Where the stars come out to play
The Sicilian resort that is perfect for Emma Watson, Elton John, Prince Harry... and your family
MY ten-year-old daughter Alice yelped: ‘Did Hermione really stay in our room?’, her eyes like saucers. For a Harry Potter nut like her, it was almost too much to contemplate.
I’d just discovered that a week before we arrived at the Verdura Resort on the west coast of Sicily, the entire place had been hired by the top brass at Google and Emma Watson (who played Hermione Granger in the Harry Potter films) was one of the guests, along with Elton John and Prince Harry.
It was a coup for the hotel and I got the feeling that those stellar guests would have left the place no less impressed than we did.
Set up by hotelier Sir Rocco Forte ten years ago, it’s a sumptuous estate in its own valley, which runs down to a mile of private beach covered with soft, white sand.
The season in this part of the world stretches well into October, so it’s a good half-term option.
And there’s so much space – nearly 600 acres, allowing for no fewer than three golf courses, which wrap themselves around the hotel and embrace the seashore.
Cars are banned, so everyone gets around by bike. You simply pick one up and leave it wherever you go.
THE children loved this, though Alice broke the rules and stashed a bike behind our suite each night, so she could hop on it in the morning and pedal straight off to breakfast.
We made the most of the sandy beach.
The first challenge was paddleboarding, which I presumed would be a piece of cake.
But while my wife and 13-yearold son Mike cruised regally around, I looked like Bambi on Babycham as I attempted to stand up, plunging off the side time and again.
Anyone who has swung a golf club will marvel at the courses here – they were voted the best in Italy.
The club accommodates everyone from European Tour professionals to beginners like Alice and my wife, who had a pleasant lesson with Giacomo on the driving range.
Another highlight was access to the hotel speedboat.
We lay out like celebrities on the Cote D’Azur as it skimmed across the water in the direction of the Valley of the Temples at the ancient site of Agrigento, about 30 miles south.
If you want some peace, you can put children into the new kids’ club, Verduland, where they are big on cooking and gardening (you’re sent pictures of the flowers when you’re back home).
There’s also a football academy where Juventus stars sometimes come to coach and all the children are given one of the club’s black-and-white shirts.
The hotel has its own societa agricola – or organic farm – which means that herbs and vegetables are handpicked for the four restaurants, including a laid-back clifftop trattoria (Siciliana pizza for €16), a beach restaurant and a gourmet eatery.
None of this comes cheap. This is special treat territory and we enjoyed observing the well- heeled clientele. And overhearing their conversation. Try this: one chap in the pool discussing a million-pound bonus with a blonde woman, while a gaggle of girls asked about the temperaments of one another’s ponies.
Our conversation centred on how we were going to readjust to normal life. With difficulty, was the answer.
‘Will we ever come back here?’ asked Alice.
‘Let’s hope so,’ I said. And I really meant it.
Famous guest: Emma Watson
What a view: The Verdura resort on the west coast of Sicily shows the island in its best light