On the slopes of Mount Etna in Sicily, an 18th century farmhouse has been restored and transformed into a modern boutique hotel filled with exquisite contemporary touches. Volcanic backyard or not, this is one hot property!
If you’ve always wanted to spend some time by an active volcano, Mount Etna in Sicily might top your list.
On the slopes of this magnificent mountain, in the midst of an equally spectacular countryside overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, stands Relais Monaci delle Terre Nere, an 18th century monastery now converted into an elegant and contemporary boutique hotel.
Mount Etna plays host to some remarkably fertile countryside and it is no wonder that this blush-pink baroque building shines like a jewel among forty acres of postcard-perfect vineyards, olive groves and gardens.
The Villa, previously inhabited by monks of Saint Anna’s order, now belongs to Guido Alessandro Coffa. Coffa spent five years rescuing and renovating the derelict house into a building that retains much of its former historic splendour, but inside, surprises lurk around every corner.
With eight rooms at the moment (with plans for a few more), Coffa has kept the place intimate, small and discreet. It began as his home and turned into a place to welcome visitors only after its popularity with his friends convinced him to share it with others.
The restoration took about three years to complete. Coffa was firm about being as natural and organic as possible. He used only local materials and “as little chemicals as possible”. This obsession towards natural living and building has earned the Relais accolades including a coveted eco-building certification. Over 50% of the hotel’s energy comes from renewable sources such as solar energy and local wood.
Inside, everything is unexpected. Instead of going with a traditional look to match the exterior, Coffa went contemporary. Black lava rock walls balance against old timber frames and glass bathrooms with standalone bathtubs.
Art and accessories from the owner’s collection sit with ease against the designer furniture. There is even WiFi in the rooms – an unusual feature in this part of the world. There are no televisions in the rooms, though. Coffa prefers that you spend your time enjoying the exquisite silence, listening to the chirping of the cicadas or savouring every drop of your wine.
The main building has six rooms with two more in an annexe nearby. The rooms are all spacious, elegant and expectedly, have to-die-for views. Suite Amabile, for instance, is placed under the roof, and has stone walls, a fireplace and a Jacuzzi. It also has the best view of Mount Etna.
Some of the other rooms open onto the garden and have their own patio. The old Palmento (Wine Making Room) was also converted into more rooms with a stone-walled bedroom, living room with a fireplace and a patio. And, of course a sea-view to complete the experience.
The gardens of the house are dotted with fragrant citrus trees, olive groves and vegetable gardens. The estate has been organic for two decades and produces most of its own food including vegetables, fruits, olive oil and even wine.
The hotel has a small restaurant only for guests and as you can imagine, the food is healthy, organic and just delicious. Using seasonal recipes, the kitchen offers Sicilian and other dishes and even a jaded palate will recognise the difference that using fresh, home-grown produce makes.
Coffa plays the ultimate host by organising tours for his guests – try a trip to Mount Etna or even a guided tour of a local vineyard.
Coffa’s plans for the immediate future include an infinity pool scheduled for May 2013, a new chef and more rooms. From the exuberant and gushing reviews that the hotel has been receiving, this only means that the secret will soon be out. Relais Monaci delle Terre Nere is hot news – get there soon.
Text By Chryselle D’Silva Dias
Photographs Courtesy The Hotel