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Irene Forte

Sacha Forbes

It’s a warm October morning, and I am sitting with Irene Forte, having breakfast on the terrace at The Verdura Resort, the Rocco Forte hotel named after the great Verdura family who once owned the 230-hectare estate on the south-west coast of Sicily where the property lies today. It’s 20 degrees, the clear skies are cobalt blue as we sit overlooking the 60m swimming pool fringed with palm trees. Beyond the palm trees is a glorious 1.8km stretch of private coastline.

Irene, a blonde natural beauty with flawless skin, is the middle of renowned hotelier and hospitality scion Sir Rocco Forte’s three children. She set up her eponymous brand, Irene Forte Skincare, in 2018, and is now celebrating the opening of Irene Forte spas at four Rocco Forte Hotels, including the Verdura.

The project has been years in the making. Irene, who graduated from Oxford with a degree in Modern Languages, first arrived to work at the Sicilian resort some 12 years ago, when it first opened. She explains, ‘I really fell in love with the island, the culture, the friendliness of the people, the fertile land, the cuisine, and I also started getting really into the spa.’ She was living on site, and didn’t have a car, so in the evenings she would slip down to the spa to ‘play’ with the products. She was also introduced to the spa director, who is still with the company, and ‘taught her a lot’. She continues, ‘That was an amazing experience and always made me want to do something with Sicily. And that was that I guess.’

Her foray into wellness began by developing a spa and wellness concept for the Rocco Forte Hotels group, including an initial skincare line, Forte Organics, and she started to identify concepts that could unify the group’s spas, telling me, ‘We developed “Nourish” which is our Healthy Eating programme; it’s a 360 degree approach to wellness and is not just limited to the spa, and that was really important. It should be available at every touch point in the hotels.’