For a honeymoon destination quite unlike any other, this Organic farm eco resort is truly something special. The chirruping cicadas and the rising sun will be your alarm clock in this rural paradise, where a home-from-home, welcoming family culture is the order of the day.
Fontes Episcopi is a family farm which has become a hotel. The former is the biggest influence on the latter and the warm welcome, and the sensation that you are a guest in a charming private home never leaves you. Nor should it.
This is the ideal spot for chilled honeymooners keen for something a little different. It is a redefinition of luxury, where being invited to stay at an eccentric, vivacious homestead, with your fellow guests most likely to be rabbits, kittens and a coterie of geese and peacocks, feels much more exciting than a spa treatment.
Set the scene
On arrival, the family patriarch (who speaks very little English) will give you some soap and shampoo, both handmade from ingredients grown on the farm. You are then asked what your dietary requirements are and if there is anything you don’t eat, for dinner and lunch are offered with no menus- you are simply invited to dine.
This meal is made in the heart of the home: the kitchen. It is something to behold, a sight to make any interiors junkie weep. White subway tiles, exposed stone walls, copper pots hanging from the walls, wicker baskets strewn across the floor and old wooden painted tables laden with handheld pasta rolling machines creating the good stuff from wheat made from the farm’s own special (low on gluten!) flour.
The ground floor rooms of the old farmhouse contain cosy living areas quite distinct from the stark, impersonal curation of most hotels. Here the sofas are mismatched and sunken and the coffee tables and shelves are laden with books from on almost every imaginable subject, interspersed with curious and Sicily’s ubiquitous Moro heads.
The outdoor spaces include a busy, functional courtyard, a terrace for dining as you overlook the fields, and large pool nestled unobtrusively within the wild gardens, where you will find many animals ambling through the olive groves and flowers.
The living quarters at Fontes Episcopi consists of seven guest rooms. All are spacious yet simple, with charming but paired back design. Each has its own name and identity, with coloured headboards, artworks and green shutters on the windows. Ours had a private terrace, perfect for watching the sunset across the distant mountains that hover everywhere in undulating Sicily.
Food & Drink
This is another arena in which Fontes Episcopi leaves an indelible imprint. We had a multiple course dinner on the candlelit terrace which, at many other resorts, could have felt like a heavy and somewhat draining tasting menu. But the plates being brought out of the kitchen – the bustle of which was just visible through the large arched windows- felt like the best homecooked food we had eaten in a long time.
That is not to say that these dishes lacked gourmet theatrics. The simple potato (grown on the land of course) was sculpted into a rose, homegrown roasted courgette was sliced into spiralled tendrils and cajoled into one of the best raviolis I have ever eaten. Pork slices had a simple, but delicious, pea garnish and dessert was a fruit salad adorned with an edible flower we saw being plucked from the garden. It was, like the hotel itself, deceptively simple, effortlessly memorable.
Built originally by the Baron Ignazio Genuardi, and gifted as a present to his son, Gerlando, the buiding has retained all the charm and magical detachment of its original incarnation. Gerlando cultivated the land and eventually embarked ipin a an ecclesiastical career, becoming a bishop. It is from here that Fontes Episcopi gets its name. The family which now own it have lovingly restored it to be more than just a hotel, but a homestead which is now extending that same warm hospitality to paying guests.
Almost everything used at Fontes Episcopi is grown on site. From the vegetables you eat to the products used at the spa. The ethos here, as an eco-resort, is firmly on the cultivation and ethical maintenance of natural resources and on leaving as small a carbon footprint as possible.
As a small resort, in the middle of the countryside and with only seven rooms, it feels immediately like a couple’s paradise. Yet there is plenty of room for children, and the abundance of animals alone will keep them entertained for hours. The hotel does have lots of space for extra beds in all the rooms and there are plenty pf activities that can be organised through the hotel which are family friendly, like horse riding and swimming lessons.
The spa is small but beautiful. The natural swimming pool is impressive in size and surroundings and the treatment rooms are simple but very pretty. There are face and body treatments, from exfoliating to revitalizing and massages and more using natural relaxing, purifying and energizing bio herbal teas.
The hotel is just outside Aragona, a wonderful historic town, in the quiet countryside the Natural Reserve of Macalube, where you will find some astonishing sulphur deposits. It is within easy reach of the Valley of the Temples, a UNESCO World Heritage site of ancient Greek and Roman structures that actually gave the institution its iconic temple logo and near some of Sicily’s most rugged and arresting coastline and the beautiful Sicani mountains.
For a rural base for exploration, you can do no better than this hotel. Though you might, as we did, arrive with plans to head out on the road, and find yourself lulled into staying, and having a glass of wine as the peacocks cry and the sun sets over the olive groves.
Fontes Episcopi is a 2 hour drive from Palermo Airport, with regular flights from London on British Airways, Easyjet and Ryanair. Elegant Resorts offer a 4-night package at Fontes Episcopi on a B&B basis from £1520 per person, which includes economy flights, private transfers and UK lounge passes.
Related Article: Honeymoon Review: Nordelaia, Italy