Sicily, Italy

Zash Country Boutique Hotel & Spa

Price per night from$276.59

Price information

If you haven’t entered any dates, the rate shown is provided directly by the hotel and represents the cheapest double room (inclusive of taxes and fees) available in the next 60 days.

Prices have been converted from the hotel’s local currency (EUR253.92), via openexchangerates.org, using today’s exchange rate.

Style

Labour of lava

Setting

Etna-gazing groves

Etna smoulders away like a Byronic hero from all aspects of Sicilian retreat Zash Country Boutique Hotel & Spa. But, don’t mind him – or the brief rumblings he makes – because this is a blissful, peaceful paradise. Orange-blossom scents breeze by, birdsong twinkles, and all around are the searing greens and blues of dense citrus groves and the distant Ionian Sea. You’ll get spells of spa simmering, dining with a vivid imagination that lingers till late, and chilled tastings of the fertile volcanic terroir. The dusky-rose villa of the Maugeri wine dynasty and architect Antonio Iraci’s modernist villas – some with bubbling private pools – show an intergenerational design nous contrasting rugged lavastone and a more burnished milieu, all conceived with a passion that runs hotter than the lava you might  – if you’re lucky – see spilling after dark. 

Smith Extra

Get this when you book through us:

Early check-in (subject to availability) and a selection of sweet treats from the chef

Facilities

Photos Zash Country Boutique Hotel & Spa facilities

Need to know

Rooms

16, including seven suites.

Check–Out

11am, but flexible, subject to availability and a fee. Earliest check-in, 3pm.

Prices

Double rooms from £210.75 (€250), including tax at 10 per cent. Please note the hotel charges an additional local city tax of €2.00 per person per night on check-out.

More details

Rates include breakfast: a sweet-savoury tray of yoghurts, cereal, croissants, cakes, cannoli, pizzettes and the rare – but very welcome – breakfast arancini, plus your choice of eggs. For the juices, they’ve near-as stuck a tap into their many trees.

Also

Public areas are generously spaced out across the resort and are well paved. Some rooms have roll-in entrances and showers tend to be oversized.

Please note

Some rooms are near the train tracks; trains run from 5am until midnight and noise may travel.

Hotel closed

The hotel closes when the weather gets chilly (by Sicilian standards) in January.

At the hotel

Spa with a sauna and steam room, citrus groves, alfresco lounging areas, jogging track, charged laundry service, free WiFi. In rooms: 32-inch LCD TV (tucked away in a cupboard in most rooms), minibar, free bottled water, climate control, coffee- and tea-making kit, Culti bath products.

Our favourite rooms

Rooms are assigned at the hotel’s discretion, but they do take requests. Old-school romantics, book a room in the main villa, which has enormous all-white suites that make the seas of blue and green framed in the arched windows sizzle and pop – some frame Etna too, so you can stay on lava-watch. One has a circular bath tub in the room, some have a fireplace and furnished terrace, but whichever you book you’ll be besotted. The villa-style suites hidden in citrus-scented glades across the estate are more modern (designed by Irachi Architetti) in sultry grey shades, but still work their wiles with pools that cheerily greet you with burbling jets, the odd sauna for two, and curtains that pull themselves back – giving you a great ‘ta-daa!’ moment – to reveal window-wall views so green and blue you’ll think God’s gone to town on the saturation slider.

Poolside

If you float on your back in the sizable pool (open 10am to 7pm), you can just see Etna smouldering away. There’s a beach-edge entrance, floating fire pit, four-poster double day-beds arranged around the sides and a greenery-screened cubby with a water lily-topped trough where wine tastings are hosted. And there’s no need to schlep the 30-odd paces to the main bar – a smaller iteration dishes out chilled Etnian wines and effervescent cocktails.

Spa

If you think the neighbouring volcano is steamy, then wait till you hit the spa… Because there’s a Scandi-style sauna, fervent hammam – what else? The hydro-massage jets in the lava-stone pool are soothingly eruptive, the scent of orange blossom lingers in the air, and being set in the subterranean former wine cellar (with a window wall to let the light in), down some stone stairs, the space feels secluded. Plus, there are peaceful treatment rooms where you can get a massage with citrus, lavender or spice that leaves you smelling like the gardens, facials that work all sorts of glow-y magic, scrubs and wraps using the salts and algae of the sea, and final-touch waxes. For an extra charge you can book a private session.

Packing tips

Bring more than one set of swimwear, hiking shoes that won’t get shredded on volcanic stone and leave a wine-shaped space in your suitcase. The rest – the pellucid skies, the lazy orange-blossom scent, Etna’s deep murmuring – will be tightly wrapped and packed into your brain to wistfully parse over at a later date.

Also

Charmingly, the name ‘Zash’ was inspired by the noise of gentle breezes stirring the leaves in the groves.

Pet‐friendly

Piccola pups can stay for a €20 a night cleaning fee. They’re not allowed in the Pool Villas, spa, restaurant and pool area. See more pet-friendly hotels in Sicily.

Children

Bambini can stay; some rooms fit extra beds, the pool has a beach-style entrance, and there’s some sweet and stylish mini furnishings (we spied a little Philippe Starck Ghost chair). But, it’s far more romantic if you leave them with a sitter.

Sustainability efforts

Everything the light touches here is probably something you’ll eat in the restaurant later, and other ingredients are sourced very locally. And, on the roof is a raft of solar panels.

Food and Drink

Photos Zash Country Boutique Hotel & Spa food and drink

Top Table

The private dining area in the restaurant is under the enormous wooden plate of the centuries-old wine press (don’t worry, it’s inactive) that dominates the lavastone room where winemakers used to ready the next crop of drinkables.

Dress Code

The black-lace veils and kill-you-with-a-glance demeanour of the ‘Sicilian widow’ look are far too severe for this setting; enrobe yourself in sunny citrus hues and floaty, food-accommodating dresses.

Hotel restaurant

In contrast to the rosy stone of the villa’s exterior, Palmento restaurant (closed on Tuesdays, when a range of gourmet pizzas and light dishes are served instead) with its lava-stone vaults and a wooden wine press so huge you could mistake it for a load-bearing strut, looks like a magical grotto – and indeed feels like one after dark when the candles are lit. But the food casts an even stronger spell than the decor. Chef Giuseppe Raciti has been justly recognised by Michelin for his top-of-the-DOPs tasting menu, which starts strong with a heaving tray of breads, frittura, mortadella-and-pistachio-stuffed savoury cannoli and arancini in homage to the island’s street food, and gradually builds in excitement from there… red prawns come in a bundle of yuzu, wasabi and apple; fall-apart beef cheek is buried under a brush of artichoke crisps; caciocavallo-cheese-stuffed tortelli wallows in a treacle of black cherry and sherry before a mound of truffle is shaved on top; and the signature dish – a poached egg studded with breadcrumbs and floated onto provola cream with a red-fruit undercoating looks a little like a child’s drawing of Hellraiser’s Pinhead, but tastes curiously divine. You’ll be eagerly awaiting each next course or bulbous glass of paired wine, but while you do be sure to chat to the staff, all of whom are ready with an ancestral anecdote about what you’re about to eat  – by the time you reach the petit fours, you may know Sicilian agricultural lore better than your own family – and seem genuinely proud of the work they do, they even excitedly tell you if Etna’s erupting so that you can pause your courses to go look for lava. As for lunch – it’s a touch less theatrical, with a delicious edit of simple yet delicious salads, toasties and light pastas, served overlooking the garden.

Hotel bar

The main villa was the homebase of a wine-making dynasty, some bedrooms are in the old wine cellar, and there’s a can’t-miss-it behemoth of a wine press the dining room (formerly where the farmers made the must for their wine), so you’ll probably have…a beer? Admittedly, this is a winery that’s been put to – luridly green – pasture, and the growing happens offsite, but the family, who still live here, haven’t corked their vintner careers yet – you can try their beautifully crafted young biancos with dinner, on the terrace or in the small bar set in a peaceful annex of the restaurant. A lengthy list of cocktails mixes things up a bit – we loved the immensely refreshing Zash Fizz with Etnian gin, freshly squeezed lemon juice and soda and the Peachef, with local brut, peach purée and a dash of rosemary syrup.

Last orders

Breakfast runs from 7.30am to 10am, lunch from 1pm to 2pm, and dinner from 7.30pm to 10pm. Palmento is closed on Tuesdays.

Room service

Light salads and snacks available throughout the day, some dishes served in-room for lunch or dinner.

Location

Photos Zash Country Boutique Hotel & Spa location
Address
Zash Country Boutique Hotel & Spa
Strada Provinciale 2/I-II n.60, Archi
Riposto CT
95018
Italy

Zash Country Boutique Hotel & Spa is in Riposto, in the Catania region of Sicily’s eastern coast, in-between Mount Etna and the sea, a sweet spot for spectacular views of both.

Planes

Catania–Fontanarossa Airport is around a 40-to-50-minute drive from the hotel. It’s well connected with direct flights throughout Europe. On request the hotel can help with transfers in a sedan or minivan (when you book in advance), from €77 one-way.

Trains

There’s a train that chugs its way around the island; Giarre-Riposto, a 10-minute drive away, is the closest and has links with Catania, Taormina and Syracuse.

Automobiles

A car is essential – Sicily has the contouring of a rollercoaster and even the hotel’s driveway is a long winding road of riotous greenery that you might get a touch breathless walking down. Roads are maintained and driving is fairly straightforward, although Sicilians often feel the need for speed and everyone has their own spin on the highway code – cross yourself, hit ignition and follow the natives’ lead, and if you’re renting watch out for dings. There’s parking at the hotel.

Other

If you have 13 hours to spare, you can sail from Salerno to Catania on a Grimaldi ferry – what the journey lacks in speed it makes up for in dazzling blue views. Or ride over from Valletta in Malta in about four hours. And, for those with the means – and a chopper to hand – there’s a heliport to land on.

Worth getting out of bed for

Just be-ing here is a joy. Wander the citrus groves, plucking fruit straight from the branch when in season, pausing under a pergola to listen to the birds sing and watch tiny lizards skitter about, marvelling at Etna’s furious heft. But, you also have the spa to make good use of each day: spells enjoying the bubbling jets, serene lap pool and steam-bellowing sauna and Turkish bath feel very special. The lawn makes a soft place to meditate or practice yoga poses on, and for the remainder of the day you can get a good buzz on, whether you’re tasting Zash’s own wines along local stars: Nerello Mascalese, Cappucio, Carricante… Or joining other guests for a sparkling apéritif by the pool; and staff can book you a ride on a little vintage wine train that tootles through the appellations like a good designated driver. If you’re not put off by the rivulets of lava that frequently dribble down from Etna’s caldera (it’s nearly always fuming and eruptions are so frequent Sicilians are reassuringly ambivalent about them), montebello makes for a fairly easy 90-minute climb. Do not – and we mean not – attempt to do this in flip-flops. Strap on some hardy walking shoes and helmets will be provided for the guided hike. Less incendiary are laps of the jogging track, scenic bike rides, and jaunts out over the Ionian in a sailboat for L’Avventura-esque tracking shots and to find hidden beaches or land in Taormina. This adored hillside town – and stop on the Grand Tour of old – has a tumble of sunset-hued villas and a spectacular Greco-Roman amphitheatre (popular for proposals FYI). Stroll along Corso Umberto’s ancient book-end arches, then hike out to Chiesa Madonna della Rocca, an island monastery with a chapel whose rugged lavastone ceiling overhangs frescoes and icons. Or swim, cable-car, or even walk if the tide is low, to Isola Bella – the nature sanctuary where pioneering English conservationist Florence Trevelyan built her extraordinary home (modelled on her childhood manor) and its elaborate follies. The Picciolo Golf Course lets you play through 18 holes in sight of the volcano, port town Riposto has Baroque churches and scenic viewpoints, and the Alcantra Gorges have otherworldly basaltic prisms reaching heights of 400 metres. And hop around the seven islands of the Aeolian archipelago, whose charms range from lively nightlife to prehistoric relics, to the cinematic (Stromboli was filmed on here).

Local restaurants

Zash’s restaurant has become a destination diner for a reason, but perhaps a tasting menu each night is a touch indulgent. To sample the cuisine crafted by 13 foreign invasions (all of whom added something to the melting pot), head into Riposto. Get cosy among the wine-cladded walls of Vico Astemio for meatballs singing with fennel and tapped with tuna bottarga, caramelised octopus swimming in burrata with a drizzle of citrus honey, and sea bass in a traditional tomato sauce, with lemon- and mint-scented potato puree. And, La Cucina di Donna Carmela is another one with a star to its name, serving up sculptural edibles under the shade of the garden’s mature olive trees.

Local bars

Glass – as you may surmise from the name – is an enoteca serving all colours of Etnian wine at very reasonable prices, plus champagnes, bio wines, liqueurs, and everything you need to build an authentic Italian larder. 

Reviews

Photos Zash Country Boutique Hotel & Spa reviews
Ella Alexander

Anonymous review

By Ella Alexander, Harper's hedonist

Visiting Zash Country Boutique Hotel & Spa isn’t my first rodeo in Sicily. I have travelled to this maddening, wild and almost perfect island every year for over a decade, sometimes for months at a time. I’ve read countless articles claiming to talk about the real Sicily, that offer verbose descriptions about the countryside and Baroque towns; they write of the food – the mouthwatering ingredients and bountiful portions, but what they miss is its grit, complexity and darkness. Sicily is much more than the setting of The White Lotus and Taormina’s manicured streets. To talk only of Sicily’s beauty is like meeting Amal Clooney and describing her solely as aesthetically gifted. 

The reality is decadence and decay have always sat alongside one another in Sicily. As The White Lotus highlighted, gentrification and the rise of luxury hotels are not only inevitable, but welcomed as a source of income and employment. Zash hotel is one such luxury property, an enclave that sits at the foot of Etna (there's a sense to building at the base of a volcano – the soil is very fertile), around 40 minutes drive from Catania and 30 minutes from Taormina. The hotel occupies a former palmento (a stone building used to press grapes and make wine) and a beautiful dusky pink manor house, bought by the Maugeri family in the 1930s. They transformed the vineyards into citrus groves and fruit trees, which – in addition to its photogenic appeal – creates an unforgettable scent. 

We arrived by taxi (a car is essential, this is rural Sicily), through discreet gates, and headed up a winding road flanked by lemon and orange trees. When I booked online, I explained that I’m pregnant, and at check-in we were upgraded from a room on the first floor to a larger suite with easier access. The receptionist tells me that she likes to upgrade guests as much as possible to ensure they have the best stay they can. And so we were accompanied to the very secluded Pool Villa, separate from the main building, accessible via a winding narrow path. All 17 rooms at Zash are modern in aesthetic with a colour palette of white and grey, while wooden accents and furniture add a sense of warmth; our villa was an understated showstopper. 

We walked across a stone terrace, bypassing a sofa floating over a private plunge pool, to the entrance. Floor-to-ceiling windows make you feel as if you’re still alfresco, sat among the citrus groves, a feeling enhanced by the accent walls of smooth volcanic rock. In the morning, guests can press a button by the bed to open the curtains, leaving you surrounded by lemon trees. The suite is divided into a minimalist bedroom, contemporary bathroom with a double rain shower and a small lounge area with a sofa and coffee table. The sofa can be extended into a bed, but guests should be warned that the glass walls between the living space and the shower area leave little room for privacy. Outside, whichever way you look is a solid eyeful: on one side there’s Etna – which, when we stayed in late November, was capped with snow – and on the other the Ionian Sea, which stretches out beyond the greenery. It all feels intensely private, despite the main building being just minutes away. 

The palmento in the main building is home to a Michelin-starred restaurant, led by award-winning chef Giuseppe Raciti. You won’t find rustic Sicilian fare here, but rather tasting menus made up of elevated dishes that combine quality ingredients and dazzling flavour with culinary tradition. Be sure to try the signature dish: uovo pochè croccante, a deep-fried poached egg in a provola cheese fondue, which tasted sublime; as well as the tortello di pasta all’uovo with caciocavallo cheese, cherries and truffle. Don’t miss the dessert either – sweet treats that look like art and taste like heaven. My pregnancy prevented me from fully enjoying the benefits of the wine pairings, but Mr Smith assured me that they were second to none. 

The next morning we meandered round the citrus groves and read books by the larger pool which again overlooks Etna. That afternoon, we tried the spa – a bijou, but perfectly formed underground space with a small heated pool, sauna and steam room. I indulged in a massage, which – and I do not say this lightly – was one of the best treatments I’ve ever had. My therapist was intuitive, skilled and made me feel instantly at ease. 

A special mention must go to the staff at Zash. Service is a crucial part of any luxury travel experience, ensuring that the guest has everything they want and need provided for them. This happened unquestionably at Zash. Every member of the team, from the breakfast waitress to the sommelier, to the masseuse and receptionist, was warm, knowledgeable and helpful. Having witnessed both ends of Sicilian hospitality, this is the island at its most charming. As we drove back to Catania, my scruffy, spiritual home – a place where fireworks are set off during the day (not even the locals can tell you why) – I felt rested, pampered and warm, ready to dive back into the island’s abrasive yet seductive parts.

Book now

Price per night from $272.23