In June, the French company will debut its first European five-star resort in Cefalù, a one-hour drive from Palermo, on the Northern coast of the Italian island.
The resort has been part of the company’s properties since 1956, but it has been closed for the past 10 years.
“The constructions were quite fast, they took about 18 months, but the project required a decade to be kicked off,” said Club Med president Henri Giscard d’Estaing, who has been leading the group since 2005. He is the son of former French Republic President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing. “Having such an incredible location in Cefalù surrounded by an exceptional and remarkable natural environment, we couldn’t miss the opportunity to do something special here.”
The resort, which is immersed in an estate spanning more than 34.6 acres of land, faces both the sea and the town of Cefalù with its picturesque harbor and the Medieval buildings. In addition, the resort also includes an 18th-century palazzo and a church.
Giscard d’Estaing said Club Med, which debuted in Italy in 1951 with a resort in Baratti, on the Tuscan coastline, invested 70 million euros to complete the Cefalù project.
While it previously featured very basic accommodations, consisting of simple huts with a limited level of comfort, the new Cefalù resort now offers a high-end luxury experience to its guests, who have at their disposal a total of 300 rooms, each with a terrace or a garden.
“Since we had such a gem in our portfolio, we decided to make this new resort the symbol of the new Club Med and its Renaissance in Italy. The goal is to make Cefalù one of the most important luxurious resorts in the Mediterranean,” Giscard d’Estaing said. “At the same time, we wanted to keep the same sense of effortless, free-spirited, joyful attitude of the original resort. We wanted to preserve the idea of a barefoot holiday, which now becomes a luxury barefoot experience.”
The Cefalù resort is part of Club Med’s Exclusive Collection, corresponding to the highest segment of the company’s offering. The line of luxury resorts comprises 12 locations, including the outstanding Club Med Finolhu Villas in Maldives, which opened last year, as well as complexes in Mauritius, Marrakech and Mexico, among others.
Rome-base architecture studio King Roselli designed new structures, featuring two levels at the most, while also restoring the original ones. French designer Sophie Jacqmin developed the sophisticated, chic interiors, which combine natural materials with a fresh, serene color palette.
Respect for the natural environment and sustainability were two of the pillars at the base of the project.
“Being in such a beautiful and protected area, we definitely embraced a sustainable and respectful approach focused on integrating structures into the environment and developing a harmonious balance between human and nature,” said Giscard d’Estaing, citing for example an ecological, innovative pool where water is filtered by plants.
“The decors and the colors are inspired by Sicily and, for example, there will be areas echoing the atmosphere of Luchino Visconti’s “Il Gattopardo” movie,” added the Club Med president. “We expect to welcome guests from around the world so our goal is to provide them with an authentic Sicilian experience.” The same atmosphere that the French company re-created with a Sicilian ball held on Oct. 18 at a private, prestigious Milanese palazzo, celebrating the launch of the Cefalù resort project.
Even though Club Med didn’t team with a Sicilian chef but signed a partnership for the Cefalù resort with Michelin-starred chef Andrea Berton, who was born in Northern Italy and cut his teeth with Gualtiero Marchesi and Alain Ducasse, the dishes served at the resort’s restaurant will be all cooked with fresh, locally sourced products.
“While we have an international vision, we want to have a positive impact on the territory where we operate with our resort, “ said Giscard d’Estaing, referring to a collaboration with the organization managing the Regional Park of Madonie, which will provide the resort with local ingredients.
Guests will be assisted by a wide staff, which includes the so-called GO, or Gentils Organisateurs, who come from up to 20 different countries and are able to accommodate special requests. Special tours and excursions in the area around Cefalù will also be organized for guests.
According to Giscard d’Estaing, the Cefalù resort, which can accommodate around 600 people, will welcome especially couples and families with teenagers. Guaranteeing the access to kids over eight years old, Cefalù doesn’t admit too young children due to the particular configuration of the estate overlooking the cliffs.
In order to offer a varied, full experience, the resort will feature a zen-like, relaxing area by the natural pool, while the center of the village, with two boutiques carrying a range of international high-end products, will be more animated.
There will also be a 7,534-square-foot spa area, managed in collaboration with French luxury beauty label Carita.
“It’s hard to predict how many people will visit the resort during the first season, but what I can definitely say is that since we have started selling the rooms this month, this is the resort which is performing better in our collection,” Giscard d’Estaing said.
This year, the Cefalù resort will open in June and will close right after the New Year’s holidays. Starting next year, it will open its doors earlier in the spring.
While this winter Club Med will debut two mountain resorts — one in the French Alps, a four-star resort called Grand Massif Samoëns-Morillon, and one located on Japan’s Hokkaido island, named Tomamu Resort — the company is also investing in seaside destinations.
In particular, Club Med, which by 2019 will inaugurate 15 new resorts in the world and will renovate nine existing locations, is about to start the construction of a new holiday destination in Marbella, Spain, and is renovating a resort in Algarve, Portugal.
Club Med is also expanding its offering in the American continent with the introduction of a new luxury resort, part of the Exclusive Collection, about an hour from Punta Cana airport, in the Dominican Republic.
In addition, the company, which is controlled by the Chinese group Fosun, is making its debut in China with the opening in 2018 of four resorts — Anji, Golden Coast, The Great Wall and Zhoushan.