Sicily menu, which features the likes of anchovies in lemon leaves, sardine lollipops, and linguine alle vongole with Bronte pistachios, Noto almonds and white-wine sauce.
There aren’t many cafés that could survive two World Wars and a pandemic, but Caffè Sicilia has, and she’s still going strong at the ripe old age of 124. Now helmed by fourth-generation pastry chef Corrado Assenza, the recently renovated pasticceria draws international gourmands with its almond-milk granita, cannoli filled with mousse-light ricotta and liquor-soaked cassata topped with candied fruit.
Ritrovino is a petite wine bar tucked up a side street near Noto’s royal gate. Here, you’ll find a great selection of classic Sicilian grapes alongside funkier alternatives from some of the region’s up-and-coming winemakers. And Enoteca Il Brillo Parlante is worth the 10-minute stoll from the historical centre for its curated selection of Sicilian wines and accompanying charcuterie.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this back-to-the-land hotel in Noto and unpacked their estatee-made olive oil and hand-crafted Officine Villadorata soaps, a full account of their bucolic break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside Country House Villadorata in Noto…
Ah Sicily, this island of the sun boasts more annual rays than anywhere else in Europe. The flowers are brighter, the vegetables bigger, and the men, well, need we say more? But nature is especially abundant at Country House Villadorata, a sustainably minded stay with olive, almond, carob and citrus groves spread across 25 green acres. Once a crumbling 19th-century farmhouse, the hotel has been nurtured back to good health by owner Cristina Summa, whose keen eye for design can be gleaned throughout the estate’s stylish suites and contemporary-cool interiors. Here, the focus is all about simplicity – a home-grown meal cooked to perfection, say – and the beauty of life’s small moments. Spend your days recharging to the soundtrack of rustling palms, gazing over softly rolling hills as you uncork a bottle of the hotel’s own biodynamic wines or have your maladies mended with a soak in the freshwater pool filtered with mineral salts. And, if you tire of the simple life, Noto’s baroque splendour is just a short drive away.