Located in the beautiful province of Catania in the hills of Piedimonte Etneo lies ‘Colle degli Agrumi’ – Citrus Hill’ a magical destination, a special kind of retreat, one that feels more homemade and personal, capable of offering a meaningful and immersive Sicilian experience with framed views of Mount Etna and the Mediterranean Sea...
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From the architect: The project is born from a profound reflection on the Mediterranean and the subsequent desire to bring back to life a piece of ‘invisible’ Sicily. A place where one can experience a new kind of journey, one that poetically intertwines Sicilian: history, culture, wellness, art and beauty, all in the restored farmhouse ruins surrounded by the beautiful agricultural landscape covered by organic citrus groves of mandarins, oranges, tangerines, lemons, citrons, olive trees and vineyards.
The aspiration is not only to foster an inclusive experience capable of triggering a sense of belonging and identity through a deep connection between man and nature, but also offer a fresh reading of Mediterranean culture and its powerful legacy. With this end, the cardinal ideas used in designing Colle degli Agrumi were to give centre stage to the citrus groves by creating an immersive biophilic project, and adopting a design language that referenced the Sicilian farm houses: ‘Masserie’ and ‘Bagli Fortificati’, and their typical fortified and introspective layout.
The resulting project is one that does not impose itself on the landscape, but rather grows and nestles into it. Designed with nature and for nature, it harnesses the beauty and diversity of the landscape by locating and curating a site-specific program of events anchored on Sicily itself. By sowing multiple functions and different activities such as grape harvest, olive picking, or simply the recognition of different fruits and aromas throughout the site, together with cultural moments and wellness ones, will allow the visitor to slowly discover and experience the typical smells, flavours and melodies of the land.
The new site plan emphasises the historic traces by reviling hidden, isolated and unique details as well as natural paths and void spaces within the groves. Furthermore, with the addition of new functions and the restoration of existing walls and buildings, and by rethinking the existing beautiful stairway we are able to reconnect the entire site through a synergy of moments and sensations, leaving space for memories, time and a renewed inner peace.
Each of the existing buildings has been restored and refurbished to the bare minimum in order to maintain its original form and has been given a function that best fits within its location and morphology. Starting from the Palmento (once the place to make wine) which now becomes a laboratory for citrus-based creams, oils and other products, to the adjacent dilapidated buildings that offer a space for respite during the day, and a magical setting for open air cinema dedicated to films based in Sicily in the evening. Moving up the stairs and along the citrus groves one arrives initially at a holistic therapy area, and continuing to a wine cellar carved out of volcanic rock with a dedicated terrace for tasting and enjoying the wine under dappled light from medlar trees. Just above is the main building that has been transformed into a lounge/restaurant with a magnificent terrace shaded by a bougainvillea covered pergola with views to Taormina and the Mediterranean Sea. We then restored various scattered storage spaces transforming them into small guest rooms with earth colours and views onto the landscape. Finally we rebuilt the ancient tower, once a deposit of citrus fruits, thus re-establishing its storage function and transforming the first floor into a Sicilian music and literary library with, at the top, a splendid belvedere terrace overlooking Mount Etna.
The new additional functions include the natural pool and the surrounding area where one can enjoy the shade under the olive trees during the day; in the evening, with a simple system, the pool becomes an open air amphitheatre for convivial moments of literature, theatre and music. We have also carved out paths and hidden spaces in the voids of vegetation where one can discover the scents of orange blossoms, read or relax and practice meditation peacefully within nature, or centre one’s mind and body for the practice of yoga.
The result is a truly unique and inclusive experience, one that helps to reconnect to our roots and breathe and savour the Sicilian legacy. Colle degli Agrumi, open but protected, is a charming and enchanted destination providing a creative and tranquil getaway for slow tourism, where one can get lost among the citrus groves and the splendid views of the sea and Mount Etna.
Architect: Matteo Cainer Architecture
Location: Piedimonte Etneo, Sicily, Italy
Size: site 3.3 hectares, project 2800 m2
MCA Principal: Matteo Cainer
MCA Team: Chiara Antonelli, Yeonsu Lee