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Sicilian Glamour Takes Centre Stage at Rocco Forte's Villa Igiea

Coastal charm meets historic stature at this stunning Art Nouveau hotel on the island of Sicily.

Rocco Forte Hotels are known for exceptional luxury and iconic locations, and Villa Igiea is the latest hotel to be added to the prestigious portfolio. Situated in Palermo, we visited to explore both the hotel and this cultural capital, a place that captures the heart of anyone who visits.

Villa Igiea pays homage to its storied past; it was originally a private, 19th century palazzo, built by the Florio family – one of the most influential Italian families of the Belle Époque period. Having recently undergone a major renovation under the vision of Hotelier Olga Polizzi and the Paolo Moschino design studio, this Grade I listed landmark is the epitome of Italian beauty. If you’re looking for a White Lotus experience, we have found it. At Villa Igiea, Italian bliss awaits – with a side of Sicilian nostalgia.

The Vibe

Between land and sea, overlooking the Gulf of Palermo, the location of Villa Igiea couldn’t be more picturesque. Standing proud with architectural grandeur, here, you’re transported back in time. Elegant and historical allure is reflected through Carrara marble and Sicilian tiles, with much of the decor – such as ceramics – sourced from Palermo, in an effort to support local enterprises and artisans.

It’s barely been a few hours before the celeb-spotting begins. Palermo is a favourite for A-listers and aristocrats, and Villa Igiea acts as a home-away-from home for many of them, as well as for locals. You’ll soon slip into the dolce far niente way of life, as the spirit of sun-drenched Sicily encapsulates you at every turn. Palm tree-lined gardens, sandy stone walls and Sicilian lemons add to the authentic demure of the property, a heavenly oasis of calm that feels unspoilt – despite its 100 year life span.

The Rooms

Deluxe Rooms have sea views and a private terrace, and are rich in elegant Italian design. King-sized beds draped with sumptuous fabrics take centre stage, while floor-to-ceiling windows flood the room with natural light. Soft green interiors add to the calming atmosphere and you’ll find art and antiques adorning the walls. En-suite Carrara marble bathrooms with Sicilian-made floor tiles and spacious walk-in showers feel ultra luxurious and are completed with Irene Forte toiletries, handcrafted using organic Sicilian botanicals.

Sleep with the shutters open, to take in the sounds of crashing waves for a meditative nights sleep, before starting your day with breakfast on the terrace overlooking the endless glistening sea and the manicured gardens. Your morning espresso will hit different here.

The Food + Drink

Florio restaurant, named after the building’s original owners, will transport you back in time with interiors that recall the golden era. Dine inside to soak it all up, or take a seat on the terrace which overlooks the Tyrrhenian Sea. Either way, be ready to embark on a culinary journey through Sicilian senses.

Chef Fulvio Pierangelini, best known for his now closed, two Michelin-starred restaurant, Gambero Rosso in San Vincenzo, makes it his mission to portray the island’s best ingredients – many of which are harvested in the gardens and orchards of Villa Igiea. On the menu is freshly-caught seafood and traditional fresh Sicilian pastas, such as the salted baked seabass with a trevisano salad and pomegranate, or the pumpkin ravioli with butter and parmesan cheese. The menu isn’t especially vegan or vegetarian-friendly, but dishes can be created on request. No matter what you order, expect uncomplicated but tasty flavours, and portions that leave you more than satisfied.

The Little Extras

The Igiea Terrazza Bar is an inviting spot for an evening aperitivo. The cocktail menu here was created by leading bartender, Salvatore Calabrese, who is nicknamed ‘The Maestro’. He’s also the man behind what was once the world’s most expensive cocktail, Salvatore’s Legacy, which set cocktail connoisseur’s back a cool £5,500 per glass. The names of the drinks in Palermo are inspired by some of the elite guests hosted at the hotel over the last century. These include Grace Kelly, the star behind the Ice Queen cocktail, a nickname given to her by Hollywood journalists for being cold during interviews: the cocktail reflects this with a freshness on the palette – mint being one of the main ingredients.

The To-Do List

At the hotel, lounge by the pool on one of the sophisticated striped sun loungers surrounded by lush green gardens, and take in the panoramic views of the Mediterranean, or visit the Irene Forte Spa, featuring wellness products created by one of Rocco’s two daughters to revive mind, body and soul. The spa’s relaxation terrace is set beside the sparkling seas and acts as a luxurious setting to prioritise and prolong your wellbeing. Learn more about Sicilian flavours with a cooking or mixology class or, for those feeling energised, the on-site tennis courts will inspire anyone to pick up a racket. There’s also a personal trainer on call, as well as one-to-one yoga sessions which take place in the hotel’s verdant outdoor gardens.

You may not want to leave the hotel, but if you do there’s an enchanting island to be explored. Hop on a guided bike tours to cycle coastal trails, city hotspots or nearby mountains; discover deer, wildcats and eagles at Parco delle Madonie; or spend an evening at one of the nearby theatres. If you’re keen to see your surroundings in style, ask the hotel about their Palermo excursions via helicopter, Porsche or the iconic, very Italian, Fiat 500. Audrey Hepburn, eat your heart out.

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