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More Italian golf resorts for your perusal

14 March, 2023
Jim McCann

We produced an Italian resort article last summer which focused on several golf facilities spread across the mainland of Italy. We’re now revisiting this country, starting in the north then working our way south but this time we’re including the Mediterranean islands of Sicily and Sardinia, where we shine a light on half a dozen resorts that are worthy of closer scrutiny.

Of all the “mainstream” golfing nations in Europe, Italy’s the one that hides its light under a bushel the most. Perhaps in this year of the Ryder Cup in Rome it’s time we knew a little more about it.

Le Robine

Our latest Italian resort journey starts outside Milan near Malpensa airport, at Le Robine Golf Club, where Jack Nicklaus designed his first Italian course in the early 1990s. The terrain’s pretty flat around here so a fair amount of soil was shifted to fashion the fairways, with the closing holes on both nines routed around a couple of lakes located close to the clubhouse. There’s also a fair number of bunkers dotted around this parkland layout so, with water and sand much in evidence, it’s resort golf all the way during a round at this modern facility.

The accommodation extends to a number of guest rooms within the clubhouse, all with air conditioning and private bathroom with hot tub or shower. An additional seventy apartments – comprising studio, 2-room or 3-room apartments – are also available, each with a private patio, terrace or balcony. The leisure complex includes a swimming pool and a well-equipped gymnasium and the Restaurant Le Robinie (consisting of three dining rooms spread across three levels) serves dishes from a Mediterranean-themed menu.

Poggio dei Medici

Three hundred kilometres southeast of Milan, outside Florence, lies Poggio dei Medici Golf Club which opened for play thirty years ago. Anchored by a 16th-century hunting lodge, the Villa di Cignano, which acts as the clubhouse, the course is set amongst rolling hills with open parkland holes weaving across a picture postcard landscape. Starting in 1999, five consecutive editions of the Ladies Italian Open were staged here, with the five winners emerging from five different countries for these events.

The Unahotels accommodation offers 70 guest rooms equipped with things like a mini fridge, flat-screen TV, bathrobes and dressing gowns. A cold buffet breakfast is served here every morning and the bar serves a wide variety of drinks throughout the day. There’s an outdoor swimming pool, jacuzzi and sauna and the spa centre also provides fitness classes. Guests who want more than just golf can expend more energy with mountain biking, horse riding and tennis.

Terme di Saturnia

A leisurely 3-hour drive south from Florence through beautiful Tuscan terrain brings us to the golf course in the old spa town of Terme di Saturnia, where the climate and the hot sulphurous springs are intended to aid recuperation and restoration of body, mind and spirit. Ron Fream set out the course here 16 years ago and it was built with the prime consideration of respecting and safeguarding local nature in order to gain Italian Golf Federation ecological certification.

There are 124 guest rooms (39 of which are suites) at the resort and they vary in size from 18-25 square metre for a superior room to 75 square metres for a grand suite. The world-class spa has a thermal lake in the centre of the complex and there are 5 outdoor thermal pools, along with whirlpools, a sauna, sensory showers and a whole range of massages, body treatments, wellness and beauty programs – thermal therapies are even available for locals who are entitled to one cycle per year paid by the Italian NHS!

Il Picciolo Etna

We leave the Italian mainland now and head to the Mediterranean island of Sicily, where the 18-hole layout at Il Picciolo Etna Golf Resort & Spa has operated since the late 1980s. Host venue for the Ladies Italian Open from 1995 to 1997 (and again in 2011), the course occupies hilly ground to the north of Mount Etna, where holes are set out as two returning nines. Measuring almost 5,900 metres from the back markers, the course is a Luigi Rota Caremoli design which plays to a par of 72, with the very short par three 15th one of the feature holes on the scorecard.

Accommodation amounts to 98 air-conditioned guest rooms within the hotel (21 deluxe, 22 cottage, 46 classic and 9 suites) along with 6 clubhouse rooms. Breakfast and dinner are served in La Ghiandaia restaurant, with lunch available in the Il Palmento clubhouse restaurant. The Birdie Bar is open in the evening and the Pool Bar is also available for refreshments from mid-morning to early evening during the summer. The Spa centre offers a number of services – from heated swimming pool to sensory showers – and there’s a range of body treatments and massages which can be arranged by appointment.

Borgo di Luce I Monasteri

On the south side of Mount Etna, positioned between the UNESCO World Heritage sites of Syracuse and Noto, the Borgo di Luce I Monasteri Golf Resort features an 18-hole (par 71) layout designed by architects David and Vincenzo Mezzacane. Holes are set out among groves of citrus trees and prickly pear cactus, with water hazards to be negotiated on several holes, most noticeably at the par three 9th and par four 18th where a pond separates the greens.

The 5-star on-site hotel is a former Benedictine monastery comprising 102 exquisitely furnished guest rooms and suites located on the ground floor in various parts of the hotel’s three main buildings. The pool bar provides light lunches, while Le Ceramiche restaurant serves à la carte dinners based on Mediterranean cuisine. The Zagara spa offering guests the use of a Turkish bath, sensory shower, sauna, hot tub, relaxation area and a range of treatments.


Occupying a wonderful 2-kilometre stretch of coastline on the west side of Sicily, the Verdura Resort’s 45-hole golf facility was designed by Kyle Phillips, opening for play just over a decade ago now. The two championship 18-hole layouts – East and West – are the main attraction, supported by a 9-hole par three course, driving range and practice area. Unfortunately, severe storms in late 2018 caused an embankment to breach, resulting in extensive flooding across both the original layouts. Not to worry, the architect was quickly called in to rearrange the routing and introduce several remodelled holes and before you know it, business was back to normal once again!

The 5-star hotel is a member of the famous Rocco Forte Hotels Group, offering 156 guest rooms, 35 suites and 20 villas. Apart from golf, on-site activities include a Water Sports Club, Tennis Club, football pitch and an enormous 60-metre outdoor pool. For relaxation, there’s a luxurious spa set amid the olive, orange and lemon trees, with four thalassotherapy pools, a 20-metre lap pool, steam bath, sauna and 11 treatment rooms. The hotel’s organic farm is handpicked daily, with produce used in the preparation of gourmet meals for the six restaurants and bars.

Is Molas

Three hundred kilometres from the north coast of Sicily lies the south coast of Sardinia and the 27-hole golf complex at the Is Molas resort,near the small town of Pula. The original Championship 18-hole course was designed by the British partnership of Ken Cotton, Charles Lawrie and Frank Pennink in the mid-1970s, and there are views from the fairways to the nearby tower of Nora on the coastal ruins of an ancient Roman city. Fairways are routed over moderately undulating terrain, with water hazards coming into play between the 9th and 14th holes.

The on-site 4-star hotel contains 70 air-conditioned guest rooms in four categories (classic, comfort, family and superior) and there are 2-room apartments in the nearby Residence Le Ginestre residential development. The restaurant seats up to 160 people in the garden of the hotel, facing on to the swimming pool. The covered terrace of the hotel pool bar (La Pergola) serves drinks, snacks and light meals prepared with typical Sardinian products while La 19, the “Golf Pool Club” is the ideal chill out place to relax after a round.

Is Arenas

Drive 2 hours northwest from Is Molas and you’ll arrive at the Is Arenas resort on the west coast of Sardinia, where Robert von Hagge carved out the resort’s 18-hole layout from dense woodland twenty years ago. Juniper and pine trees frame every hole here as the course winds its way across a mildly contoured, sandy-soiled landscape. The flamboyant American architect had this to say when asked what it took to produce such a fine golfing layout: “all the natural elements that it offers – sand dunes, forest, water and an exceptional climate – are a perfect combination for a unique experience (providing) an unlimited carpet of colours, fragrances and vital energies.” 

Accommodation at the Is Arenas Private Golf Foresterie boutique hotel is for golfers only – with a maximum occupancy of 40 players – and it comprises a number of air-conditioned villas, houses and suites nestled in the trees next to the golf course. Located one and a half kilometres away towards the beach, the 5-star Is Arenas Resort provides 70 guest rooms (varying from 30 square metre Classic rooms to 43 square metre Junior Suites) along with a wellness centre that incorporates a whirlpool, Turkish bath, fitness room and a variety of treatments. The beach is a 5-minute walk away, extending to six kilometres along the coastline.


Another 2½-hour drive northeast from Is Arenas brings us to the smart Costa Smeralda district in the northeast corner of Sardinia and Pevero Golf Club. Fifty years ago, Robert Trent Jones Senior and Ron Kirby were engaged by none other than the Aga Khan to set out eighteen holes on the peninsula between the bays of Cala di Volpe and Volpero and six years after it first opened for play, the 35th edition of the Italian Open was staged here in 1978, with South African Dale Hayes winning the event by three shots from his nearest rivals.

Overlooking the Mediterranean Sea, it’s a spectacular place to play but when the infamous Mistral wind blows then controlling a golf ball round this course is a tough task for even the professional players – as evidenced by the Dale Hayes aggregate total of five over par when he claimed the national Open 45 years ago.

The golf club has close associations with four local hotels. The first, and nearest, is Hotel Cala Di Volpe, with 121 guest rooms and a large, lagoon-like saltwater pool. Close by, Hotel Romazzino has 100 guest rooms, including a Presidential Suite on the top floor. To the north of the golf course, the Cervo Hotel in the adjacent resort of Porto Servo has 80 guestrooms, ranging from 16 square metre classic rooms to a 142 square metre Presidential Suite. On the other side of this small seaside town sits the Hotel Pitrizza, with 66 suites and villas that look out onto the shimmering waters of Liscia di Vacca bay.

If you have any comment to make on the above article then please use the “WRITE A RESPONSE” link at the bottom of this page.

Jim McCann


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