Where the stars come out to play

The Si­cil­ian re­sort that is per­fect for Emma Watson, El­ton John, Prince Harry... and your fam­ily

Irish Daily Mail - - Travel Plus - BY JEREMY DANIELS

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

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