Olive groves, an amphitheater, golf courses and a dream spa. Immersed in 230 hectares of heavenly Mediterranean nature, the Verdura Resort in Sciacca, Sicily is enveloped in the scent of lemon and orange trees.
Awash in natural hues of ochre and terracotta from the outside, and warm, Sicilian tones that oscillate between violet and crimson on the inside, guests receive a warm Southern Italian welcome.
“We were inspired by the traditional culture of the place, in every respect” muses Lydia Forte, who spearheads management of the Rocco Forte Hotel’s bar and restaurants.
An empire of splendour founded in 1996 by her father, Sir Rocco Forte. “We are also very authentic when it comes to our catering. With our chef, we have created a typical Sicilian restaurant, the Liolà, where we also organise large Sicilian parties.
We use many local products from our own garden: lemons, almonds, fruit … not to mention, our seas are also full of tuna and other fish renowned the world over!
This was all virgin territory and we strive to maintain our ties to the land and sea. We also boast a sprawling seaside promenade that spans two kilometres.”
Sir Rocco’s wife Lady Aliai Forte transferred her own creativity to this seaside jewel, envisaging a boutique that could potentially purvey local traditions.
“My husband asked me: why don’t you create an authentic shop, to offer customers something they can take home with them? The idea thrilled me, but I didn’t want to repeat what I had already seen elsewhere. I love fashion, and so I began my own research, scoping out local workshops that I could work with. I have always worked with Sicilian designers. But then I said to myself: why not seek out local women who are extremely skilled yet are often not as sought after, despite their immense experience? And that’s how it happened. From embroidery to handmade crochet hooks, I had fresh, beautiful dresses made. One of these women now works here in the resort. She’s an amazing seamstress.”
IRRESISTIBLE HANDMADE ELEGANCE
As an Italian, Lady Aliai knows first hand how the craftsmanship produced by these “golden hands” has the potential to create memorable fashions, such as the exquisite blouses and shirts and iconic pieces sold in boutiques, designed by her.
“Initially I thought about creating my own line, but it would have been too immense a responsibility, and I wouldn’t have had the time. And so I revisited it as a hotel, for our customers. It’s a project from which I have derived a lot of satisfaction. Some are by chance but others are deliberate. For example, our children’s line of dresses and shirts… Every year I create a collection that I modify over the course of a few months, incorporating details like antique lace.
I visit auctions and markets in order to create one-piece garments. We live in London and so the atmosphere is different, but the effect is the same. Sicilian blouses and shirts, with skirts and trousers come perfect, even within that reality. They have a vintage look but with a modern edge! After all, who says that the textile art used on tablecloths and doilies cannot also be woven into fashion?”
“I may have inherited this love for fashion from my very elegant grandmother,” comments Lydia, adding: “I often wear my grandmother’s long skirt with the Resort shirts.
Every year, my sister Irene (Founder and CEO of Irene Forte Skincare and who also supervises the wellness unit of the Rocco Forte Hotels) and I also have dresses and coats made. She has a strong artistic soul … just like my mother. I really haven’t ever bought a ball gown or even my wedding dress. My mother has always designed them for us, since we were little.
We’ve carried on this tradition. In the summertime we have her designs — kaftans, dresses, skirts, shorts and tops — replicated. Often, we find that they are such one-of-a-kind creations, we are not always able to match them.”