I found myself in the gorgeous green gardens of a beautiful Etna hotel on the island of Sicily, just shortly after spending time in Corsica, and the contrast was absolutely delicious; literally and figuratively. Not only did Sicily represent the beginning of a month-long (first time) exploration of Italy for me, but I’m part Sicilian so it felt like coming home. The sliver of water between Italy and Sicily represents independence and you feel that sense of autonomy when you cross over onto this island.
A Stunning Boutique Etna Hotel
My stay at Monaci delle Terre Nere, a country boutique hotel situated on 60 acres of Tuscany-like countryside on the slopes of Mount Etna, the largest active volcano in Europe, is the home of a large variety of fruit trees. This Etna hotel, on an Italian island, in the Mediterranean air, with volcano energy, and lots of horticulture in every direction, is a big wow. Every meal includes local ingredients foraged from the property or sourced from nearby towns. There are just 12 rooms in the main 19th century building and 8 suites scattered about the property giving it a private and independent feeling.
My suite, Cristallino, was surrounded by so much lavender that I could hear the bees happily working and I could smell the fragrance with each breath I took. Originally built in the 18th century, the rural lava stone façade of this private suite is deceiving, because once you walk in you are treated to an open, modern space that includes magazine-quality décor; and this is true for the entire property/surroundings. The original elements of oak-beamed ceilings and stone walls blend beautifully with the uber modern décor creating a feeling of total independence; proving that the two can exist independently but when combined the feeling is a rich one – one of history and appreciation in a modern time and place. The main villa, and each independent villa, is situated with all of its years as if its been there forever, and the property has been updated and decorated with fresh, current décor that blends old and new in a timeless way. Maybe we can call it “Italian country boutique hotel chic” with cow hide benches and metal-framed furniture in the room, outdoor canopy bed and Italian vogue loungers by the pool, all surrounded by antique pieces on antique land.
Of the other hotels near Monaci dell Terre Nere is one of three Eco-Bio certified accommodations in Sicily which means that there is great attention paid to the footprint left by the property and the care for sourcing everything.
A Sicilian Slow Food Experience
My first official introduction to the Italian breakfast was at Monaci delle Terre Nere and I will never forget it. The outdoor dining room and breakfast buffet is situated on a terrace surrounded by fruit trees and nestled close to the main villa. Each morning it was like walking into your family’s dining room, only better. A spread of cereals, grains, and dried fruit paired with freshly made yoghurt was one option, cakes, cookies, tarts and other house made pastries along with farmhouse jams and a selection of local flavoured honey accompanied them. I learned that Sicily provides 15% of Italy’s entire honey production, and they take great pride in this fact. The bees are happy and abundant here and their energy is felt on this property. I tasted each honey, alone and accompanied, is there such thing as an official honey tasting? If not, there should be and I created one for myself because I wanted to experience each one. Flavoured with fruit and nut essence as well as floral additions, they were heavenly. My favourite, was the honey with lavender and other floral flavours.
Cheese, meats, and eggs along with many, many seasonal garden vegetables were also included and a juice station was set up so that you could select fresh fruits and vegetables and have freshly squeezed juices. These juices, fresh off the trees, literally, were so incredible. The blend of sweet and savoury, honey and tomatoes, was absolute perfection.
Locanda Nerello, the terrace restaurant at Monaci delle Terre Nere, is located on the top floor of the main house and the terrace is overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. From this terrace, the most exquisite sunrises and sunsets can be seen. Locanda Nerello is a slow foods experience from start to finish, with invitations to linger at every course. From the special traditional bread made with flours of Bidi and Timilia, two ancient Sicilian wheat varieties, to the home-made pasta, and all of the fresh Italian ingredients in-between, it’s an experience you will remember for a long time.
Yoga and Wine Retreats
This spot is a holiday destination, a spot you come to to sit still, to relax, to take it all in and to appreciate the nature and elements and luxurious invitation to relax and be taken care of. Each private suite has its own outdoor space for sunbathing, outdoor showering and lounging. The indoor and outdoor lobby areas invite you to gather or relax on your own. Inside, a cozy seating area with vintage yet modern décor and a chic bar that serves signature cocktails and aperitif, outside you can lounge by the pool with a full bar and cozy lunch spot.
In addition to the invitation to push pause, Monaci delle Terre Nere offers “Yoga and Wine Retreats” throughout the year. The two offerings of one week or 3-day yoga and wine experience includes yoga twice a day, wine classes, luxury accommodations and all organic meals plus a healthy drink after the afternoon yoga session.
What to See While in Sicily
Whether you want to stay on the property or adventure off, there is plenty to explore on and near Monaci delle Terre Nere. Bikes are provided for wandering on your own, and can be arranged for off-property adventures as well. An Herb Tour, Astronomy Lessons, Sicilian Cooking Lessons, Estate Wine Tasting, Chef’s Secrets Private Lesson, and even Cinema Under the Stars can be enjoyed during your stay.
Many beautiful day trip destinations are close to Monaci delle Terre Nere for arranging an off-property day. Mount Etna’s peak can be seen from the pool area and may call to you. Catania, a nearby city is great for the day with its fish market and Piazza Duomo. Taormina, Siracusa, Marzamemi, Piazza Armerina, and Noto provide incredible opportunities to explore the past and experience the Sicilian seaside.
A Healing Experience at Monaci delle Tere Nere
In a lot of ways the entire stay at Monaci delle Terre Nere is a healing experience. The fresh air infused with fresh lavender, citrus and jasmine is intoxicating. The organic meals, made with love, at the Etna hotel that became a home away from home felt medicinal. The slower pace is a welcome invitation for recharging. In addition to all of this, an in-room Ayurveda massage can be arranged during your stay at Monaci delle Terre Nere.
Monaci dell Terre Nere, Sicily, Italy
95019 Zafferana Etnea (CT), Italy
Fly into the Catania Airport and take a short taxi or car ride to the property
The Fit Traveller was a guest of Monaci delle Terre Nere for this stay. As always, the opinions, words and images are authentically our own.
Pat Russo is a Mystic, Muse, and Spiritual Teacher guiding women into their hearts with a journey of softening. She is a published poet, a lover of hearts, and a forever student.
Feeling the impossibility of choosing between her two favorite cities, she considers San Francisco and Paris home.