We arrived at Country Hotel Bosco Ciancio inside Sicily’s Etna Park, passing down a long and wooded driveway, the kind that makes you hold your breath because you know something special is waiting on the other end. What we saw gave us that ‘fairytale cottage in the forest’ feel as the driveway opened up into a clearing with a long stone and wood building, complete with a black iron gate.
We parked the car and walked through the chill of an early October evening into a stone courtyard divided by a patch of green grass with a gnarled old olive tree at one end. At the other end was a wide rock terrace dotted with small umbrella tables. Soft lights began to glow around the courtyard as darkness crept over the land. We stood there, enveloped in a realm of rustic enchantment.
Alberto, the proprietor of the hotel, met us inside with a warm reception. He explained that the hotel was a part of the ancient estate of Baroni Ciancio, duke of Adrano. The old stone villa was thoughtfully and authentically restored into the hotel it is today on 74 acres of chestnut, oak, pine and birch forests.
The hotel encompasses fifteen rooms gathered around a central courtyard. Each room is tastefully yet simply decorated with warm colors, wood beams, and terracotta tiles. Alberto is still adding some small embellishments throughout the building. We found our room with attached bathroom very comfortable. The romantic ambiance of the courtyard and terrace aglow at night from our panoramic balcony view was lovely.
Alberto has put some personal touch into this particular room with a local Chestnut tree headboard.
Dinner was served in the small and cozy on-site restaurant Alloro later that evening. The generous set menu included a good variety of food options that Alberto took time to describe. It was difficult to choose so we relied on his suggestions which proved to be delicious. It was immediately apparent that he had a top-notch chef working in the kitchen. Alberto shared some of his expansive knowledge of Sicilian wines and we took him up on his recommendation of a local red.
We began the next day with a hearty breakfast of both sweet and savory options prepared by the friendly and accommodating staff.
The weather was sunny so we took our plates out onto the terrace and enjoyed the freshness of a new day.
The cable cars to Mt. Etna are just a 20-minute drive further up the road. We drove it the next morning and passed small groups of chestnut pickers filling their bags. As we neared Mt. Etna, the landscape became dark and covered with cinder ash everywhere. Large outcroppings of lava rock rose in spots, evidence of the last volcanic eruption.
We parked our car and took a cable car up to the gift shop and panini/café bar. Although there were off-road vehicle tours, we opted to walk some of the trails leading upward. Ladybugs seemed to be everywhere, which seemed strange but refreshing at the same time. Even though the dark results of a natural disaster lay all around us, these delightful little bugs brought a good dose of life back into the landscape.
The panoramic views provided an exhilarating experience and extended out over the sea. If you choose to join a tour, the Mt. Etna guides will take you as close to the active volcano as the local safety regulations will allow. Several external craters can also be viewed.
Back at Bosco Ciancio, Alberto took us on a one-mile walk along a trail that wound through the chestnut forests. We passed a clearing lined with about 40 hives of bees busily gathering nectar.
Beekeepers are hired to bring hives in every spring for about 5 months to gather pollen and make honey. Some of it is left with Alberto and served at breakfast in the morning. It has a slight nutty-chestnut taste and very delicious!
Country Hotel Bosco Ciancio is an experience in nature that is tranquil and soothing. I could have easily spent my three days right at the hotel, sipping café on the terrace, reading in the sunshine, or walking the forest trails.
However, the hotel is ideally located to Mt. Etna as well as the seaside towns of Taormina, Siracusa, and Catania along the eastern coast. You will need your own car to navigate about. We picked up a car rental for our time in Sicily from the Catania airport upon arrival.
A warm welcome by the multi-lingual staff combined with the serenity of the forest and comforts of home easily put Hotel Bosco Ciancio on my list of great places to come back to. Not to mention that chestnut honey…
Things to do nearby –
- Mt. Etna is only a 20-minute drive away and is the highest active volcano in Europe at over 10,900 feet. Cable cars will take you up close to the craters where you can take an off-road vehicle tour, hike, or ski in the winter. Snow usually appears in December. Check out this website for more info – http://funiviaetna.com/en/
- Mountain biking and hiking trails will immerse you in the lush vegetation of Etna’s volcanic soil within the park.
- Take a day trip and visit the ancient Greek cities of Siracusa and Ortygia, only 98 km away. If you love architecture, history, and a seaside village ambiance, this is the place for you. For sightseeing and learning more about the fascinating history of Ortygia or Siracusa, I highly recommend tour guide Marco Sanzaro at http://www.personal-turist-assistant.it/ Catania and Taormina also make great seaside escapes.
- Save a day to hang at Hotel Bosco Ciancio for a tranquil, peaceful experience nestled in the beauty of Mt. Etna.