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Eat & Drink, Mindful Traveller, Personalities

Sicilian onomatopoeia, Zash Boutique & Countryhotel Sicily

Zash, Bsss, Mhh, Ahh… at the boutique hotel between the sea and Mount Etna, you can hear many sounds. We spoke to owner Carla Maugeri to discover where they are coming from and what other sounds can be heard at the Sicilian country house.

Zash – the name describes a sound – which one exactly?

Zash is a sound of nature, it is the verbal repossession, the sound of the air in the leaves, the burst of a gesture in its flowing movements, it is one of the infinite sounds that only can be heard and enjoyed if you live in the countryside.

What other sounds can you hear at the Zash hotel?

That’s an interesting question. You can hear the buzzing of the bees around the flowers, you can hear the wind caressing the grass, you can feel the breath of the Etna. You can hear a multitude of sounds that we have lost in our everyday lives due to the noise of our busy lives.

And what does it smell like in this magical environment around Mount Etna in the land where the lemons blossom? 

Smells change with the seasons. In spring, you can smell the orange and lemon blossom, a fragrance that stimulates the senses. In summer, you can smell the sea and the heat hitting the topsoil. In autumn, it is the rain that moistens the landscape, and in winter you smell the scent of our freshly harvested citrus fruits.

Zash has been owned by the Maugeri family for almost 100 years. What was the initial intention back then?

It was our “campagna”. In southern Italy, almost every family has a campagna, which is a house in the countryside surrounded by a garden where fruit, vegetables and wine is groing. We started with a vineyard for our own production. In 1960, we then converted the vineyard into citrus plantations.

What is your vision today? 

My vision at Zash today is to offer our valuable customers an unforgettable holiday with five senses. We want to invite our guests to discover Sicily off the beaten track. We invest from year to year in the training of our staff and in the property itself to have a more luxurious house with a touch of design, without forgetting our environment and our “Sicilianity”.

Where in the hotel can the Zash spirit be felt most intensely?

Maybe I’m biased, but in my opinion you can feel the spirit of Zash in every corner of the hotel: nature lovers will enjoy the sunset in the garden in front of their room, foodies will discover the Zash spirit in the restaurant Il Palmento, where our Michelin-starred chef Giuseppe Raciti enchants with his dishes. In the spa, you are surrounded by impressive lava stone. And in the middle of the citrus groves, you can smell, touch, see, taste and hear nature…. These are the five senses of Zash!

Piero Lissoni, lava stone and old wine vaults: modern Italian design is in dialogue with the history of the house and the surrounding nature – how did you succeed to create a harmonious setting? 

Our aim for the contemporary work was to be recognisable at first glance, so that guests are able to grasp the original essence of the place. Everything should be perceived as it was 100 years ago, when the surrounding nature was predominant in every respect. The design is very gentle and plays with contrasts: traces of the past, dusty plasterwork, lava stone walls and woodwork in the wine press rooms combine seamlessly with contemporary elements to meet modern standards and needs. The surrounding landscape wraps around the building like a blanket.

How do you manage to elicit “relaxation-aaaahs” from the guests in the SPA?

Imagine yourself in our spa, immersed in the heated pool, surrounded by natural lava stone, soft lights, the sound of water and the smell of organic citrus oil. This is what we offer you: a simple and peaceful environment to enjoy and relax.

And how does Giuseppe Ratici make his guests go mmmmh?

Giuseppe is our star in every way, the recognition of the Michelin Star was an amazing success for him and his talent and of course for Zash. Our chef offers innovative cuisine without forgetting the local environment. One of our signature dishes is the Uovo pochè, a simple egg – from local chickens, of course – but offered in a modern and innovative way, for example with red mulberries: an explosion of flavours with a few simple natural products.

With Maugeri, you run two wineries together with your father and two sisters. How much girl power is in the wines? 

I like this question, because this project is all about girl power! It was my dream to start our wine production. As we already have a great offering with our Michelin-starred restaurant, I thought that wine production would be a nice addition. And I was right! We were in New York in February to celebrate the “Tre bicchieri”, a recognition from Gambero Rosso for our Etna Bianco Superiore Contrada Volpare Frontebosco ’21. Need I say more?

Some of the vines are located in the immediate vicinity of Mount Etna. How does this affect the flavour? 

The area around the volcano is very complex. Our estate is located in the municipality of Milo, on the eastern slope. The microclimate is ideal for the production of white wines, as the grapes can ripen very gently here. The influence of the sea and the volcanic soil give the grapes a different and unique organoleptic profile with a pronounced freshness characterised by a lively acidity and a strong minerality.

Other vines at the Mauguri winery are by the sea – how much sea breeze can you taste in the wine? 

The vineyards are not located directly by the sea, but 700 metres above sea level facing east. The climate here is very humid. The average rainfall in Milo is twice as high as in the northern and southern areas and the sea breeze blows directly onto the vineyards after it has crossed the Ionian Sea, keeping the vines dry.

Time to go to sleep, what do guests at Zash dream about? 

I wish our Zash guests wonderful dreams! I’m sure they will think of the surroundings, of the interplay between nature and architecture. I could imagine a scenario like this: lying on the sunbed by our pool with a direct view of Mount Etna and witnessing the most beautiful and amazing spectacle that nature can offer us … la sciara del fuoco, the fire sculpture, or like last week with smoke rings, it was simply spectacular. We have renamed Etna from la muntagna, the mountain, to la signora degli anelli, the lady of the rings.

Fotocredits: Zash

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