Imagine a place where the sea washes up to the shores of an ancient volcano, a place where vivid colors burst from every corner and all of the senses are enveloped by the perfume of citrus hanging in the air. This is Sicily, the largest of the Italian islands separated from the mainland by the Strait of Messina and surrounded by three seas. It has been the crossroads of cultures for thousands of years. Here on this sun-kissed island is Country Boutique Hotel Zash, a place which evokes the history of a land that is at once wild and wonderful, combining it with an essential architectural style which never overpowers and always highlights the heady beauty of the ancient Trinacria… Sicily.
Silence, a continual presence that is discrete, invisible, lovely. It is a silence which fills the air as if with long lost memories brought in on a soft breeze. The warm caress of the wind, blowing in from the clear blue of the Ionian Sea, infuses the rugged and wild earth of Sicily’s western coast with salty air. Here it is – the Island in the Sun.
The Country Boutique Hotel Zash is just a few kilometers from the city of Catania overlooking the Gulf of Taormina on one side and the imposing slopes of Etna on the other. Its name works like onomatopoeia – the whisper of leaves moving in the breeze. In this old country home, surrounded by a profound silence, a rich past blends with contemporary style, accentuated by the bright colors and captivating bouquet of citrus.
The immense gardens surrounding Zash give a rural touch to its elegant design. The essence of nature is perceptible throughout the hotel. The walls are set with simple stone and the carefully designed balance of full and empty spaces accompanies the eye from the majestic volcano to the picturesque stretch of the pebbled and sandy beaches.
Nestled between the slopes of black lava and the cool blues of the sea the juxtaposition of these beauties of nature are framed like painted canvases in the large wood-framed windows of the suites located in the main house. An elaborate positioning of mirrors gives the rooms facing west myriad views of Etna, while simple glass walls define the edge of the white stone terraces of the suites facing the sea allowing for uninterrupted views down to the tiny tourist port of Riposto. High vaulted ceilings, natural wood floors, inserts in lava stone and the candid white of the walls create a sense of harmony, balance and relaxation.
An even deeper feeling of peace can be found in the rooms looking out onto the gardens. As if from a story book, the walls seem to disappear and large floor-to-ceiling windows bring the beauty of the garden and its citrus trees directly inside. The use of lava stone in the bathrooms and for the headboards contribute to the modern yet rustic feeling of these rooms.
The tradition and flavors of Sicily are equally present in the hotel’s restaurant headed by the talented chef Giuseppe Raciti and his team. This young chef was the silver medal winner at the Culinary Expo in Massa Carrara in Tuscany and studied under top Michelin chefs Maurizio Santin and Massimo Mantarro. Here at Zash’s restaurant he cooks up new dishes daily. Each recipe is an expert reinterpretation of traditional Sicilian cuisine with an international twist.
The ambiance of the restaurant is as refined as its dishes. It is located in the ancient palmento, the typical stone-walled cellar found in old southern Italian residences where wines were once left to ferment. A carefully selected wine list accompanies the menu. Zash offers some of the best wines produced on the slopes of Etna and gives particular prominence to local wineries such as Nerello Mascalese and Carricante. Other Sicilian wines grown in the interior valleys and hills of the island are also available as are some of the country’s most noted wines like the famous Barolo and Chianti.
Zash is ideally positioned on the east coast of the island. From here it is easy to reach many of the area’s most beautiful and interesting sites. Visitors can stroll the brightly colored streets of Giardini Naxos, explore the ancient amphitheater of Taormina which dates back to the 3rd century BC, hike amongst the vineyards of Mount Etna and marvel at the twenty-five-meter-deep canyon which is the Gole dell’Alcantara.
From its fantastic location with its incredible views to its carefully designed interiors, Zash is truly a doorway to Sicily. A visit to the Country Hotel offers its guests the full charms of the island with its sweet scents of citrus, quiet breezes, soft aqua waves and rugged landscape stretching from its beaches right up to the black volcano slopes and on up again to the bright blue Sicilian sky.
© photo Alfio Garozzo