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Whether you’re a keen golfer, a spa aficionado, or just appreciate fine wining, dining and holidaying in beautiful locations, Sicily’s Donnafugata Golf and Spa Resort is sure to please, says Sarah Dawson.  Located in the south west of the island, nestled between the sea and within an area of...

A Sicilian Taster

Whether you’re a keen golfer, a spa aficionado, or just appreciate fine wining, dining and holidaying in beautiful locations, Sicily’s Donnafugata Golf and Spa Resort is sure to please, says Sarah Dawson. 

Located in the south west of the island, nestled between the sea and within an area of natural history and conservation, the Donnafugata Golf Resort and Spa is dubbed a golfing enthusiast’s dream, but that’s not the only reason guests come here. 

Sicily is known as la ‘isola bella’ and is the largest island in the Mediterranean. With the two main industries being tourism and agriculture (an award-winning olive oil hails from here, as does delicious Ricotta cheese), you can expect mouthfuls of appetising Italian food and drink, fascinating ancient cities, a stunning coastline and a landscape dotted with traditional farms, carob, olive and orange trees, and a riot of wild flowers. 

Built on the grounds of an original hacienda, with ancient chapel and traditional buildings at its core, the Donnafugata boasts two championship golf courses. Links is an 18-hole, rugged and natural course, designed by Franco Piras and overlooking the coast , while Parklands, designed by Grand Slam winner, Gary Player, is a smoother course surrounded by carob and olive trees. 

Sicily is certainly an exotic destination but easily accessible from London. Take an afternoon flight with British Airways from London Gatwick on a Thursday and you can arrive in time for dinner, ready to ‘tee off’ the following morning. Touching down on Sicily’s soil your senses will be assailed with the smell of pine and jasmine, and a beautiful fresh breeze blowing in from the Mediterranean Sea. 

As part of the Spanish NH Hotel group, in addition to a first-class golfing experience, you can expect a contemporary, yet traditional atmosphere at the Donnafugata where plush purple sofas, huge chandeliers and flowing voile curtains are married with rustic beamed ceilings. 

My first floor superior suite in a terracotta coloured building overlooked the perfectly manicured gardens and spa, with the Links golf course and the ocean in the distance. After I’d come to grips with the lighting system, I don’t think I’ve ever slept more soundly in my supremely comfortable bed – such a tranquil environment. 

Breakfast the next morning was a decadent affair, a gourmet buffet with a choice of eggs, bacon, cakes and croissants, cheeses, cold meats, fruits, yoghurts – and Champagne – served in Il Ficodindia. 

I met Gary, the resort’s charming South African former-professional-turned coach, at the resort’s modern Golfing Academy. In my group we were eight women, with just one man, and I was relieved that being a complete beginner, Gary began with the absolute basics, such as how to hold a club correctly and take a right angled swing. 

After practising small tentative half swings, I started hitting (but more often missing) golf balls across the range. Although the ball didn’t go very far, it certainly felt therapeutic to give it a good old whack. The focus and concentration in our group was palpable, but there were probably more bits of turf flying in the air than golf balls in my patch as I realised how technical and complex a game golf actually is. 

Gary assured me that if I have the interest and commitment, it is possible to become a golfer in just four days and to build on these skills back home by joining a golf club and practising regularly. After six hours of patient coaching, my swing improved enormously and it was very satisfying to finally hit a golf ball in a straight line – further than 50 yards – but I wouldn’t say I would be investing in a golf membership just yet… 

While golf is undeniably the key attraction at the Donnafugata, the resort’s exceptional spa with its jacuzzi, sauna, hammam, Technogym fitness centre, indoor/outdoor pools, extensive therapies and treatments is the perfect antidote to a a long day under the Sicilian sun. 

The spa appeared to be tucked away in an underground bunker but as I descended steps to the reception I discovered it was actually on the same level as the outdoor pool, and this state of the art spa is everything you might expect from such a stylish and chic hotel chain. Minimalist and uncluttered – white walls, grey mosaic tiles, stylish black and white Italian location photography decorated the walls while a row of plush beige recliners awaited guests beside the pool. 

Palms and cacti offset the aquatic scenery, and floor to ceiling windows overlooked the outdoor infinity pool. Unfortunately there wasn’t an exit/entrance to the outdoor pool area, so I had to go via the main reception if I wanted to just nip in and out of the spa. Sofa style beds and a tea making area were another nice touch, with fresh fruit and soft drinks and glossy magazines to hand. 

Overall, the spa was effortlessly relaxing. A few rejuvenating hours immersed in the warm bubbles of a Jacuzzi, combined with the intense heat of the sauna/hammam and a healing massage from one of the spa’s talented therapists was just the ticket for an aching neck, shoulder or back. 

The spa uses top class Italian products, Culti, and Experience (for male spa goers). In my first treatment (a half hour back and neck massage) my therapist Anna asked me if I would like soft/hard or relaxing pressure. I opted for medium, and her touch was strong enough to undo the tension from three hours of attempting to perfect my golf swing, yet soft enough to soothe and relax me. Best of all, I was able to remain on the therapy bed for a good 15 minutes post-massage, which is a rarity in most spas today. 

My second treatment was a deep cleansing facial. Although I wanted a specific facial, the team of professionals were quite persuasive at encouraging a cleansing facial first to establish my individual skin needs. Therapist, Natalie, used Culti creams to calm down irritations and my complexion definitely looked and felt fresher and more hydrated afterwards. 

The resort has its own private beach club house, at Ragusa Marina, where traditional buildings sit beside modern purpose-built apartments along a sprawling coastline peppered with palm trees. My group and I enjoyed a lazy morning reclining on comfy sun beds with adjustable head shades to protect our faces from the midday rays, pausing only for a spot of lunch and a paddle in the sea. Positioned right beside the shoreline, with the therapeutic lapping of waves, it provided the perfect escape from the stress of modern day living – and eased away any golfing ability tensions! 

Later the same day we took an evening walking tour of the ancient town of Modica. The old part – Modica Alta – is full of charming streets and alleyways, and is known as the Venice of the south due to its many bridges, churches and beautiful Baroque buildings. 

Walking through a tree lined park and admiring spectacular 360 degree views of the Sicilian landscape, we stumbled upon an authentic Sicilian wedding, complete with effortlessly stylish men and women in chic black outfits and ubiquitous designer sunglasses – worn even inside the church. We passed men with lined, wise faces sitting on benches, sipping cold beer and smoking cigars, leaving me with a feeling that I had inadvertently walked in on the set of The Godfather. 

Finally, we climbed down ancient stone steps and arrived for dinner at the Osteria dei Sapori Perduti, a traditional restaurant. We indulged in some delicious authentic cuisine including risotto, ravioli and many glasses of refreshingly chilled local white wine, which was the perfect finale to a mini golf and spa break. 

Sarah enjoyed a weekend of golf, sunshine and spa indulgences at the five star Donnafugata Golf Resort and Spa, Contrada Piombo, 97100 Ragusa, Sicily.Tel + 39 0932 914 200; Fax +39 0932 914 222.Visit www.donnafugatagolfresort.comThe resort is a one-hour transfer from Catania airport and offers a choice of accommodation including Suites, Deluxe Rooms, Superior Rooms and Standard Rooms. Special offer rates from €195.

Dining experiences include the sophisticated Il Carrubo restaurant and the Il Ficodindia, which serves a gourmet breakfast. Delicious local wine can be sampled at the hotel’s winery in the original cellar.

The Culti Spa has six treatment rooms and an extensive treatment menu including ‘speciality’ treatments such as the Dolcezza massage (€120), which uses Mediterranean salts and the soothing heat of the southern sun to restore physical and emotional balance; weekend or time targeted programmes from €250; holistic massages with an ayurvedic influence. More intensive therapies including osteopathy, craniosacral and physiotherapy are also available.

Sarah sampled the Facial Cleansing treatment (€90), a 50-minute facial, which exfoliates, and nourishes to promote clear, well-hydrated skin, and the 30-minute Parshwa-Shiro back and neck massage (€70).

British Airways flies to Catania from London Gatwick (from £49 one way).

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