Monday, April 26, 2010

Life at Verdura

Wake up. Contemplate the weather. Not so good. What to do…

There’s the spa and fitness center (but a girl can only lift so many weights). The beach and golf course and bicycles to tour it all (muddy, from the rain).

Four restaurants and a couple of bars (it’s already dangerous when I eat only at meals; if I started snacking out of boredom, my skat would be a profoundly disturbing issue). My own suite, which was bigger than my New York apartment and had movies and a bathtub that begged for bubbles to fill it. And then there was the balcony overlooking the Mediterranean and sunset. (Pas mal…)

Si, si, it was a tough three days by the sea.

Of course it was lovely. It was a brand new five-star resort. Totally elegant surroundings and indulgent services (um, can you drive me in this golf cart the 100 yards to my room? It’s drizzling.). But I was there to research an article, so I couldn’t totally kick back and be lazy. I had to do a lot of driving and exploring on my own, which, if you’ve ever driven on the Italian “Autostrada”, you know is an experience. And for two of the three days, the weather was crap. So it wasn’t all sunshine and skipping down the beach. Even so, I can’t (and won’t) complain. It was wonderful.

I was pretty taken by the landscape the very first day, flying into Palermo. I don’t know why, but I didn’t expect the rugged, mountains that seemed to pop out of nowhere.

But I was hoping for the turquoise water, and I got it. Yay.

Then I took the long way to the resort in order to see the “salt road” from Trapani to Marsala. Tons and tons of sea salt is mined between these two port towns, and plenty of grapes are grown for sweet Marsala dessert wine. I drove through the towns themselves but didn’t see anything urgently charming or omigod beautiful, so I kept going.

In fact, I saw many slummy apartment buildings, reminiscent of Soviet bloc buildings and, between the grey skies and my too frequent wrong turns, I was on the road for five hours and had to admit my trip wasn’t starting on the most auspicious terms.

But then I got to Verdura. Which is omigod beautiful.

My room…

The grounds…

The main building…

On Saturday, I awoke and it was still cool and rainy, but I took advantage of breaks in the weather to bicycle the grounds. I was wowed by rampant wildflowers, mini olive groves and batches of orange trees.

Close your eyes and imagine the sweetest orange blossom scent.

That is the smell that wafted randomly through the air across the grounds. Heavenly.

And Sunday, the sun finally shone between giant, fluffy cumulous clouds. I took my little Fiat 500 out and about and liked how it looked against the old buildings.

But I liked it even more when I found some old, back roads that went up and down and all around rolling hills of vineyards and olive groves and farms. The beauty was breathtaking, and I loved having the road to myself and even the occasional good song on the radio (note to self: pack Mr. B’s mixed CDs next time).

Of course I had a couple moments of, if not panic, then at least exasperation, because I knew I was driving in circles. There were times when I’d reach a fork in the road and there was absolutely no indication of which way I should go. But it was a charming sort of lost; I knew I would eventually find my way and it wasn’t scary or stressful.

Even after the beauty of the countryside, back at the resort, it became really clear to me how special Verdura is. Nearly 570 acres with incredible vistas. Rolling green hills. Old, golden buildings. The turquoise sea.

By Monday, driving back to Palermo—now a passing-fool on the Autostrada—I was entirely smitten with Sicily. The landscape just wouldn’t quit: all vineyards and olive and orange groves and green hills, not yet blighted by big, ugly shopping complexes. Instead, there were old, decaying ruins with serious history and a gorgeous golden color that was perfect against all the green.

Three days just wasn’t enough. Let me know if you want to go back…


  1. I've always wanted to go to Sicily, it looks amazing.

    How did you find driving the Fiat 500? I think it's the cutest car ever and am thinking of getting one.

  2. Oh, thanks so much for all of the photos and info! It looks so beautiful! I'm going to put it on my list...after tracking down my grandmother's hometown. Love it!

  3. Neat! I love the photos of the field of wild flowers. My dad owned a Fiat when I was a toddler. My dad's parents were from Sicily/Palermo. After Paris, I plan to visit there. Thanks for taking me along via your blog!

  4. Thanks for sharing these lovely pictures of your trip!

    P.S.: If you meant to say "Yes, yes" in French, then it should be "Si, si."

  5. Andrea and Honeygo, the Fiat was fun: tiny and zippy (so, actually, a little nerve-wracking in fierce winds, but otherwise a fun drive).

    Erin and Honeygo, definitely get yourselves to Sicily. It wasn't at the top of my must-go list, but I would love to go back and see more of the island. It was truly beautiful.

    Thanks for the spelling help, anon! All set now...

  6. Hi Amy, I have spent the last couple of years exploring Sicily (and have set up a travel company to help people explore it without spending 5 hours getting lost!)...and you are right it is a fantastic place. Let me know the next time you want to come back: