The Wellness Retreat That’s More Like Your Dream Italian Vacation

Want to go on a wellness retreat but don’t want to detox? This Italian resort offers guests luxury, sustainability, and delicious Sicilian wine.

Image of a wellness retreat that more of a luxury Italian vacation than anything else. A crystal clear infinity pool overlooks Sicilian vineyards and a stunning blue sky.
Credit: Monaci delle Terre Nere

What do a wellness retreat, Sicilian wine, and a UNESCO World Heritage site have in common? 

Well, you can find all three things at an Italian wine resort called Monaci delle Terre Nere (we know, even the name is sexy). 

Located on the southeastern tip of Etna National Park in Sicily, Monaci is a luxurious villa nestled in the gorgeous slopes of active volcano Mount Etna — and we think it should be your next vacation destination. 

From the moment you arrive, Monaci delle Terre Nere gives off an aura. Picture this: as your car pulls in, a member of the resort will be waiting to collect your car keys. You’re then escorted into the Convivium Bar, where you’ll be offered a drink while you check in (is this sounding like your greatest White Lotus fantasies yet?). Once check-in is complete, you’ll get a golf cart escort to your room, where your car and bags will be waiting. If you hadn’t noticed already, full service is a given during any luxurious escape at Monaci. 

Monaci delle Terre Nere is a Relais & Chateaux property, an association of individually owned and operated luxury hotels and restaurants (which means that yes, there are more luxury experiences we can recommend). The property was originally a 17th-century Italian monastery, but in the 18th century it was turned into a 62-acre compound of private houses and an aristocratic villa. Fast-forward to the 21st century, when Founder Guido Coffa fell in love with the old run-down villa and made it his mission to bring it back to life. 

To create Monaci delle Terre Nere with minimal environmental impact, the pre-existing buildings were restored rather than rebuilt. The idea was to respect both the environment and traditional Sicilian architecture while incorporating contemporary art. Today, Monaci delle Terre Nere is one of Sicily’s first certified sustainable and organic resorts.

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A Sicilian Wellness Retreat That Doesn’t Sacrifice Sustainability

image of an Italian vacation villa with outdoor seating perfect for Italian wine tasting in the foreground.
Monaci delle Terre Nere is a wellness retreat that’s all about healing with the good life, so think more along the lines of a luxurious Italian vacation than a kale detox or yoga retreat. – Credit: Monaci delle Terre Nere

Monaci delle Terre Nere sits 500 feet above sea level, between Mount Etna and the Ionian Sea. Every aspect of the resort was designed for minimal impact on its surrounding natural environment — and we mean EVERY aspect.

To start, the villa doesn’t use any electric engines for its plumbing and water supply. Instead, they employ a gravitational fall-operated system. And what’s more, a whopping 70% of the energy used on the property is produced entirely by solar panels. Together, that essentially means that you can relax in a hot shower powered almost entirely by gravity and the sun, which is just… wow. 

Etna is the third most important Italian region for wine production — which is saying a lot for a country full of gorgeous vineyards.

For the warmer months, the property has a highly energy-efficient air conditioning system that uses up to 50% less energy than air conditioners found in other local hotels. The guest rooms and the restaurant also have fireplaces for the cooler months (which has the dual benefit of promoting both energy efficiency and *coziness*). And of course, it almost goes without saying that the property heavily emphasizes recycling to reduce waste.

Monaci delle Terre Nere is also an active member of the global Slow Food Movement, and biodiversity is a central tenant in the resort. (Get the scoop on the connection between biodiverse soil and our gut health from a functional medicine expert.) There are 150 different types of fruit trees on the property — many of which are endangered species, such as the Mastrantonio Cherry tree DOP, the Tabacchiera and Sbergia Peachtree, the Coscia and Baccibedda Pear tree, and more.

To protect these trees, the property only uses organic fertilizers — you won’t find pesticides or synthetic products anywhere. They’ve also designated certain areas of the estate for spontaneous vegetation, and they even have a 3000 sq. meter plot for 120 hens to enjoy freely.

What’s your favorite type of wellness vacation and what makes it so? Share with the community in the comments below.

An Italian Vacation for Every Type of Vacationer

When you’re on an Italian island with a spectacular view of the highest volcano in Europe, one of the top activities is probably hiking and exploring the surrounding area. But if you really want to embrace the villa lifestyle, Monaci delle Terre Nere has everything you need to enjoy your perfect Italian vacation without even leaving the resort.

By the way, we know our way around a wellness retreat/vacation. Check out our explorations of Hotel Adler Dolomiti, the spring skiing wellness escape for something out of the ordinary, and if you’re seeking tropical sunshine (hey, you want what you want) read up on the stunning Cayman Rejuvenate wellness resort and this quiet retreat in Cabo San Lucas.

Sprinkle Some Adventure Into Your Wellness Vacation

Image of the lush grounds of the wellness retreat at Monaci delle Terre Nere in Sicily with blue skies, green landscape and wandering paths.
This is a choose-your-own-adventure (or relaxation) kind of wellness vacation. You can do it all, or you can do nothing at all. – Credit: Monaci delle Terre Nere

For maximum relaxation at the estate, start the day with early morning yoga, followed by a botanical walk through the fragrant herb gardens. Spend the afternoon lazing by the pool as you gaze across the foothills of the volcano and then pamper yourself with an in-room massage. 

If you’re looking for something else to do in between all your relaxing, why not try a cooking class? Learn the secrets of Sicilian cuisine, including making pasta from scratch with ancient Sicilian grain flour. For an authentic farm-to-table experience, join Rosario, Monaci’s groundskeeper and head of farming, in collecting eggs for breakfast from Monaci’s hens. Or if drinking is your favorite activity on vacation, consider learning to make classic aperitifs in a cocktail mixing class.

Finally, for the more adventurous vacationer, try horseback riding on a Sicilian horse around the magical Monaci estate! Or for a true splurge, you can even take a Monaci helicopter tour and fly over Mount Etna to the Aeolian Islands. Psst… while your dreaming of Italy vacations, you may want dive into our rundown on Italy’s best thermal spa resorts.

No Italian Wine Vacation Is Complete Without a Wine Tasting

Image of a woman pouring Sicilian white wine out of doors for a wine tasting at a wellness vacation in Italy. This is just the place for an Italian wine vacation.
If you’re on the hunt for an Italian wine vacation spot, we think you’ve found it in this wellness retreat. – Credit: Monaci delle Terre Nere

Whether your vacation style is more poolside lounging or spontaneous skydiving, one activity not to miss at Monaci is wine tasting. Etna is the third most important Italian region for wine production — which is saying a lot for a country full of gorgeous vineyards. (See some of our top picks for Italian wine estate hotels.)

Monaci boasts more than 60 acres of vines, as well as olive and fruit trees and vegetables. The organically certified vineyard is tended completely by hand, without the use of pesticides, fungicides, herbicides, or chemical or synthetic fertilizers. To learn about the differences between wines labeled organic or biodynamic, read here.

The wines are made from indigenous Sicilian grapes, including Catarratto, Carricante, Nerello Mascalese, and Nerello Cappuccio, and are labeled under Monaci’s owner Guido Coffa. To try them for yourself, enjoy a guided tasting of the wine with an expert Monaci sommelier, or just pair the wines with dinner after a day at the pool. 

When in Sicily, Dine Like a Sicilian

Image of a plate of steak tartare with a quail egg yolk being placed onto the top straight out of the shell. This is one of the many life-changing experiences you can enjoy at this Mount Etna wellness vacation.
As card-carrying members of the slow food movement, Monaci delle Terre Nere is the place to not only try incredible food but also try your hand at making some — all against the backdrop of breathtaking views. – Credit: Monaci delle Terre Nere

As a member of the Slow Food Movement, Monaci offers world-class food sourced from ingredients from the estate and other local farms. Locanda Nerello, Monaci’s on-site restaurant, features a menu with modern takes on traditional Sicilian dishes. Be sure to try their organic meringue egg served with potato cream and capers from Salina, as well as their Mediterranean albacore served with sweet tomatoes picked from the Monaci gardens. 

Locanda Nerello offers indoor dining in a contemporary setting or outdoor dining on the romantic terrace. Or if you’re hoping for a more intimate dinner option for a special occasion, seating can be arranged under the stars or in the old millstone winery. And if you’re looking for a bite during the day, the pool restaurant also offers wine, cocktails, and a simple and fresh food menu.

End Your Day in Mount Etna in Luxury Accommodation

Image of a luxurious room at Monaci delle Terre Nere wellness retreat and ideal Sicilian vacation.
All the luxurious comforts of a well-appointed Sicilian vacation resort situated in historic, traditional buildings that feel like private homes with stunning views of Mount Etna. – Credit: Monaci delle Terre Nere

One of the best things about a vacation (ahem, wellness retreat) is getting to truly switch off, and there’s no better place to do it than in one of Monaci’s spacious private rooms. Because Monaci was developed from existing traditional buildings, the villa’s 27 rooms are spread across the estate in the logic of a “dispersed hotel,” or hotel diffuso (further proof that everything sounds sexier in Italian). 

Each building is home to one or two suites, making them feel like intimate private homes — seven of the rooms even come with private swimming pools. Every room in the estate includes a whirlpool bath and a fireplace, and beautifully designed glass walls create an immersive effect in the natural surroundings. 

The next time you have a few PTO days to burn, consider a luxurious rural escape on Mount Etna. Whenever you’re ready, Monaci delle Terre Nere will be waiting with delicious food, wine, cocktails, and an array of activities for you to live out your elevated Eat, Pray, Love dreams.

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Allison Levine is the owner of Please The Palate, a boutique agency specializing in marketing and event planning for... More about Allison Levine