Villa Elena, Sicily - March 2010
ELLE: If you want head off on a relaxed yet luxurious holiday with friends, Villa Elena in the southeast of Sicily is the perfect choice. Sleeping up to 12 people in extreme comfort - all colour-themed double rooms with en-suite bathrooms and flat-screen TVs - the attention to detail here rivals the best five-star hotels. There are iPod docks in every room, a cabinet full of the latest DVDs, hair straighteners in the bathroom and basketball and volleyball nets by the pool. We loved the huge kitchen (and the fact that someone came in every morning to clean it), which had a glass wall where we sat looking out at the sunset, drinking local wine and playing high-stakes Monopoly. The sourrounding towns are small, but you'll find street markets almost every day, as well as grocery stores with fresh produce and well-priced wine. Our final tip? Forget the diet and try ricotta-filled delicacies from the local bakeries.
The closest major city to Villa Elena is Agrigento, worth a visit for its ancient temples and boutique shops. Near by Camastra provides daily essentials and you'll often find the town's menfolk lining the pavements watching the world go by. If you like sand and surf, head to San Leone, a 20-minute drive away - the sandy beaches stretch for miles along western and eastern coastlines.
This place is a foodie's paradise. There's an option to have chefs come in and cook for you, but you can also take cookery classes in the villa or visit the local vineyards. Our tip for dinner is La Borghesiana in Naro (335 574 9503), where we ate the best meal we've ever tasted.
It's the non-essentials that really take this place to the next level. There's a games room, Powerplate and running machines, an outdoor area with a huge table, pizza oven, barbecue and herb garden. And you can even arrange for a beauty therapist to drop by to give you a treatment.
A one-week stay at Villa Elena starts from £3,400 in June, enq(020) 7193 0158;solosicily.com. Reduced prices are available for smaller parties. Villa Elena is a 90-minute to two-hour drive from each of Sicily's airports (Catania and Palermo) and its hillside location means you'll need to drive to most places. Car hire can be arranged with solosicily.com.