The entrance to the baglio which now houses the Mahara Hotel used to be via the large door leading out on to the main road, along the seafront leading to the old part of Mazara del Vallo. Nowadays, this entrance is open only rarely, usually when there's a party or banquet being held. The majority of the time you'll need to enter the Mahara via a small side street, where there is a little bit of room for parking. Once inside, you'll immediately notice that the atmosphere here is very different from that of the large hotel complexes we have become used to when visiting Sicily. The ambience is decidedly relaxed yet elegant and the decor kept to light shades. Between the oriental-style rugs and the little lounge area, you'd be forgiven for thinking you were still at home, a feeling further emphasized by the kind and accommodating manager and the reception staff. From the bright lobby you can go straight through to the inner courtyard, visible through the large picture windows. Outside, meanwhile, a large fountain stands proudly at the centre of the courtyard, its water running beautifully down a series of steps, whilst the well-appointed gardens all around are planted with palms and shrubs, adorned with a series of arches and furnished with garden benches on the lawn. This is where the typical Sicilian 'baglio' structure, which in this case became the Mahara Hotel in 2007, really comes into its own. It is worth pointing out that renovation works are currently being carried out at the property since one of the buildings which is as yet unused will soon form an extension of the hotel. A well-being centre was also in the process of being built when we visited in June 2009. In fact, that's the one thing that was missing for this hotel to really live up to its name, since Mahara is an Arabic word meaning 'rest'/'relaxation'. It was chosen to highlight the significant North African influence in this region, where a large number of Tunisian and Moroccan fishermen have always worked. Other than the restaurant, the only thing the hotel currently offers in the way of leisure facilities is its outdoor swimming pool, which is neither very big nor very deep (at just 1.2m) but it is rather peaceful.