SICILY SIZZLES whatever the season

Its cities are wonderfully chaotic. But this sublime Italian island also has delectable villages and hotels that offer a welcome off-peak escape

By Fiona McIntosh



dmg media (UK)


CRUNCHING my way through a forest of pine and eucalyptus trees towards grassy dunes and a vast, sandy beach, I look out towards a horizonless sea. There is no other sign of life, apart from the eagles and peregrines soaring above me. It is the sort of wild, untouched beauty you’d expect to find in South Africa or Australia. But here we are in Sicily, the southern Italian island better known for its crazy, crowded cities, clanking costume jewellery and cocktails the colour of the lava that sputters sporadically from Mount Etna. But the summer crowds have disappeared and the island’s tranquillity has returned, even though I’m on the coast, only an hour south of the capital Palermo. Until recently there were few properly lovely places to stay in this region, set between the towns of Sciacca and Agrigento and largely made up of wind-battered fishing villages and industrial ports. Last year that changed, with the opening of Adler Sicilia. Slotted discretely into a hillside above a five-mile stretch of beach, the resort sits on the edge of the Torre Salsa Nature Reserve, a sanctuary for nesting sea turtles and migratory birds, including purple herons, honey buzzards, peregrine falcons and flamingos. Guests are encouraged to make the most of this precious pocket, with organised treks through the reserve and into the hinterland on e-bikes. Or, like me, you can take the easy option and grab one of the hotel beach bags – containing a towel, sunbed mattress and water – and walk down to the beach. As the Adler group is known for its plush alpine spa hotels, the same Germanic rigour has been applied to fitting out the extraordinary spa in its Sicilian outpost. All stone and wood and super high-tech, it’s such a vast, bamboozling playground of wellness you don’t quite know where to start. Should I laze by the indoor/outdoor pool or pound up and down the lap pool? Join a yoga or pilates class, or book one of 40 different massages in the labyrinth of treatment rooms? End the day supine in a sauna, a steam room fragranced with Sicilian herbs or in the bubbling thalasso pool overlooking the sea? When you’ve finished filling your boots with wellness, you might just make it to the restaurant in time for the all-inclusive buffet, a description which rather underplays the bacchanalian vision that greets you every evening. For example, on Seafood Night, slivers of raw Sicilian tuna, red prawns, langoustines, clams, oysters and sea urchin were laid out so beautifully on their icy bed it looked like a piece of installation art. Beyond the hotel, the area is full of delights. Half an hour’s drive east is Agrigento and the Valley Of The Temples Archaeological Park, a collection of ancient Greek temples said to be the best-preserved examples of their kind in the world. An hour’s drive west, near the town of Menfi, is the Planeta Ulmo wine estate, where you can book a tasting and lunch. Also worth visiting is the fishing port of Sciacca, with its narrow, colourful