Openings: Rocco Forte’s Villa Igiea is the Sicilian Splurge We Need Right Now

Amongst the things that we’ve missed most during this seemingly intractable pandemic, Italy is most definitely far up on the list. Because, you know, sometimes you just need to be around Renaissance art, Baroque architecture and…cacio e pepe.

Of course, nowhere in the world has such a staggering wealth of Baroque architecture as does Sicily (a region which actually sort of believes it’s its own country), especially the majestic city of Palermo. And an exceedingly plush new hotel is urgently beckoning to the Sicilian capital + cultural capital, notably as it is the newest property from the Rocco Forte group, whose portfolio includes several of our absolute favorite European sleeps (the Savoy in Florence, de Russie in Rome, Amigo in Brussels…).

The Villa Igiea actually dates back to 1900, and is considered a masterpiece of Sicilian Art Nouveau (we must admit we didn’t realize there was such a thing). But it’s been given a lavishly stylish makeover by Deputy Chairperson and Design Director of Rocco Forte Olga Polizzi – along with Paolo Moschino and Philip Vergeilen of Nicholas Haslam Studio – its 104 rooms now done up in elegantly cool, but just that little bit regal color schemes, with blues, creams, exquisitely patterned rugs, and some with balconies offering glorious views of the Tyrrhenian Sea. And this being a villa, they’re all characterized by a prevailing sense of residential comfort.

It’s also a place where one could simply kick back and enjoy the good life, without ever really having to leave the property. And Rocco Forte Creative Director For Food Fulvio Pierangelini decisively sees to that, with a trio of sybaritic epicurean venues. The signature restaurant Florio (which was the name of the family that built the villa – Igiea was the beloved daughter) is fitted into a grand Louis XVI style room, and spills out onto a sprawling terrace. Focusing on seasonal produce, seafood and vegetables sourced from the on-site garden, it serves up dishes like tuna tataki w/ tonnata sauce, tagliolini cacio e pepe w/ red prawns, salt-baked seabass and Sicilian style stuffed pork to a cosmopolitan clientele.

The Villa’s Igiea Terrazza Bar is a particular visual treat, romantically tucked into the property’s sandstone vaults, with plush red banquettes and original 1950s frescoes by Sicilian artist Eugenio Morici. Fresh herb infused cocktails by bar maestro Salvatore Calabrese pair nicely with health-aware snacks like vegetable tartar, lentil burgers and turmeric quinoa salad. And as the name implies, an absolutely gorgeous terrace looks out over the Gulf of Palermo, where one could easily while away an entire afternoon over a couple of expertly mixed negronis. The Alicetta Pool Bar is a more casual, open-air spot for sashimi, gourmet pizzas and sips of small maison Champagnes between swims.

Of course, autumn is the perfect time to visit Palermo, as the blazing summer heat gives way to 60-70-something degree temps in October and November, and the fall foliage in the Madonie Natural Park is absolutely breathtaking. The Igiea also offers local market tours and cooking lessons – the latter surely being the best souvenir one can possibly bring back from Sicily.

(N.B. Villa Igiea closes for the season in mid-November.)

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