For a conference location with a difference, the southern Sicilian resort of Verdura is hard to beat
Verdura Resort in Sciacca, Sicily.
Looking for a conference venue and location with a difference? One that promises top-notch business and event facilities coupled with heritage, history and almost guaranteed good weather? It’s hard to beat the southern Sicilian resort of Verdura.
International conference organisers are constantly vying with each other to go that extra mile for delegates by offering up excellent meeting facilities alongside an array of downtime pursuits, as well as something that little bit quirky for attendees to boast about to their friends when they return home. And they don’t come much more unconventional than Verdura’s outdoor amphitheatre, which can be used for presentations, screenings or musical performances.
Speakers could not be made to feel more imperial or gladiator-like than in this space, but if that is too much for some, the hotel offers 10 meeting rooms as well as a double-height ballroom, which can accommodate up to 300 guests.
Sicily is a three-hour flight from Dublin and Sciacca is a historic fishing port in the province of Agrigento that offers up panoramic views of the Mediterranean. The Verdura Resort is 15 minutes from the town, which has plenty in the way of culture, narrow cobbled streets and great dining options. It’s famed for its thermal baths, religious festivals and ceramics and also has a large fishing fleet. Pronounced Shack-a, the town’s name is most likely Arab in origin and is split into several levels, up into the hill. Have an espresso or gelato on Piazza Scandaliato and take in the views far out to sea.
Further on, the Valle dei Templi, or Valley of the Temples, is an exceptional example of Greek architecture and is also a Unesco World Heritage Site – excursions can be planned for delegates.
For many Irish business travellers though, golf will be a top pursuit when downtime is on offer and some have called out Verdura’s 45-hole golf complex as one of the best facilities to be found anywhere in the Mediterranean. Designed by American architect Kyle Phillips, there are two 18-hole layouts, as well as a nine-hole par-three course, a driving range and practice areas. Both 18-hole courses end with extremely picturesque and difficult (I’m told) stretches of holes.
There are plenty of options when ensuring guests are well fed, with a number of restaurants, each offering something that little bit different. Amare, just a short stroll from the main hotel and along the resort’s private white sandy beach, specialises in fish brought ashore daily by local fishermen and you should ask for your fish served grilled or ‘crudo’. Langoustines are a must, served with some local white wine – Grillo is the perfect accompaniment.
Trattoria-style Liola serves typical Italian pizza and pasta and is more informal and relaxed. Make sure to savour the extra virgin olive oil from olives grown on the resort as well as the balsamic from Modena – there are different strengths of balsamic but Verdura serves the one that will kick you in the back of the throat – the Champagne of balsamics.
For the best views of sunset, find a perch on the terrace at Granita, order an aperitif or an Etna gin and tonic from Christian, the manager with impeccable English, and breathe out to the sounds of live jazz, played every night. For even the most seasoned travellers, the blend of colours along the Sicilian coastline at dusk are jaw-dropping, but won’t last long as the sun plunges into the sea.
The best way for delegates and partners to get around Verdura is by bicycle; there are pick-up and drop-off spots dotted around the resort, which is the size of Monaco. Golf buggies are also accessible to many guests.
For delegates who really want to unwind, the Thalasso spa area with its four outdoor thermal pools, large indoor lap pool as well as a double-height steam room and Finnish saunas offers all kinds of wellness to guests.
Verdura is also great for kids, and delegates with family in tow can choose from a range of sporting options including fencing, tennis and golfing camps for their budding Olympians.
Surrounded by 230 hectares of marvellous landscape, if you are lucky enough to host or attend a conference in this southern European idyll, you’ll more than likely want to return for a private holiday.
Aer Lingus flies from Dublin to Catania and Ryanair from Dublin to Palermo a couple of times a week, starting in spring 2020.
Verdura Resort offers rooms starting from €240 per night in a deluxe room on B&B basis.