Sicily to welcome luxury hotel pair

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NEW YORK -- Southwestern Sicily just got word it will be home to two new luxury resort hotels in coming years.

Luxury European hotel chains Kempinski Hotels and Resorts and Rocco Forte Hotels both announced plans for new, top-of-the-line properties along the Mediterranean coast between Trapani and Agrigento.

Just four miles from the historical seaside village of Mazara del Vallo -- noted for its 100 churches -- the 76-room, 12-suite Kempinski Giardino di Costanza Grand Hotel and Spa is set to open next door to the 19th-century Villa Fontanasalsa, now a conference center, sometime next May.

Kempinski is spending about $71 million on the boutique property, which lies five miles from the sea, 27 miles from Trapani and 60 miles from Palermo Airport on the northwest coast.

The Giardino di Costanza will be the first property in Italy to be managed by the chain, which is made up of 31 properties worldwide, including 22 in Europe.

Kempinski describes the five-star hotel as "a unique complex reflecting the local culture and architecture."

To wit, as Mazaro del Vallo has been an important seaport since the days of Arab-Norman rule, the hotel's 16,000-square-foot Spa Center will feature a Roman-Arabic bath concept to reflect Sicilian heritage, while the Enoteca wine cellar will boast Mediterranean vintages.

Among the hotel's 88 guest quarters will be two penthouse suites with private terraces and pools, five suites, five junior suites and five rooms tailored to the needs of disabled clients.

All units will have private balconies or terraces, air conditioning, Internet access and satellite TV; perks include 24-hour room service and laundry.

On a grassy hillside covered in orange groves approximately 80 miles to the south near Sciacca and Verdura, Rocco Forte Hotels will break ground on the $206 million Verdura Golf and Spa Resort next year.

To open in 2007, the 494-acre resort -- with one nine-hole and two 18-hole golf courses -- will be partially funded by a $58 million grant from Italy's government; the project, expected to generate 300 local jobs, will include a hospitality-training facility.

The resort, the chain's third in Italy, "will be one of the most exciting luxury developments in Europe in the last 25 years," said chairman Rocco Forte.

It will feature 150 rooms and 50 suites -- each at least 430 square feet in size -- housed in staggered, low-rise buildings set back into the hilly countryside.

The property also will boast a 16-room spa center with a gym, swimming pool, five therapy pools and a "spa cuisine" eatery; a conference center for up to 250 people; several other restaurants; a private beach; and, eventually, 50 villas.

Verdura Golf and Spa Resort will be car-free; parking will be available at the resort entrance next to reception, which will be in a restored railway station.

The chain expects that "given that it's going to be a golf and spa resort, the U.S. market is going to be particularly important to us," said Tessa Gatti, marketing services manager.

For more on Rocco Forte Hotels, call (212) 515-5776 or visit www.roccofortehotels.com. For Kempinski Hotels and Resorts, call (800) 426-3135 or visit www.kempinski.com.

To contact reporter Kenneth Kiesnoski, send e-mail to [email protected].

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