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Independent Minds: Manfredi Rizzuto, Susafa

The ancient agricultural traditions of centuries-old rural Sicily are very much alive at Susafa, a converted farmhouse which has been lovingly restored by owner Manfredi Rizzuto and his brother, Tommaso. Living and working in harmony with nature’s bounty, this family-run estate sets new standards when it comes to regenerative sustainability thanks to the Rizzuto passion for everything seasonal, local, and cultural.

Freshly picked herbs and vegetables from the gardens. Olives harvested and pressed by the family for their own organic, olive oil. Handpicked regional wines for guided tastings to accompany ravioli made from scratch. Susafa gives guests more than a taste of the Sicilian countryside, it is a true immersion in farm-to-table living with every home comfort imaginable thanks to the Rizzuto family presence.

Cultivation, restoration, and regeneration are at the heart of the Rizzuto philosophy. With a deep respect for the environment, the land and its rich history are the main sources of inspiration for Manfredi, who envisages a self-sufficient, zero-emissions future for Susafa. Soon to launch an e-commerce site dedicated to Susafa-grown produce, along with a ‘field adoption’ scheme where customers can monitor their harvests, Manfredi is already well on his way to bringing his vision to fruition. Forward thinking yet firmly rooted in the rustic way of life, Manfredi is sowing the seeds for a boutique experience like no other.

What does being ‘Independently Minded’ as an hotel owner mean to you?

The tourism industry is more than ever oriented towards travel as an experience, and the experience itself today is that of living different cultures. The relationship between the lifestyle of the place we visit and the journey itself complement each other. After all, travel cannot be a complete experience if there is no link with local culture and customs. Therefore, a hotel cannot simply be an anonymous structure independent of the context that surrounds it – hospitality must be subordinate to its environmental context. In this way, being independent and independently minded is our fortunate condition and the only possible way to offer a truly unique experience.

From the guest’s point of view, the value of travel is in discovering something different. Susafa reflects the culture of its land and manages to convey its past, present and future in connection with customs, habits and knowledge of all the people involved. The result is a genuine experience. It is then the ability of the staff to make sure that the experience is positive and special. My contribution to this approach to travel is wholehearted, as I believe is that of any hotel owner who embraces the idea of ​​being independent.

How would you describe your own perfect luxury experience?

Experience makes all the difference, and I put it first. I also think that the ability to anticipate the guest’s needs is an important requirement, or at least being available as much as possible. The uniqueness of the offer, friendliness and knowledge of the staff, cleanliness and quality of the furnishings, details and additional elements, such as good food, are all distinctive features of a luxury experience.

Today there is a lot of talk about sustainability, but most of the time it is a marketing strategy and hotels think that by putting a natural soap or a sign not to waste water, they have done their part. It disturbs me to discover that what you have been told is actually nothing more than a commercial façade, and it’s even worse when the staff are not knowledgeable about the topics the company is advertising.

What was the inspiration behind the hotel, and where do you continue to find sources of inspiration?

I am strongly respectful of the environment. I look at landscapes with reverence and in every little detail I find inspiration. I think that the human ability to create beautiful surroundings is something extraordinary, and I think we have a duty to commit ourselves to making this happen. I am very fortunate to be part of a family of landowners and to have inherited the legacy of a virtuous farming community. I am fascinated by this history and am honoured to share it with as many people as possible.

I find inspiration in the idea of conserving and in some cases rebuilding agricultural traditions to be able to share our approach to the environment, nutrition and a genuine experience with guests who visit. This concept started with the renovation of the old farmhouses, buildings totalling about 2,000 square-meters and once used as warehouses, stables and workers’ accommodation.

Today guests can stay in finely furnished rooms equipped with every comfort, without having to give up the authentic style of the original structure. The granary was converted into a restaurant, and the cellar into a bar and lounge area. The next project involves staying in modern lodges positioned in the wheat fields or vegetable garden, in order to offer a 360-degree experience, immersed in nature.

If you only had 24 hours to get a taste for your hotel experience, what would you recommend a guest must do?

We recommend starting the day with some freshly squeezed fruit juice, with oranges or with organic apples (depending on the season) and a slice of tart with seasonal fresh fruit, made by Rita. Our selection of cheese and bread is something you can’t miss out on.

The bread at Susafa is still made using an old variety of wheat cultivated in the property, which is stone milled and integral. We are still working on our ‘food laboratory’ project, a dedicated area using the old wood oven space, where we invite guests to experience a real traditional-professional kitchen every Thursday in our cooking classes – we plan to host these classes more frequently once the project has been finalised.

You absolutely must try our Schiacciata for lunch, an artisanal homemade sandwich with warm bread and fresh extra virgin olive oil, followed by an afternoon lounging by the pool with a signature cocktail in hand – my personal favourite is called Susafa, made with fresh orange juice, bitter liqueur from Etna, and rosemary. Continue your relaxation with an olive oil or cherry stone massage, before an aperitif on the terrace watching the sunset.

End the day with our tasting menu for dinner – Manfredo and Graziella based on the fresh vegetables picked every day from the vegetable garden, or the Sara menu based on fish (which is only available in July, August and September). We also recommend visiting Castellucci Miano and Tasca, the closest wineries to our farmhouse.