Si­cily

Harper’s Bazaar (Australia) - - Escape - clubmed.com.au – Alexan­dra English

IN CE­FALÙ, a tiny, too-of­ten-over­looked town curled into Si­cily’s north coast, a lit­tle slice of lux­ury is be­ing carved out by an un­ex­pected source: Club Med. Un­til now, the all-in­clu­sive re­treat’s model has been to re­sorts what flat­pack fur­ni­ture is to in­te­rior de­sign, but after taste-test­ing the first Mediter­ranean re­sort in its Ex­clu­sive Col­lec­tion, we’re call­ing it: Club Med the luxe edi­tion is on its way.

The first dif­fer­ence is the lo­ca­tion mat­ters. Re­ally mat­ters.you’ll see it on the one-and-ahalf-hour drive from Palermo air­port when you pass through towns where his­tory lingers in the crum­bling cliffs and di­lap­i­dated ter­ra­cotta man­sions. Built in 1957, Club Med Ce­falù closed in 2006 so it could be gut­ted and turned into a coastal re­treat of more than 300 vil­las and suites. It took 12 years and count­less set­backs, but here it is: three restau­rants, two pools, a gym, a nau­ti­cal base and a spa, all over­look­ing the azure abyss of Ce­falù Bay. Lux­ury is in­fused with his­tory, with ar­chi­tects King Roselli care­ful to pre­serve the 18th-cen­tury chapel and palazzo (now a res­tau­rant with a menu by famed Ital­ian chef An­drea Ber­ton).the suites and vil­las are built from lo­cal ma­te­ri­als, and have been cam­ou­flaged into the folds of the hill­side. In­te­rior de­signer So­phie Jac­qmin took colour in­spi­ra­tion from the land­scape and the town’s Baroque his­tory.to put it mildly, it is stun­ning.

Some el­e­ments of old-school Club Med re­main. There’s a sched­ule of day ac­tiv­i­ties (listed on the Club Med app) and en­ter­tain­ment by the pool ev­ery night, but the choice be­tween a lazy or ac­tion-packed hon­ey­moon is up to you. Take a dance class or not; go for a spin on the elec­tric surf­board or don’t (but do; there are four ex­clu­sive to Club Med Ce­falù).then there’s the staff, known as G.O.S (gen­tils

or­gan­isa­teurs: friendly or­gan­is­ers), who make a gen­uine ef­fort to get to know their guests. Names are re­mem­bered; greet­ings are ex­changed in French and Ital­ian. One evening by the in­fin­ity pool,

EAT You can have an Ital­ian dining ex­pe­ri­ence within the re­sort at La Rocca, the main res­tau­rant. Break­fast, lunch and din­ner are served here buf­fet style, with chefs cook­ing your food while you wait. RE­LAX The Carita spa of­fers a 50-minute face and body treat­ment that makes use of de­li­ciously cit­rusy Carita Paris Dry Oil. Ask for La Dolce Vita. IN TOWN Visit the re­sort’s ex­cur­sion of­fice to book a self-guided Vespa tour; he­li­copter over the Strom­boli vol­cano; or board a yacht across the bay into the cen­tre of Ce­falù, where you can wan­der the town. You won’t find too many high-end bou­tiques here, but don’t let that stop you hunt­ing for hid­den trea­sure.

while sip­ping Lau­rent-per­rier and watch­ing an opera singer per­form, I meet Thomas Ga, one of the re­sort’s French sail­ing in­struc­tors, whose com­pany I en­joy so much we con­tinue our con­ver­sa­tion over din­ner. Later, he saves me from a jet-lag-in­duced coma with limone e lam­pone gelato. On my last day, we try pad­dle­board yoga and kayak around the bay to a se­cret cave where birds are feed­ing their chicks in a nest in the ceil­ing.

The most ex­cit­ing thing about this lat­est chap­ter in Club Med’s story has lit­tle to do with what’s in­side the re­sort.the town of Ce­falù is a true gem. All of his­tory has passed through here, leav­ing traces of Greek,arab, Byzan­tine and Nor­man in­flu­ences. The main square is dom­i­nated by a 12th-cen­tury UNESCO World Her­itage-listed cathe­dral, which sits re­splen­dent un­der the sun while La Rocca looms mood­ily on the pe­riph­ery. After an af­ter­noon wan­der­ing sleepy back­streets, I could get the Club Med bus back to the re­sort, but the half-hour walk is worth it to feel the sand be­tween my toes. By the time I get back, ev­ery­one is by the pool.the or­ches­tra is start­ing up and the sun is slip­ping into the Tyrrhe­nian Sea as I’m handed a glass of crisp cham­pagne. I don’t want the party to ever end.

Club Med Ce­falù from Ce­falù Bay, Si­cily, Italy. In­set: a guest villa.

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