Wednesday, October 8, 2014

An Agriturismo Stay at Masseria Susafa, Sicily

Would you ever consider an agritourism (farm) stay on your next holiday or vacation? We did it in Sicily and it was one of the best travel experiences I've ever had. Masseria Susafa is a farm house located deep in the Sicilian countryside (near Polizzi Generosa) owned and run by the Saeli-Rizzuto family for over five generations. Today, it functions as a hotel with 13 rooms and a restaurant, plus plenty of places to lounge around and relax, including a gorgeous pool (for unbearably hot weather) and a wine bar converted from the original millstone (where wine was produced) for cooler days.

I know, I know, stifle your laughter: I'm the last person you'd expect to see communing with pigs (my idea of hiking attire consists of Steve Madden rain boots with contrasting zips and a Tommy Hilfiger trench - neither of which are waterproof or slip-proof for walking up hills, for that matter - topped with an oversized pair of Michael Kors sunglasses), but there they were: sniffing around our car when we arrived.

We were lucky: the other agriturismo resorts were fully booked by the time we decided we wanted to escape the over-populated, touristy avenues of Taormina and stay in the country somewhere. At the final hour (literally, around 11 p.m. before the day we left Taormina), I stumbled upon this Telegraph review of Masseria Susafa and saw that they had one room left. I snapped it up. At £90 per night, it was considerably cheaper than our previous stays in Syracuse and Taormina.

Not to mention, it had a pretty magnificent (but freezing cold!) pool, with panoramic views of the Sicilian countryside.

In the summer and fall, the rolling hills are barren and dry. But in the spring (around May, we were told), everything turns green again and you're guaranteed green pastures of epic Teletubby proportions (as to why that's the first thing I think of when I think of green rolling hills, I have no idea).

The drive there can be a little tricky: our TomTom was quite old, so the map didn't recognize the address. Luckily, we had an iPhone with free data, so Google Maps helped us out on the last 10k or so. I'd read on a few Tripadvisor reviews that the final 4k stretch to the hotel was a little harrowing, due to the condition of the roads. They were basically fine, except for quite a few large and very deep pot-holes, or what John dubbed as "major bottoming-out territory". 

But once we arrived, we were stunned by the majestic scenery that surrounded us - it's just so breathtakingly beautiful. Hills and valleys can be seen for miles and miles, with clouds settling in some of the valleys early in the morning. When the clouds roll in at desk, creating a thick, foggy mist, you're unable to see anything beyond the farm for a while until it clears.

The hotel's rooftop terrace was an incredible place to soak up all the views and relax with a glass of wine and a book. The only sounds I could hear up there were the low, musical jangles of the cowbells of the cows grazing below. At night, it was completely silent, which took some getting used to coming from London!

The rooms are rustic charm at its best: decorated simply but beautifully, with beds made with tightly tucked corners and original dark, wooden beams angled from the ceiling above. Doors to each room were left open during the day (if you wished) separated from the outdoors by a light curtain blowing gently in the breeze to let just the right amount of sunlight in.

But where Masseria Susafa truly shines is at its restaurant. Housed in what used to be the farm's granary, service at "Il Granaio" is headed up by a superb and friendly small team, with a kindly, older lady who only spoke Italian and whom I absolutely adored (mostly because she once intuited that I wanted more of the insanely delicious bread and rattled off something in Italian, of which I only caught the word pane, and nodded my head vigorously to in response).

Dishes are prepared using produce grown either on-site or locally and, of course, made with Susafa's biological extra virgin olive oil (yes, it has its own website). Menu prices are very reasonable (between £9 - £12 for a primi course and slightly more for a secondi, as I recall) and the food is just ... delicious. Easily the best we'd had on the entire trip.

This salad of nectarine, toasted pine nuts, salami, raisin, and rocket (or arugula, for my fellow Americans) drizzled with a honey and balsamic dressing was divine. On our second night of dining there, I loved the fresh tagliatelle and ragu dish I had the night before so much, I ordered it again (I know, so unoriginal, but I just had to!).

During the day, we read by the pool or took long walks in the neighboring countryside (though I got super creeped out by something I termed the "zombie house" - ask me about that at some point!). Well, we tried to take long walks. John's idea of a "walk" was charging up a steep and prickly hill while I shouted at him from below, enraged, "This isn't a WALK; this is, like, fucking STAIRMASTER!" I'm rude like that. Also: there were a lot of flies. Everywhere.

But these were the views we had when we got to the top:

Pretty worth the trek, even though I sulked and stomped around practically the whole way up. We had lovely weather for the majority of our stay, until it started raining when we left - perfect timing, really.

When it was time to go, I felt so sad! I loved the peaceful tranquility of Masseria Susafa, but what I loved even more was the downright honest and genuine hospitality we were shown during our stay - something that seemed to be missing from our prior visits to Syracuse and Taormina.

We hope to return in the spring, when the hills are like Teletubby-land, but I'm not sure how likely that is to happen. I'd love to take my dad with us next time, as he'd absolutely love it there. 

What do you think? Would you stay here?


1 comment

  1. Thanks to this lovely and informative blog I am off there shortly!!
    Will report back x


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