Travelling with a baby
Back to Sicily after 6 years, so for the occasion, we had to start with visiting Mount Etna with kids and spend the night on this gorgeous active volcano. Etna excited the boys imagination for a while now and having been so close to Vesuvius last year, they eventually gathered all their courage to go in person rather than just speculate. And Relais Monaci delle Terre Nere was the perfectly luxurious pied a terre and answer to our prayers for best of Catania boutique hotels.
One of our most authentic stays, eco and family friendly, this 18th century villa lies between the Mediterranean and Etna. As name suggests, Monaci is a former monastery integrated, reconditioned and extended to perfection on spectacular and dramatic lands with citrus, jasmine and lavender fragrances. Little villas are also scattered around elegantly, black lava walls and volcanic structures, antique wine press, reclaimed wood furnishings.
And this is one chic former monastery, where Phillipe Starck and Fabio Novembre chairs are sensual and inviting, the intoxicating spring fragrances of trees and flowers dazzle your senses, the slow cooked food melts in your mouth, the Etna spumante flows sparkling and locally produced organic wines are rich and elegant.
The 24 hectars of grapevines are beautiful, the gardens bloomed with out of this world colours and life at the end of May, the cherries invited us to pick and savour. As one may easily picture, the kids and us equally loved smelling and tasting.
Etna with kids is not only possible but pure delight to spend the night on an active volcano – Europe the largest to be more precise.
For kids and adults equally there are bikes to explore amazing nature trails; there’s egg collecting; hectars of amazing gardens and vineyards; horse and donkey riding; cooking and astronomy classes – to mention just a few.
Relais Monaci delle Terre Nere’s swimming pool is inviting and descending slope wise – the perfect place to glaze at the Mediterranean glimmering in the sun, sip aperols, dip in, meditate by or simply hang out with the kids and relax.
We stayed in a beautiful suite – Vivace – overlooking the sea. With a huge ceiling and a fireplace, separate living area with sofa bed, Suite Vivace is roomy and chic. About 150m away from the country estate villa, charming green path lavenders and trees leading to it – a fairy tale volcano house on magic lands according to our 4.5 years old.
Table, chairs and sunchairs just outside the Suite are handy for stargazing and late night talks should one manage to escape the charm of the Bar Convivium.
The food at Locanda Nerello (Monaci delle Terre Nere restaurant) is slow cooked and exquisite. The parmigiana I ordered was innovative perfection: crisp aubergine and slightly smoked mozzarella; the risotto was creamy, al dente and soaked in Etna spumante. R was excstatic about his chocolate cake served with lavender – his absolute favourite!
Breakfast was equally beautiful – all organic, locally produced and tasting superb –
served in the beautiful terraces overlooking Relais Monaci delle Terre Nere gorgeous estate pink pastels villa.
The evening we have been also very guilty of overindulging the Etna luxury hotel in Guido Coffa brilliant wine (Catarratto) as well as Etna spumante. Both contain beautiful local grapes and the latter is produced with champagne method and bottled for a minimum of 18 months. Etna spumante must be my new favourite sparkling wine: luxurious and elegant, more mineral than champagne, fresher and fuller bodied than prosecco.
Impetuous nature combined with innovative techniques end product is superb: Etna’s unique terroir, diverse microclimates on the mountainsides at the foothills of Europe largest volcano dazzle your senses and head.
Our evening with Relais Monaci delle Terre Nere was just out of this world, magic colours at dusk, live jazz on, spring fragrances and stars. This is one special place suspended between moody overpowering nature and the sea, a beautiful reminder of the fragile equilibrium and beauty of this life.
For further Sicilian adventures in Egadi islands and a stay in a hotel cave, check our post on 3 days in Favignana. And for Palermo and around, sailing in natural reserves included, check our post on Safe travels in Palermo.
PS: Many thanks to Relais Monaci delle Terre Nere for the wonderful warm hospitality, media discount, gorgeous welcome Guido Coffa wine and Etna Spumante.