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  • Emily Matthews

Under Etna's Shadow

“Many places use the word ‘unique’ to describe themselves,” said the lovely Giovanna Manganaro, General Manager at Monaci delle Terre Nere, a spectacular Relais & Chateau in the foothills of Mount Etna, “but here the word takes on a completely new meaning, you’ll see.” And see we did. Much more than just a hotel, this boutique and charming estate, set in the shadow of a highly active volcano, spread throughout 25 hectares of pitch-black land, hidden and private amongst trees, vineyards, and crops, is, in every meaning of the word, a truly, singularly, and irrevocably unique place.

The historic estate of Monaci delle Terre Nere ­–full of extraordinary charm and natural beauty– was originally chosen by the monks of St Anne’s order in the 18th Century. It has been restored with great care and with a certain flair that gives it an ambience that is hard to define, but easy to love. Authentically Sicilian, it combines elements of modern art and design with a deep and undisturbed historic feel.

Located on the slopes of Mount Etna, the largest active volcano in Europe, with dramatic views over the volcano and the Mediterranean, this countryside boutique hotel is the place where several worlds meet: great wines, breathtaking nature, renowned gastronomy, outdoor activities, mountains, oceans, and the magical starlit nights when the lava of the Etna glitters in the dark. The sum of all its parts, this secluded corner of the world combines a ‘dolce vita’ philosophy with a ‘zen’ ambiance and an air of seductive mystery.

During our stay here, between moments of contemplation by the pool and leisurely walks through the vineyards, we enjoyed the local culinary arts, and, of course, the estate’s marvelous wines. Mount Etna is the third most important wine producing area in Italy, for the great diversity of its land and its microclimates, and the extraordinary finesse of its wines. Taking advantage of the richness of Etna’s terroir, Monaci delle Terre Nere cultivates its vineyards to produce its own wine, with native varieties of the region.

These excellent wines go perfectly with the hotel’s compromise to the Slow Food Movement. Monaci delle Terre Nere is passionate about food as an element of authenticity as well as an experience itself and is fully involved in the production of what we enjoyed at the restaurant Locanda Nerello.

Set on the terrace of the main house overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, Locanda Nerello reflects the Eco-Bio identity of the whole estate. A menu based on food seasonality creates a culinary experience of great variety set in an ambiance of contemporary informality.

Yes, ‘unique’ is definitely a word that comes to mind constantly throughout our stay at Monaci delle Terre Nere, reminding us that every detail and every moment has been thought of, created with care, elaborated with love. A magical alliance between bespoke experiences, sensational places, and a marvelous setting, this jewel is a reflection of the passion and dedication that led to its creation and that today drives it to continuously blow our minds.


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