Specialists in Southern Italy, Sicily & Sardinia
From £409 pp
Captivating small boutique hotel, near the sea. Traditional with a contemporary twist.
Small, boutique Cambiocavallo is in Sicily’s south east corner, just 4km from the beach and about 14km from Modica, on the route connecting it to the sea. Centuries ago, this important trade route was the one used by merchants, who would come from the vast grain growing areas of central Sicily, near Caltanissetta and Caltagirone, to bring their grain to the “granaio” tower at Pozzallo, to be collected by ships for export. On their return journey, always an essential stop for the merchants was Cambiocavallo (meaning change your horse), where they would eat and rest the horses and themselves. Cambiocavallo is no less hospitable nowadays, continuing the tradition of a warm welcome, genuine hospitality and great food and wine.
If you want to visit the beautiful Baroque towns in this extraordinary corner of Sicily and enjoy the very best “Blue Flag” beaches, Cambiocavallo is for you. The Baroque town of Modica is fabulous, with tiers of houses spreading up a steep ravine, like layers of a cake, and churches dominating the skyline. Ispica, within a 20-minute drive, its streets and squares lined with fine palazzi, is home to several elegant churches, such as Santa Maria Maggiore, with its splendid collection of frescoes. The 13km gorge, Cava d'Ispica, contains a Neolithic burial site and cave dwellings from the Middle Ages and is an incredibly tranquil place to immerse oneself in Mother Nature's greenery. Scicli, only half an hour away, is one of Sicily’s greatest secrets and a favourite of ours. Set in a gorge, with wonderful churches and noble palazzi, it has a special atmosphere. In fact, the fictional police station of Inspector Montalbano is actually in Scicli. This area is real “Montalbano” country and many of the scenes were filmed in and around Ragusa. You will see why – such spectacular scenery just can’t be beaten. The lovely Ragusa, spectacular Noto and the Nature Reserve of Vendicari are less than an hour by car.
A renowned and talented Sicilian architect, Salvatore Tringali, saw Cambiocavallo and instantly knew what he wanted to do with it. His ambition was to produce a real jewel of a boutique hotel, emphasising the traditional Sicilian, but also making it contemporary. He wanted it to be small, paid little attention to restrictions of budget and tackled the project with the burning passion of a man with a mission, rather than the pragmatic eye of an architect. Salvatore must have really enjoyed the freedom of this project, after the huge restorations he has been involved with and has become so respected for. He has a lifetime of expertise in the restoration of important historic and protected buildings. His incredible restoration work on the wonderful Noto Cathedral, a castle in Modica and a church in Ispica is admired the world over. His modern shopping complexes as far afield as Turkey have added to his reputation for ambitious and hugely important projects. So, Cambiocavallo was something for himself, done from the heart and it shows.
Cambiocavallo’s structure is typical of an 18th century Sicilian coaching inn, with a traditionally tiled roof, lots of exposed stone, bamboo cane and beamed ceilings inside and a sheltered baglio courtyard, at its centre. Then though, Salvatore has worked his magic to give the boutique hotel a contemporary twist. Washes of terracotta and ochres grace the walls and the blues change with the day’s light and shadows, from pale lavender to indigo blue. Furnishings and fabrics are modern, bold and minimalist, providing a high spec feel. Lighting is subdued. Shower rooms are lovely. The spacious Deluxe rooms are all on the ground floor of the former stables and have large sliding doors opening onto a terrace. The Suites, on the first floor, are more spacious still and one has a terrace. The lounge and breakfast room are absolutely charming, but quite honestly, almost as far south as you can get in Sicily, it is usually the courtyard, which is the chosen space for breakfast and dining.
Initially, Salvatore concentrated on the building and the furnishings, not wholly appreciating guests’ need for great food. Since then, he has taken on the wonderful Giusi, who cooks dinner, and charming Daniela, who prepares breakfast. What a difference! Breakfast is delightful, with lots of typical Sicilian delicacies and homemade cakes. Maria seems determined to fill you up for the day and encourages you to “sample” her cakes, “just a taste”, then she produces an enormous portion of it! If you want to, you can just wander along, take what you want from the buffet and wander back to your room for breakfast on your own terrace. Cambiocavallo is relaxed about it all.
Dinner is freshly cooked and is usually booked in advance. Giusi likes to use what is seasonal, often from Cambiocavallo’s own garden, and what is fresh and local. There is a choice of meat, fish or vegetarian and whatever you choose will be delicious. She is a marvel and the dining experience at Cambiocavallo is wonderful. In the sheltered baglio, with a carob tree in the middle, by candlelight, and with some of the most delicate and tasty food you could ever wish for served to you by the affable Nino – we loved it. We should also mention Ignazio, the young and enthusiastic Manager. He loves Cambiocavallo as if it were his own. His passion for it is boundless and he clearly communicates this to everyone who works there, as they are such a happy, welcoming bunch of people. Happiness is infectious, we found!
Cambiocavallo’s Arab and Mediterranean gardens are a delight. Palms, fruit trees, ancient olive trees, fig and lavenders are the backdrop for a pretty swimming pool. Outside of the immediate garden, the land is rural, left to its natural state of Sicilian grasses. Cars park outside the high wall, which separates Cambiocavallo from the road.
So, the architect owners have emphasised the original, designed heart into the new and produced a tiny, well-conceived contemporary and captivating jewel. To dine under the stars, by candle-light, in the lovely baglio courtyard; to savour the delicate and tasty dishes; to see the striking colours change with light and shadow; to be at the receiving end of so many lovely smiles from staff; it’s such a treat. We just love it.
In Sicily’s south east corner, between Pozzallo and Porto Ulisse, there is 15km of some of the island’s most beautiful beaches, with fine golden sand and warm, absolutely pristine, transparent sea. Said to be “the bluest beaches of Italy”, it is no wonder that so much of this coast has been awarded with the Blue Flag accolade for its cleanliness and sheer natural beauty. It is really wonderful. With so much beach, finding your spot, even in high season is not usually a problem, either on the free areas or in lidos. Of course, August, especially Ferragosto, is much more busy and lively, but there are many summer periods, when you might have the beaches almost to yourselves.
Pozzallo itself is typical of a seaside town-cum-port-cum-resort, the historic centre of which has now been rather overpowered by the more modern development around it. It is worthy of a visit or two, nevertheless. The beach is splendid, backed by the interesting old part and Torre Cabrera, a 15th century watchtower. There is a long promenade, a myriad of bars and restaurants, some great shops, and it is a perfect spot to watch the sun slowly sink into some of the most glorious sunsets you will ever see – preferably with a glass in hand! If you are really adventurous, you could even pop over to Malta. High-speed ferries from Pozzallo can get you there in an hour and a half.
Heading east of Pozzallo, the road will take you along the coast, past sandy beaches separated from the road by dunes, rarely glimpsing the crystalline waters hidden behind them. The whole of this area is really where the locals go to the beach and bars, restaurants and little shops are strung out along the coast road. Santa Maria del Foccallo is a residential area, just over 7km from Pozzallo and about 23km from the quaint and picturesque hamlet of Marzamemi, in the other direction. Marzamemi is a “must visit” for any holiday in this area. Its pretty Arab-influenced baglio has been transformed into a delightful courtyard of intriguing little shops, bars and restaurants and it is well worth sampling the cuisine.
Almost 8km further along the coast road from Santa Maria del Foccallo, you reach the stunning bay and coves around Porto Ulisse. A well-kept secret, off the main coast road, it is somewhat hidden away – a real jewel. Marzamemi is only about 16km from here. The wild and beautiful Vendicari Nature Reserve is about 20km. There you will discover idyllic deserted beaches and a striking pink spectacle of thousands of flamingos. Also nearby, is Portopalo di Capopassero, with a tropical white sandy beach and a tiny island just off shore. This is Italy’s southernmost tip, where the Mediterranean Sea meets the Ionian.
Cambiocavallo’s structure is typical of an 18th century Sicilian coaching inn, with a traditionally tiled roof, lots of exposed stone, bamboo cane and beamed ceilings inside and a sheltered baglio courtyard, at its centre. Then though, Salvatore has worked his magic to give the boutique hotel a contemporary twist. Washes of terracotta and ochres grace the walls and the blues change with the day’s light and shadows, from pale lavender to indigo blue. Furnishings and fabrics are modern, bold and minimalist, providing a high spec feel. Lighting is subdued. Shower rooms are lovely. There are only 8 rooms.
The 6 Deluxe rooms are on the ground floor of the former stables and are accessed from the baglio courtyard. We particularly like these rooms. They are spacious and have large sliding doors opening onto a furnished terrace, which overlooks the garden towards the pool or the rural land around. Four of them have a shower; two have a bath. No. 3 is equipped for disabled guests.
The 2 Suites are on the first floor of the main house, accessed via Reception. They are more spacious still and the Superior Suite has a terrace.
"Cambiocavallo is a lovely, laid back accommodation with exceptionally friendly staff and excellent amenities.” Frank & Margaret, Kidlington
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All prices are ‘from prices’ and can fluctuate during each month. All prices are subject to change/amendment. Prices are stated as per person, per week (based on 2 sharing, single supplements apply) and are inclusive of car. Flights can also be booked, allowing you to benefit from our ATOL protection.
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*Book by 18th March for a min of 4 nights, receive a 15% discount for the period 01/03/17 to 22/04/17 & by 30/09/17, for a min of 4 nights, receive a discount of 15% for the period from 28/10/17 to 18/11/17.
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