From: Alice Taylor
Places to Visit: Agiturizem Hylli Drites

Located about 20 minutes outside of Lezhe, overlooking the Zadrima Plain, Agriturizem Hylli Drites is an exceptional destination offering a restaurant and small hotel.

It sits on a small hill in the Troshan district, not far from Fishte. A few minutes drive from Hylli Drites is the Kallmet winery that makes some of the best wine in the country, and a handmade soap studio- Sapun ZaDream. It is also a great area for hiking, exploring, and just sitting admiring the view with a glass of local wine.

Hylli I Drites (Star of Light) is the name of an Albanian periodical that was first published by Gjergi Fishta in 1913. Fishta is one of Albania’s most notable writers and poets and Hylli i Drites is regarded as one of the most important Albanian magazines. But why name a hotel and restaurant after it?

The legend goes that in August 1968, the owner’s (Fatmir)  father was working on a construction site in the area. When washing his hands in the nearby river, he noticed a black object below the surface. When he went to touch it, he realised it was the head of a sculpture of Gjergi Fishte. Most likely the statue had been destroyed by communists and dumped into the river.

He left the scene, scared and worried because being found with such an object during these times could result in death or imprisonment. But that night, he dreamt of the statue and Fishte and knew he had to return to retrieve it. Instead, he paid a local man to go retrieve it and bring it to him.

Once the man brought him the head, he took it to his house in Troshan and hid it in a bush. When nightfall came, he dug a hole next to the wall of his house, took the statue, and buried it. Regularly, he would sit near to where the statue was buried.

By May 1987, Fatmir’s father was experiencing a decline in his health. He called for his son and revealed his secret- the whereabouts of the statue. Albania was still in the grips of communism at this time and the possession of such a relic would still result in dire consequences.

He told Fatmir to look after the head and to bring it out when the time is right as it will bring him good luck. Then when Communism fell, he did just that. Now the head sits proudly at the entrance of the restaurant.

The restaurant has been open for five years and the adjacent hotel for two, having previously been an events hall. Each room is spacious with floor to ceiling windows, a terrace, and a television.

The walls are wood-panelled, as is the floor, and the beds are king size and super comfy. Each room also has a stylish mustard chair and a table and chairs complete with a tablecloth from Artistike Zadrima. The rooms also benefit from strong air conditioning- we have visited in both summer and winter, and the staff always ensure the room is optimum temperature prior to arrival.

On the top floor, the restaurant is spread out over large interior space, and a good-sized terrace. The waiters are incredibly friendly, very good with children, and speak English and Albanian

All of the food here is produced locally for Hylli Drites or on farms that work in close collaboration with them. We were lucky enough to be treated to an excursion by Fatmir to one of the farms, about 20 minutes drive away in the mountains. Here a family tends goats and poultry and grows fresh vegetables, figs, grapes, pears, and makes various cheeses.

It was great to see the food that ends up on my plate, being grown and nurtured in such a beautiful place.

The food at Hylli is excellent. He has gone for a different approach when compared to neighbouring Mrizi i Zanave, although they share the same love for fresh, seasonal, and local produce.

We dined on freshly baked flat bread, yogurt sauces, juicy cucumber and tomato, several kinds of cheese, and roasted baby goat. To accompany, we opted for local wine and were also treated to tangy pomegranate juice and a deliciously refreshing rose and lemon iced tea.

Having dined here several times for dinner and lunch, I have never been disappointed. The food is always prepared and presented perfectly. It is completely traditional but dished up with a more contemporary style.

They are very child friendly, offer highchairs and have a small play area. They can also provide a babysitting/childminding service if you require.

As a part of our visit, Fatmir also took us on a short tour of some of the local sites. We visited an ancient church up in the mountains and another more modern church- both of which have a fascinating history.

Hylli Drites is somewhere we will return again and again. Cozy in the winter, cool and breezy in the summer. It is perfect for families, couples, events, or just an excuse to eat, drink and be happy.


Neither Exit nor the author received any payment or other incentives for writing this article.