In the hills of Sicily, 2½ miles from the sea, is the secluded 19th-century farmhouse Mandranova. It's a working farm, close to the towns of Agrigento, Licata, and Caltagirone, where guests can explore centuries-old architecture, open-air vegetable and clothing markets, and traditional ceramic shops. The hotel is set on 420 hilly acres, with stunning view of olive groves from any of the 11 rooms. Owners Silvia and Giuseppe di Vincenzo have filled the estate with antiques and terra-cotta pottery from Caltagirone, the hub of Sicilian ceramics production for hundreds of years. In the Mandranova kitchen, Silvia cooks local dishes such as wild-fennel pesto and caponata e polpette in agrodolce (eggplant ratatouille with meatballs in sweet-and-sour sauce). She offers cooking lessons—learn to make her famous almond cake. The daylong boat trip on the Mandranova's 38-foot motorboat traverses the western coast of the island. Guests swim with dolphins during the warm months, then explore the small island of Saint Nicola Rock, home to thousands of seagulls.
Congratulations to Mei Lin, winner of Top Chef Season 12.