Rocco Forte spent years nurturing Verdura Resort, which his interior-designer sister Olga Polizzi finessed to blend beautifully with the landscape using natural materials. Pardon us comparing one great stay to another, but a word to Aman Junkies looking for luxury kicks in Sicily: get thee to Italy for this spa-enhanced dose of discreet service and setting-complementing architecture.
A total of 203, including 50 suites and three villas.
11am, but flexible, subject to availability. Earliest check-in, 3pm.
Double rooms from £290.94 (€345), including tax at 10 per cent.
Rates include breakfast and use of the spa, beach facilities, golf range and the resort's bicycles. City tax (€3.50 a person, each night, for every guest over 12) is charged at check-out. A half-board supplement for under-12s is available for €43 a day.
Members booking a villa get a host of extras thrown in: return transfers from Palermo of Trapani; two golf carts to use during your stay; a welcome bottle of champagne; a private beach cabana; concierge service; packing and unpacking service; a Jet Lag Reviver experience for two at the spa; and an introduction to Sicily and help planning trips from U Canuscituri, the resort’s authority on the island and its traditions.
At the hotel
Spa and thalassotherapy pools, helipad, gardens, two championship-level 18-hole golf courses and a nine-hole par three course, private beach, fitness studio, salon, free WiFi throughout (high-speed WiFi for an extra charge). In your room: flatscreen TV with satellite channels, pay-per-view films, well-stocked in-room bar, CD and DVD player, and Ortigia toiletries.
Our favourite rooms
Many rooms can interconnect, perfect for larger parties or families; all have sea views. Wooden shutters ensure all light is blocked so it feels like midnight at midday, so no need for troubled sleepers to bring their eye masks.
The spa’s sleek, slate-tiled, 25-metre heated indoor pool is good for cloudier days. The star attraction is the parasol- and lounger-edged, 60-metre outdoor pool, between the private stretch of coast and Verdura’s main building; a lifeguard surveys this pool and the shore all summer. For guests in the spa, there are also heated, mineral-rich thalassotherapy pools overlooking the rolling green grass, olive groves and mountains.
A vision in sand-coloured stone and earthy hues, Verdura Spa is a stand-alone sanctuary at the heart of the resort, with a museum-proportioned hammam, sophisticated relaxation areas and a juice bar. This Sicilian luxury spa takes a holistic approach to wellbeing, with an extensive menu of treatments infused with organic Sicilian plant oils and extracts that promise to promote anti-ageing, detoxification and fitness. Book a couples massage in one of the double treatment suites, and be sure to pop in the steam room and Finnish sauna.
Tennis kit will be handy if you fancy a whirl on the courts. Bring comfortable outdoor footwear to take advantage of the jogging, trekking and cycling trails that meander through the resort’s olive, orange and lemon trees.
Many of the fitness classes take place outdoors, such as Sunset and Sunrise Yoga.
Very welcome. The Kids' Club (for four to 12s) is free and there's a nursery for under-threes (€20 an hour or €60 for four hours and €115 for six). Babysitting costs €24 an hour until midnight and €30 an hour after that.
It’s the usual seaside shtick here: you may like to sit by the window for a lovely view.
Since this is a luxury resort in Italy you can expect guests to look elegant and groomed – so unless your jeans are Armani, maybe don’t do totally casual if you want to fit in.
Buon Giorno is the chic but casual main dining room where a sprawling buffet breakfast is available 7am–10.30am. La Zagara offers sophisticated Mediterranean dining 7.30pm–10.30pm: reserve a table on its terrace in balmy months. Amare is the Olga Polizzi-styled beachside restaurant open in summer, with fresh Mediterranean favourites and barbecued seafood, and folding glazing for the best views. Families will love the pizzeria, Liolà, Verdura’s colourful take on a traditional local trattoria and a golf-buggy-ride away at the in-resort ersatz village Torre Verdura.
Depending on the time of day and year, the pool bar is a charming spot for a tipple. Granita is the glossy lounge bar on the same level as reception, which as glamorous as it is, still welcomes families graciously. Off-season this is where to order lunch. During the summer months the Torre Bar is a wonderful place for drink; sit outside and you may hear dulcet notes drifting over from the piazzetta by the tower, where local musicians add a little extra heart and soul. Drinks from the Pool Bar can be delivered directly to your chaise-longue, as can salads, sandwiches and burgers. Open in summer, the Beach Bar is the place for a frosty drink or a post-watersports apéritif. The Spa Bar serves vitamin-packed cocktails created with fresh fruit and vegetables and light healthy dishes.
Drinks served until 1am. Liolà is open from April–October.
Classic pasta dishes and more substantial favourites from the main menu can be wheeled to your own room, with your meal set up at a linen-topped tablecloth on your terrace making it feel like a true extension of the restaurant.
Palermo airport is 134 kilometres away from the hotel, which is approximately 80 minutes away by car.
Sticking to the main roads, drive to Sciaccia and then there's a 10-minute drive to the hotel where there's free valet parking.
The hotel can arrange a helicopter transfer service.
Worth getting out of bed for
The fitness studio has daily classes, including Pilates and yoga for €25 a person. Watersports, including scuba diving, stand-up paddle-boarding, knee-boarding and kayaking, can be arranged from the jetty. Or hire one of the resort's boats for a trip to Torre Salsa, Scala dei Turchi, Capo Bianco or Sciacca, finishing your day with a romantic picnic at sunset. On terra firma, the world is your oyster: say the word and a bike can be delivered to your room. The concierge can also arrange most activities, from boat and helicopter excursions to horse-riding. The Sunball Tennis Academy holds frequent classes (ranging €68 for an individual lesson to €305 for five); tournaments and camps are held here throughout the year, and instructors have worked with some all-time greats. On a hot day, you would struggle to decide which sun-drenched terrace to lie on next – this is a resort made for soaking up those Mediterranean rays. Since this luxury Sicily resort has just under two kilometres of private coast, it does indeed have its own beach, which is both pebbly and sandy. If it’s a tad too shingly for you, powder-soft perfection is just a 20-minute drive away along the coast. Venture beyond the groomed grounds and golf course of Verdura, and you don’t have to drive far to experience a taste of authentic Sicilian life and some of the world’s most exciting archeological sites – Agrigento, and the Valley of the Temples, is just under an hour’s drive. Some of the best-preserved relics of Greece’s Golden Age remain at Agrigento. One of eight magnificent temples, a Doric structure built in the 5th century BC is as iconic in appearance as the Parthenon here on this very special Unesco World Heritage site. The Leopard, the classic novel by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, is based on Santa Margherita di Belice – which is a short drive west from Verdura.
It’s a Sunday morning in Sicily, and we’re fully invested in la dolce vita. The late summer sun beams down on the Mediterranean shoreline, and our breakfast table heaves with ambrosial Italian coffee, a mountain of traditional pastries and bowls of fresh-as-can-be ricotta. Three flavours of home-made granita sit temptingly on the buffet table; it might technically be a dessert, but as it has been made with the oranges and almonds that grow on Verdura Resort’s estate, it would be rude to ignore them.
Across the pool, Italy’s kaftan-clad glitterati have settled themselves in for the day, chattering at full tilt, espressos in hand, oversized sunglasses on head, as the lifeguard tends to their whims. Rocco Forte’s one and only resort hotel offers modern, laidback luxury.
The pool itself is impressive, sprawling across two levels: 60 metres of clean lines and curves. The hotel behind it is comprised of low-slung, statement architecture, finished in natural materials that complement the breathtaking surrounds.
Mr Smith and I headed beyond the pool, down to the waterfront to find our own sun-worshipping spot for the day. After a wander down the jetty and a quick dip in the sea, I take a blissful time-out with my book, all set and ready for a day of seemingly endless lounging.
Verdura is a playground for the rich and famous, and our room’s ensuite does a stellar job of making me feel like one of them, with twin sinks, rain shower, deep bath tub – hell, we seem to have our own massage table, too… Delightfully scented Ortigia bath products are the icing on the cake; made locally, using nothing but natural Sicilian ingredients, they certainly smell good enough to eat.
Instead, we devour the homegrown white peaches that have magically appeared in our bedroom, a warm and inviting space. An enormous wooden four-poster bed takes centre stage, billowing mosquito nets giving it a fairy-tale feel. Outside, our private balcony is the perfect spot for quaffing cocktails as the sun dips slowly into the sea below.
Later, we head to Zagara, the resort’s fine-dining restaurant, where the chef stays true to Sicilian tradition while exploring the boundaries of modern Mediterranean dining. Our waiter is as effervescent and entertaining as he is knowledgeable; we heed his recommendation to try the Sicilian pink fizz produced on the other side of the island, in the shadow of Mount Etna.
Our meal is nothing short of spectacular, from the intoxicatingly fresh olive oil harvested from the grounds, to the veal carpaccio, shrimp spaghettoni and pistachio-crumbed lamb loin. We roll back to our suite like two fat but very happy Italian pigs.
Shortly after the morning light peeks through the gap in our shutters, we stir and head out into the grounds. Our plan was to blow away prosecco-fuelled cobwebs with a bike ride around the estate. However, we frequently pull over to admire the fresh produce planted every few metres – tomatoes, pomegranates, melons, olives, almonds – which made this a ride of lower-intensity than planned.
Verdura is a large resort, with a few more rooms than the average Smith boutique hotel anyway… But thanks to its clever design, cosy restaurants and grounds you could happily lose yourself in, the stay feels intimate.
Post-workout, we tested the limits of the breakfast buffet. Once again full of Italian goodies, we then head to the nearby Unesco World Heritage Site Scala dei Turchi or ‘Stair of the Turks’.
We climb the slippery white-marl rock, dodging selfie-stick wielders and weary Instagram husbands to reach the summit. Our timing is ideal as we nab a prime spot on the ‘sunlounger’ carved into the rock summit by Mother Nature. It’s a truly magical spot and one that was made even better when Mr Smith wandered off – only for him to return with two ice-cold Birra Morettis from the beach shack. A true romantic…
We headed back to the ranch in time for a late lunch. At Verdura fresh pasta is a specialty; well, that and the pistachio gelato. We ordered both – well, we were on holiday – before heading our separate ways: Mr Smith to take on nine holes of golf; me to ‘tackle’ the four thalassotherapy pools in the spa.
Two hours later, I’m in seventh heaven. Then Mr Smith returned with a beaming great smile and newfound confidence in his swing, thanks to the on-site golf pro whom he credits as a real-life magician. I took one last circuit of the jetted pools as I was regaled with tales from the golf course, before it was time to go home.
‘Sicily is the clue to everything’, said German poet and polymath Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. After a weekend spent on the south coast, warmed by the late summer sun, I’m inclined to agree with him. And if Sicily is the clue, the Verdura lifestyle is without doubt a piece of the puzzle.
Whenever you book a stay at a Smith hotel or villa, we’ll invite you to review it when you get back. Read what other Smith members had to say in Verdura Resort’s Guestbook below.
The bedroom – the bed and linen, the blackout shutters, the wonderful bathroom and lush toiletries. The breakfast – so much choice. The spa pool – aesthetic and practical. The staff – welcoming and professional.
There to be much to do in the surrounding area, you'll have to travel quite a way off site if you want anywhere else to eat or swim.