You have to meet Sir Rocco Forte in person and to taste the sunsets from his Verdura resort to understand how a legacy of passion for luxury hotels can live forever.
I am on the terrace of Amare restaurant at the Rocco Forte Verdura resort in Sicily, a restaurant built directly on the seashore. I try to act natural but I am nervous at the thought of meeting Sir Rocco Forte himself, the kind of legend who you normally talk about and not usually have the fortune to talk to. But he quietly joins the group on the terrace while the sun is preparing to do its unique show – setting down in a magic light that you see only in Sicily. Sir Rocco is somehow as I imagined him to be. Even if he wears a linen Italian shirt, you can see him wearing a tuxedo with the same relaxation. I admit I have been spying on him a little also during the day while around the European Golf Tournament finals as Verdura is one of the most important golf destinations in Italy. Dressed perfectly for the occasion, he looked closely to the players and sometimes jumped on the golf carts with an energy that made me jealous. Now, he acts naturally while holding a big glass of what I think is Aperol spritz. Even if it was a long day, it seems he always knows what to say and when to smile. I keep thinking that he is the gentleman I imagined as client for the luxury products I am and I have been writing about as a lifestyle journalist. He has the attitude you expect when you see a Rolls Royce door opening or when you go by the windows of the well-established bespoke tailors on Savile Row, in London.
For sure Sir Rocco knows how to carry his noble title and he has been proudly investing his talent and passion since the moment he came into the luxury hotels business of his well-respected father, Lord Charles Forte. His trademark, Rocco Forte Hotels, is a new chapter in his family hospitality story started four generations ago. Since 1996, he developed a modern concept of luxury travelling by taking into consideration every piece of knowledge he saw while growing up in the industry. Today, he owns and operates 11 properties and counts as a guarantee for the elite travelers. ”We really wanted to create the sense of place, the idea that a hotel should be about where it is. And then we went for a more relaxed approach to service in a luxury hotel because in many luxury hotels the staff may be very pompous…”
The Rocco Forte style is that relaxing feeling that grows on you with no need for any visual ”opulence”. Verdura resort, actually the first resort in Rocco Forte group, expresses the maturity of the „Forte legacy” refined during almost 100 years. Opened in 2009, the complex focuses on golf and seaside relaxation with not even a detail to disturb the natural equilibrium of the green surroundings. Being by far a genuine luxury destination, Verdura doesn’t appeal to things that maybe, some time ago, were necessary to express the 5 stars standards. No gold finishes, no high columns or flashy restaurants. On the contrary. Pure nature, silence and only 203 rooms and apartments facing the sea, housed in two stories minimalistic structures.
Sir Rocco chose Sicily because he considers it ”the ultimate tourism destination”. But not only because of the wonderful climate and its wonderful sunsets, but because of its amazing history. The resort immediately establish itself as the most important holiday destination in Sicily and brought a well-deserved international recognition for its home town Sciacca.
”There is a lot of space here. 230 hectares. It has 2 km of coast line. You never feel overwhelmed by people. If you want to spend very quiet time and be very relaxed, you can. If you want to join with other people, you also can.”
Couldn’t agree more. Verdura is a destination to dream about with an intense Sicilian flavor and a complete offer of experiences. Besides golf circuits of any level, from professional to amateur, the resort serves you almost any food and ingredients Sicily has to offer, from Verdura’s own production. The awarded SPA, including Thalasso therapies, covers 4000 square metre but relaxation may also mean going for walks on the seaside or taking the bicycle for a tour around the orange trees.
In a world where we can’t survive without smartphones, the world of Sir Rocco is still about nature and human touch. Verdura is the place where his philosophy grows into the best form. ”Luxury hotels have always been about service. Obviously, technology has come in but has come in behind the scenes not in the service. The customer still wants to feel the personal touch, to feel someone is responding to his needs.” Behind the R.F initials proudly engraved in each corner, there is a team of beautiful people who Sir Rocco knows by name, from top managers to reception. By his side there is also his sister, Olga Polizzi, the Director of Design, but also his children who are already following into his steps. As he says, ”they have a different mentality, a younger one and they bring a lot of new things to the business.” But what I am sure of is that they will carry the Rocco Forte name into a future of personalized destinations with personalized service.
While the day ends, I lose myself in the infinite shades of ruby red drawn into the sky. The feeling of serenity is obviously the result of an invisible but efficient recipe of carefully planned well-being. Everything I have experienced at Verdura was exactly how I expected it to be. Yes, Sir Rocco. You were right. Sicily has the best sunsets of them all. From where I am standing, it looks like your legacy will live forever…