Abbey Santa Maria del Bosco
Benedictine abbey with private
woodland and pool
Santa Maria del Bosco lies at the heart of the Valle del Belice within the Monte Genoardo nature reserve, surrounded by a managed woodland of larch, oak and chestnut that has formed part of its estate since the 13th century. The nucleus of the abbey dates back to the 14th century, but the building was greatly extended and improved by the Benedictines in the late 16th century.
Arriving here is an incredible experience — indeed stepping through the grand door, or portone, into a seemingly interminable (in fact 108m-long) corridor, cross-vaulted, and hung with red velvet curtains, may make you feel you have not only travelled back in time, but into a previous life as a Benedictine Cardinal…
The thirteen bedrooms, all with private bathroom, open onto the grand corridor, as does the dining room, a small living room with TV and a large kitchen with larder. The main living room, or grande salone, is at the end of a second corridor, which intersects the first beneath a typical Baroque cupola. Ten of the bedrooms look onto one of two cloisters each centred on an original fountain — wonderfully evocative places to relax or meditate. Off the cloisters is the immense, original refectory, these days used as a dining or banquet room when large groups visit. From here a monumental staircase leads to the up-per floor. The garden is beautifully cared for and full of hidden angles — even including a labyrinth — and in summer you can cool off in the large swimming pool. The abbey forms part of an agricultural estate, with milk fresh from the cow, seasonal produce, eggs and olive oil available for the use of guests. Useful information: There is no air-con because there is absolutely no need for it! The location and the thick walls mean that the abbey stays cool in summer. Indeed, you might even need a jacket or jumper in the evenings.
8 double bedrooms with private bathroom
3 twin rooms with private bathroom (of these one communicates with a double bedroom, and another has beds in a little alcove, making them ideal for children).
1 single bedroom with French bed and private bathroom
Six of the bathrooms have a bath-tub, six have a shower.
1 guest bathroom
Large dining room
Small living room with adjoining TV room
Large living room, or grande salone, with fireplace
Large, comfortable kitchen with larder
Large garden with swimming pool
This is one of the most imposing buildings we can imagine staying in, and the rooms are really comfortable. Breakfast with mil fresh from the estate cows. Taking walks in the ancient woods. The wonderful meals cooked by the hosts. The way that staying here you continually spot new details of this fascinating historic building. Exploring this off-the-beaten track part of Sicily — we had wonderful swims on the beaches at Menfi and Sciacca and visited the ghost-town of Poggioreale and the eerie, surreal cement installation, Cretto di Burri at Gibellina Vecchia. There are several really great wine producers in the Valle del Belice — it’s fascinating to visit them.
This is an ideal villa for large groups or families who love nature and want to discover a Sicily very different to that encountered by most tourists.