Insider's Guide to Spas
Thalassotherapy pools at Verdura Resort


Irene Forte on the Magic of Verdura Resort

Becca Hensley

You feel the gravitas in your gut in Sicily—and a fusion of the unseen mystical and explicit natural beauty of the rugged landscape is particularly magnified at Verdura Golf & Spa Resort, a Rocco Forte hotel. Set on Sicily’s southwest shore, where a melange of ancient cultures overlap and co-mingle, Verdura Resort lies upon the sea, fringed by olive, lemon, and orange groves, edged by vineyards and dotted with native herbs.

Just minutes from Sciacca, a long-traveled seaport, less than an hour from the haunting Greek temples of Argrigento, this gated Rocco Forte getaway invites repose. With a bevy of restaurants, 153 guest rooms and suites, pools galore, bikes for exploring, tennis courts, and an award-winning golf course, Verdura’s more than a jet setters’ capricious retreat. Here, at its sleek contemporary spa, a harbor amid the resort’s center, Verdura provides guests the opportunity to revamp their wellbeing during their visit.

Inspired by the precepts of 19th-century German healer Sebastian Kneipp, the large, multi-level spa organizes its programs around five pillars of wellness—water rituals, herbal ministrations, exercise, nutrition, and spiritual harmony. Using healing herbs from its property, with both folkloric modalities and proven scientific methods, including Kneipp hot/cold thalassotherapy pools and myriad fitness opportunities, Verdura Spa certainly deserves its place as the brand’s flagship wellness haven.

Inspired by the precepts of 19th-century German healer Sebastian Kneipp, the large, multi-level spa organizes its programs around five pillars of wellness—water rituals, herbal ministrations, exercise, nutrition, and spiritual harmony.

We spoke with Irene Forte, daughter of renowned hotelier Sir Rocco Forte and niece of legendary designer Olga Polizzi, whose commitment to wellness travel fueled her efforts to develop a solid spa concept for Rocco Forte hotels.

What makes the spa at Verdura different?

It has a distinctive Sicilian flair. Indeed, we just won the World Spa & Wellness Hotel Spa of the Year. Our spa philosophy is based on Sebastian Kneipp’s five pillars: water, plants, exercise, nutrition, and balance. Whilst each pillar improves wellness, it’s through the interplay of all five at Verdura Spa that self-healing begins. This is enhanced further by our local Sicilian traditions, products and scents, and our experienced team of health professionals and therapists.

Will future spas draw from their region, as this one pulls herbs, plants, and products from the landscape?

Each individual Rocco Forte Hotel always has a sense of place. While Forte Organics, Rocco Forte Rituals, Rocco Forte Fitness, and Rocco Forte Nourish are in all Rocco Forte Spas, each spa is strongly influenced by the location in which it resides, whilst based on a united philosophy. As we develop future spas, they will certainly reflect Rocco Forte Hotels’ dedication to sense of place through treatments, products, fitness, and food.

What was the vision you hoped to create at Verdura?

With the overarching Rocco Forte Spas program, I wanted guests to find wellness at every touchpoint in our hotels. I didn’t want the experiences to be limited to just the spa or a singular fitness center. The offering was born from the desire to find wellness in all the environments that surround. This is why it includes things such as using the hotel’s surrounding location (e.g. sightseeing trekking, or running), healthy menus throughout the hotel outlets, and a healthy minibar option.

We wanted to be able to cater to our health-conscious guests, but also to entice guests that aren’t necessarily health conscious, as well as giving guests new habits that could be continued at home.

How could a stay at Verdura jumpstart someone’s wellness regimen?

At Verdura Resort, we have Rocco Forte Health, which offers a balanced and integrated approach to health, using state-of-the-art techniques, with programs individualized to every guest. The five health-focused programs we offer are Fit, Slim, Detox, Anti-age, and Relax, and these are available on three- or six-day basis.

Our aim is for guests to leave having achieved their goals, with intelligent advice on nutrition, exercise and “mind” that they can realistically incorporate and enjoy in their daily life.

What is your personal favorite experience in the spa?

Sport is very important to my family, and so I love the amazing outdoor offerings at Verdura that unite fitness and culture. We offer outdoor Sunset and Sunrise Yoga and boot camps, as well as jogging, trekking, and cycling trails that meander through the resort’s olive, orange, and lemon trees. Trekking routes are also available outside of the resort, allowing guests to uncover Sicily’s rich culture. In addition, it would be a miss not to mention our PGA golf academy and tennis clinics!

Why is this part of Sicily so magical, and how can that restore the spirits?

Sicily full stop is an enchanting place. Its landscapes, culture, food, wine, people, and sense of family are unrivaled. And traveling to this part of Sicily feels like I’m going back in time; there’s a true authenticity to it.

Tell us what inspires you about Father Kneipp?

I feel that health and wellness should be a part of a holistic lifestyle, and I am inspired by Kneipp’s holistic approach. The balance of all the aforementioned elements, with intensive rest phases, is at the center of Kneipp’s philosophy. In today’s fast-paced world, everybody needs to find time for these rest phases. We really worked hard to promote this at Verdura Spa, not only through wellness experiences but also through our Spa For the Mind library in partnership with the School of Life. In addition, these rest phases need to be coupled with eating well, exercise, and other therapies, which is what Kneipp believed and how I firmly believe we should all lead our lives.

Can you comment on the spa’s architecture?

In keeping with the raw, rugged scenery beyond the property, Architect Flavio Albanese of Vicenza and Palermo, applied minimalist, contemporary lines to the construction of Verdura Resort and our spa. Albanese used bold, Latin terracotta and ochre for the exterior of the buildings, varied the textures by mixing natural materials such as stone, sand, wood, and cane in order to echo the traditional architecture of Sicily. Of course, in the spa, you can also find lots of water. Lastly, he also incorporated essential ecologically aware features, including solar energy and water recycling.

My aunt, Olga Polizzi, Director of Design for Rocco Forte Hotels, worked alongside Flavio to help capture the mood of Sicily. For example, pillows and throws throughout the spa have a Sicilian tile print on them. In addition, we use a lot of purple throughout the spa, inspired by Sicilian lavender, a vital healing plant ingredient.

What else would you like us to know about the spa?

Our Rocco Forte Spas strive to be eco-friendly; we do our utmost to cut down waste by recycling everything we can. We also have our very own natural/organic brand, Forte Organics, across all of our spas. Many of the ingredients have been hand-picked from our gardens at Verdura Resort. The base of the products is Verdura’s organic olive oil and water from the Sicilian Madonie Regional Natural Park.

In addition, we have partneredwith Back Label to create a capsule fitness collection exclusively for Rocco Forte Fitness. Back Label creates clothing from the finest organic raw materials, one-hundred-percent handcrafted in Italy, and fabrics are made from precious elements such as milk, seaweed, bamboo and silk, organic cotton, and eucalyptus. We have just launched a special Back Label shop at Verdura Spa.



Becca Hensley

Becca Hensley

Based in Austin, Contributing Editor Becca Hensley writes regularly about travel and spas. She believes a good story draws you in like laughter in a crowded room, and challenges you to do it justice. Her work appears regularly in Austin Monthly, Travel Channel, Toronto Star and National Geographic Traveler.