A Sicilian Escape: Dimora Cala del Pozzo
I love Italy, but I adore Sicily, so I was incredibly excited to return with my husband for our wedding anniversary. We chose to celebrate in a new destination. Hopefully, my words transport you to the breathtaking Sicilian island of Favignana as I share all the details on the lovely accommodation we stayed in whilst visiting.
We gleefully broke our usual “family-friendly” rules of staying in town, and being able to walk to a supermarket, when we chose Dimora Cala del Pozzo on the Sicilian island of Favignana. I thought this was the perfect destination to celebrate our wedding anniversary! Favignana is 40 minutes by ferry from the Port of Trapani, which can be easily reached from Trapani or Palermo airports. This is a place for grown-ups - it’s isolated, the beaches are mainly rocky and you need to book a taxi to take you into town for dinner unless you choose to dine at the Dimora (which you absolutely should at least once, but more on that later).
Dimora Cala del Pozzo is the perfect hotel to experience the rugged coastline of the wild and romantic island of Favignana. Life is beautifully slow and this is a hotel with a genuine connection to its location and a mission to be as sympathetic to the local environment as possible, with its own local farm providing much of the produce being served. Unlike at large, soulless resorts, you are not left hovering above your destination... you are in it.
A Dimora translates as a residence. It’s more like staying in a luxury home than a hotel. There are elegant, squishy sofas with well-placed cushions and throw rugs to share. The rooms are filled with carefully sourced antiques, and the vintage coffee table books transport you back in time whilst you sip on a glass of the stunning house white wine served with warm salt rolled fried almonds. I could wax lyrical all day about the tiles and stonework sourced from a local quarry.
The Dimora is a converted farmhouse and stable that dates back around 300 years. It’s rather wonderful to have dinner beneath the arched ceilings where the cows would have been stabled previously. Don’t panic, I promise that it smells better today than it would have done 300 years ago. In fact, I could write an entire piece on the smell of this place, enriched with the fragrant oils placed in every room!
There are 8 bedrooms to choose from, and the Dimora helpfully has a full page on its website, with extensive photos, describing every room in detail. This means you book a specific room rather than a room category. Personally, I wish all hotels would offer this. I spent hours pouring over every detail of each room and I finally settled upon L’Erica. The enormous freestanding bathtub sitting opposite the bed and placed between double aspect windows sealed the deal!
My heart skipped a beat when we were first shown our room; in real life, it is far more enchanting than any photo could show. The tiles are beautiful and sourced locally from Marsala on the mainland. Throwing open the blue shutters reveals a view as spectacular as a painting. In the bathroom the rainfall shower is a nice touch, but you’ll struggle to be distracted from the bath! The icing on the cake is an enormous terrace, with a covered seating area and a glorious day bed, from which to watch the sunset over the distant island of Marettimo!
The style is shabby chic perfection from the light shades and the pile of pillows on the bed, to the antique mirrors and curved wardrobe with a Sicilian ceramic figure on top. I absolutely did not want to leave.
Favignana is an exposed and windy island, which means garden landscape options are limited. The wind is strong and, apparently, the only orange trees that survive on the island grow in caves. And yet the Dimora has created a beautiful garden of cacti, prickly pears, palm trees and other Mediterranean shrubs. The exotic garden would look at home in Marrakech - there are so many touches that remind me of Garden Majorelle.
One of the most curious plants that grow on the island, and in the garden, is the enormous green spears that grow straight up and might reach 3 metres tall. We affectionately named these plants, giant asparagus. I’m sure there is a precise name for the species, so please do share if you know it.
There are so many private corners n the garden to enjoy, with daybeds, sofas and rattan chairs. You can make a pot of herbal tea and take it into the garden to enjoy or better still, order a glass of the local wine. Add a good book for the promise of a perfect afternoon of relaxation with just the sweet little green lizards for company.
Whilst en route to Favignana, and waiting for our flight from Rome to Trapani, a message from the Dimora arrived asking if we wanted to eat dinner at the hotel that night. We were tired after a 4 am start and instantly agreed without paying much attention to the set menu. Wow, were we in for a wonderful culinary treat.
Dinner at the Dimora is old-school elegant - kind of like a private dinner party. The food is completely and utterly divine with a sophisticated menu of local wine.
We began the evening with a glass of local Grillo - a white wine that tastes of nectar - on the squishy sofa with a view towards the sea.
Dinner was served at a large communal table with the beautiful sight of the sun setting over the sea. We ate on one end of the table whilst another couple was seated at the other end, offering privacy to enjoy a romantic dinner with the opportunity to converse with other guests between courses as much or as little as you like.
The menu changes daily and our menu read like this:
Sarde a beccafico
Tortino di parmigiana
Risotto gambero rosso e limone
Sgombro al salmoriglio
Dolce del giorno
Every course was fresh and exciting. We started with sardines stuffed with breadcrumbs, big fat raisins and caramelised oranges - a local specialty with amazing taste and texture. Next up was the loveliest aubergine parmigiana with a rich tomato sauce and aubergines so perfectly cooked they tasted creamy.
Then we were served red prawn risotto. Red prawns are also a local specialty that we spotted on many menus, although these were the best we tasted!
A magnificent Mackerel was prepared as the main event, and as someone who isn’t a huge fish fan and can’t be bothered with the whole deboning business, this fish just melted in the mouth and lifted off the bone with ease.
Finally, a pistachio semifreddo for dessert - I think I shed a tear upon tasting my first mouthful. It tasted like white chocolate, but we were assured there was no white chocolate in it. The pistachios were just prepared to creamy perfection with a crisp shell on the top - magic cooking indeed!
Breakfast is an event at the Dimora, and I can honestly say it is one of my favourite hotel breakfasts of all time. There is an exciting spread of freshly baked cakes, breads, cornetti, bruschetta, tarts, cheese, granola and fresh fruit to which you can help yourself.
You will be offered fresh ricotta each morning and you absolutely must accept. The ricotta is so fresh it is still warm from being made earlier that morning. I flavoured mine with honey from the Dimora’s farm, which was so thick it had a crust, but you can choose from seeds, nuts and fresh fruit. It’s magical! I also enjoyed scrambled eggs filled with cheese and mint every day.
On average, we filled our beautiful ceramic plates around 5 times every morning for breakfast, and enjoyed them with a cappuccino and a fresh juice!
You can eat at the communal table in the covered terrace or one of the wrought iron tables in the courtyard - we did both!
Stephania and Alicia are gracious hosts who will take care of you and ensure you have a wonderful stay. From bike hire to transfers, boat trips and restaurant recommendations, they’ve got you covered.
We got to know Stephania very well over the course of our stay. She is originally from Palermo but grew up in Melbourne before returning to the island life of Favignana. She shared so much about the island with us.
This is the kind of place where people remember your name and care deeply that you have a good time. The staff all wear a palette of taupe and cream in a style of casual elegance that only Italians can achieve. I call it Armani casual.
You need to book yourself a wild and romantic stay now whilst the dreamy Dimora is still an exotic secret!
You can find out more about Dimora Cala del Pozzo here.