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.