Sir Rocco's €130m Sicilian golf resort

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The Independent Online

Sir Rocco Forte is to open a luxurious Sicilian golfing resort boasting two championship courses and backed by €45m (£31m) of government grants.

The hotel, which is scheduled to open in March 2008, will be the first golfing resort for the high-end Rocco Forte Hotels chain, which Sir Rocco founded in 1996. The entire development, which includes a spa, will cost some €130m and around €45m has come from grants from the European Union and local and regional government.

"I don't think that anyone else in the Mediterranean does [golf resorts] properly," Sir Rocco said. "They cram people on to golf courses so it takes five and a half hours to play a round. I don't want that."

Most golfing resorts tend to be in Spain and Portugal, rather than Italy. But Sir Rocco said that he had chosen the country - from where his family hails - for a number of reasons, including the availability of grants.

"The climate is very good - it's actually below the coast of Africa. And apart from the sea and sand, it's got huge history. It also has very good government grants, and that was the other main attraction."

Sir Rocco's father founded the hotels group Forte, owner of the Posthouse chain, in the 1930s, with his son taking over full control in 1993. But the family lost control after a £3.3bn hostile takeover battle with Granada. The family's stake in the business meant the Fortes received around £300m from the sale. Sir Rocco used his share to launch Rocco Forte Hotels, along with a £60m loan from Bank of Scotland.

Along with the golf resort, Sir Rocco plans to open more hotels across Europe and has not ruled out the US. "The only place I would go to outside of Europe is New York," he confirmed.