Deliciously designer. A magical boutique secret hideaway in a location beyond compare. Monaci Delle Terre Nere is a “must visit” place.
Monaci Delle Terre Nere is the most beautifully incongruous place we have discovered. I apologise now for writing so many superlatives in my effort to describe it – but superlative it is.
You will be immediately struck by the stupendous location, seemingly on the edge of the world, with the glorious Mount Etna at its back and a verdant beautiful landscape falling away below it, to the strip of blue sea, in the distance. 500 metres above sea level, on the slopes of Europe’s highest active volcano, it feels like a wonderfully remote hideaway, but we did not find it difficult to get to and is only about 25km from Catania, 36km from Taormina and 3km from Zafferana Etnea.
If ever the phrase “Location, location, location!” applied to anything, then it certainly applies to Monaci Delle Terre Nere. Almost everyone who visits Sicily wants to experience a trip to Mount Etna. Over 3000m high, it is still active and invariably has a puff or two of smoke issuing from its summit. If you are really lucky, you’ll witness Etna’s firework display (at a safe distance, of course), when lava shoots into the air, creating one of the most astonishing sights you will ever see. The idea of actually staying on Etna’s slopes is exciting and something of a privilege.
Etna is beautiful not only for its eruptions and lava flows, but also for its unique environment, rich in sounds, perfumes, colours and wildlife. The Etna National Park extends from the summit of the volcano to the towns surrounding it, so Monaci Delle Terre Nere is on its very edge and feels part of its uncontaminated nature. The flora and fauna are rich and varied. There are swathes of forests with secular chestnuts and oaks. There are countless species of birds of prey, including peregrines and golden eagles. There are owls of every description, porcupines, foxes, wild cats and myriads of incredible butterflies. Alongside the wild beauty of Etna’s landscape are the cultivated areas of an extremely successful local agriculture. The richly fertile volcanic soil is perfect for vineyards, olive and pistachio groves, hazelnut woods and orchards, all producing some of the best quality harvests in Italy.
Monaci Delle Terre Nere’s organic farm covers about 40 acres – can you imagine owning 40 acres of a volcano?! Organic for two decades, it has vines, olives, fruit, herbs and vegetables. Guests are free to wander around the gardens and farm, to really absorb the whole experience. Most of the produce ends up in the agriturismo’s kitchen, so the cuisine is as organic and “zero kilometre” as possible. Breakfasts are a joy and Francesco, the chef, produces dishes for dinner, based on the simplicity of good seasonal ingredients and the traditions of Sicily, which are tantalisingly tasty and difficult to resist. A boutique agriturismo with restaurant, the dinners are usually set 4 course menus, to be chosen at breakfast. Dinner is served on the lovely terrace or in the charming dining room and is almost always available, but there are also restaurants in Zafferana and nearby.
The restaurant "Locanda Nerello" has obtained several awards:
- "Gusto & Salute" award by Gambero Rosso:
Gambero Rosso is the leading company in the restaurant and wine critics sector in Italy and one of the milestones for gourmets around the world. Founded in 1986 it is considered the most influential italian company in the judgment of quality, so that its excellence symbols have become an ambitious goal and an indispensable reference point.
This year we have received its "Taste and Health" award and were mentioned in the restaurants guide.
This award that we received 24/10/2016 shows that in our restaurant the sustainability is form and substance. Our Chef honours the value of the territory and its products through a natural and healthy cuisine, in full respect of the land, the environment and man.
- "Best in Sicily" award by "Cronache di Gusto" for the year 2017: We are proud to announce that Monaci delle Terre Nere Relais was awarded as the Best Hotel by Best in Sicily Award. Best in Sicily is a hospitality, culinary and wine excellency award which was created by Cronache di Gusto in order to honour the best dining and hospitality experiences that Sicily has to offer.
Before describing the accommodation, I have to tell you about Guido, the owner of Monaci Delle Terre Nere. Maybe living on the slopes of a volcano makes you special and quirky? Only a man of humour, passion and romance could take a humble place and transform it into something so unique. Guido is certainly full of dry humour and has a huge personality, although he is also incongruously quiet and unassuming. You will see signs reading, “Car parking spot for Rolls Royce only” and “Intruders shot; survivors shot twice”! His quirky humour can be seen in the style of the décor, the fabulous artefacts, objets d’art and artwork. Intense and engaging, he has a gentility about him, which transfers to his warm and friendly staff, who always give guests the warmest of welcomes, full of smiles. In fact, Monaci’s service is discreet and joyful. Rosario, the waiter, will enchant you with his charm (and good looks!) and Nuwan from Sri Lanka simply cannot do enough to please, and both are utterlly delightful. Sara and Emanuella, the receptionists, are particularly smiley. There is an air of real calm and tranquillity about the place, which certainly starts with the lovely Guido. You will feel very much at home and relaxed.
The exterior of Monaci Delle Terre Nere screams of rural Sicily and Etna. The baroque façade is typical Sicilian dusky-pink terracotta, highlighted by the light grey lava colours of a volcano and natural stone. A period country house, dating back to the 1800’s, it has been restored with respect. Terraces with dramatic views of the sea in the distance and huge umbrellas wafting in the Etna breeze add to its grace and elegance. At night, it takes on a different personality. Lighting in the gardens and on the house and classical music playing softly in the background give it a serenely magical quality.
Inside Monaci Delle Terre Nere is where Guido has had real fun. The traditional exterior gives way to contemporary designer style and meticulous attention to detail. Antiques sit next to ultra-modern art and design. Exposed dark volcanic stone walls and huge beams are the backdrop for sleek Philippe Stark designer furniture, one of the most smile-raising “rude” chairs in the world by Fabio Novembre and Picasso influenced paintings by Olivier Mourao. The exquisitely clever fusion of traditional Sicilian, with designer style and contemporary art, is a feast for the eyes. Needless to say, the bedrooms are all different, but equally beautiful. All are spacious. Some are in the main house, others are in a former one-storey barn, attached to the house or in converted rural buildings dotted about the property. Many have their own independent entrance. Some are split-level. All are absolutely fabulous, with the same "uniquely-Guido" style and taste seen throughout.
Back in the grounds, don’t let all this designer elegance go to your head. Monaci Delle Terre Nere is most definitely in a rural setting, on the slopes of a volcano. Paths can be dusty with Etna lava dust, which tends not to stick, but will ruin stilettos. Steps can be of volcanic rock, so inevitably uneven. You will no doubt be so overwhelmed by the view of Mount Etna, soaring up behind the dusky-pink country house and the land dropping steeply to the sea, that you won’t even notice…or…..if you do….you won’t give a fig! Just amble along to the fabulous pool. Like a beach, set in green lawns, it is a heavenly place to relax and enjoy the beautiful natural surroundings.From 2017, they also have a "golf car" available in the property and are able to provide to guests a pick up service from and to their scattered rooms.
So, have I covered everything? I doubt it! I feel that Monaci Delle Terre Nere will continue to surprise and enchant. It is magical, serene, utterly irresistible and I would go back there tomorrow at the drop of a hat…..please!