The Princess of Valguarnera, Vittoria Alliata di Villafranca, manages the 37 acres of gardens and farmland of her Estate with the strictest sustainable principles. Ethical care of the soil and recycling of all waste materials ensure they thrive in complete harmony with nature, allowing for maximum biodiversity.
The elaborate irrigation system, dating 1000 years back to Sicily’s Islamic kingdom, is still abundantly fed by rain water collected from roofs and terraces. Throughout the year, ornate fountains and ancient cisterns provide water to dozens of varieties of birds, from falcons to seagulls, barn owls, robins, golden weavers, hoopoes and African swamphen.
The Villa Valguarnera Estate is a centre of excellence for organic farming. It produces a remarkable variety of biodynamic vegetables, fruits, seeds, herbs, oil and dairy products which guests can enjoy while discovering the thousand and one recipes from the cook-book of a visionary ancestor, the Duke of Salaparuta, who over a century ago set about transforming our diet — and, by doing so, repairing our health, our culture, and our world – whilst translating baroque Sicilian dishes into animal-free versions, based on the holistic principles of Ayurveda.
Thirty sheep and two rams roam free, together with a white Arab mare, under a mixed range of pistachio, manna, citrus, charrub, olive, pine and almond trees, prickly pears and Mediterranean wild bush, clearing acres of brush while fertilizing and loosening the soil. They produce rich organic milk for the estate’s fresh ricotta and primosale cheese.
A dozen families of the native black bee – an endangered species which has inhabited Sicily for milleniums never surrendering to genetic conditioning and disease, are bread nomadically and allow for a harvest of up to ten different types of monofloral honey with extraordinary properties for fighting bacteria and aging. Thus the Dracoena Draco melata honey, from the exotic flower of the dragon tree, may be considered an elixir of life ; Eucalyptus honey is a powerful antibiotic remedy against respiratory viruses, cough and colds ; Orange blossom honey is brimming with antioxidants that boost the body’s natural defense mechanism against diseases, damaging effects of free radicals and environmental pollution, lessening the risk of cardiovascular diseases, asthma, stroke and even cancer. Local thistle (known as Cardoon honey) boasts hepatoprotective effects, promotes good digestion and makes a wonderful natural face mask, ideal for dull, oily and even acne prone skin. As for the typically Sicilian Sulla (Hedysarum coronarium) honey, it is rich in healthy and detoxifying minerals that support nutrition, whilst its delicate and non invasive taste make it the best possible sweetner for cakes and warm drinks.