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Hotel Villa Belvedere, Taormina, Sicily

Olivia Allwood-Mollon enjoys traditional Sicilian hospitality at Hotel Villa Belvedere, Taormina

The credentials:

Villa Belvedere is a charming boutique hotel, located just a few minutes from Taormina’s lively town centre and world-famous Greco-Roman Theatre. Both are easily reached through the inspiring and panoramic Duca di Cesarò botanical gardens.

The hotel has been owned and managed by the Bambara-Pècaut family since 1902. Villa Belvedere has the discreet elegance and atmosphere of a traditional Sicilian private villa, standing in its own manicured gardens, with spectacular views of Mount Etna as well as out to sea over the Bay of Naxos.

Sleep:

We sampled two rooms during our stay. The first, a Classic Room, was, light, airy and spacious. The colour scheme was sophisticated and calm, complemented by a huge bathroom boasting a glass-cube shower with multiple jets, mosaic tiles and an inbuilt seat.

The interiors were elegant, expensive and understated. Calm, clean and serene.

Our second room was of a similar ilk, but also offered a balcony with views stretching out across the Med – our vista encompassed the pool, hotel gardens and cliffs below. Accessed through a hollowed-out stone tunnel in the cliffs, these rooms felt even more exclusive.

Both rooms had king-sized beds, crisp linen, unobtrusive TVs and elegant lighting.

Out and about:

Villa Belvedere is perfectly situated, just a short stroll to the funicular, then a scenic glide down the cliff to the beaches. The hotel is also about 5 minutes from Taormina’s ancient town centre – bustling roads, winding passageways, treacherous steps and medieval arches punctuating the old town’s beginnings and end.

One of Sicily’s most historic towns, Taormina became a popular tourist resort for Europeans in the 19th century. Visitors include Oscar Wilde, Nicholas I of Russia, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Friedrich Nietzsche (who wrote his Thus Spoke Zarathustra there), Richard Wagner, Bertrand Russell, Roald Dahl, Henry Faulkner, Tennessee Williams, Jean Cocteau, Jean Marais and D. H. Lawrence, amongst others.

Taormina offers a vast array of restaurants, but, improbably conveniently, two of the very best are adjacent to the hotel, and, coincidentally, one another. Ristorante Rosmarino was fantastic, and Andreas Restaurant was, if anything, even better.

Villa Belvedere is also close to the Belmond Grand Hotel Timeo and its Michelin-starred Otto Geleng restaurant, but there’s something inimitably authentic too be said for strolling through half-lit alleys, candlelit churches, secret passageways, and uneven stairwells, getting lost deep within Taormina’s ancient bowels. Stumbling upon a secluded alcove, lit only by candlelight, with rickety chairs and fresh seafood is one of the highlights of a trip to this town.

Overlooking the Ionian sea, with Isola Bella – a tiny island and nature reserve attached to its beaches – its easy to see why Taormina’s endured as one of Italy’s most popular and glamorous destinations.

Dine:

Due to… she who shan’t be mentioned… the lavish breakfast buffet had to operate in accordance with guidelines, with guests directing a waitress to place items on their plate whilst standing a safe distance back from the spread.

Fresh tea or coffee is brought to the table however, along with poached eggs, omelettes and other cooked dishes.

Light meals, salads, sandwiches and ice creams are served around the pool until 6pm. Seamlessly accommodating my wheat allergy (in Italy of all places!) I enjoyed a ham and cheese toastie several days in a row.

Cocktails are also on offer around the pool and lobby. The Mount Etna cocktail – a spin on the traditional Aperol Spritz – a particular highlight.

The crowd:

Due to ever-changing travel restrictions, the hotel mainly hosted Italians and Brits at the end of August – UK travel corridors had just been announced, Italy being one of the few places Brits could travel without quarantine upon return. And Italians go south to summer in August, with this year apparently no different.

There were a few children in and around the pool, but the majority of guests were couples. A thirty-something Italian bloke breakfasted in a t-shirt emblazoned with “Pornhub’ – no explanation – and, the Brits were more provincial than Prada. But it was an odd time.

The worst thing:

Wasps were inexplicably obsessed with Parma ham – and the sea around Taormina can get the odd jellyfish.

The lobby felt very slightly tired when compared to the bedrooms. But there was a wooden bar tucked into an alcove, timeless rather than tired and too charming to update.

The Wi-Fi in the rooms wasn’t great – which meant my boyfriend had to work in the lobby area until late – but who goes on holiday for the Wi-Fi.

The best thing:

The panoramic breakfast terrace was idyllic, and the outdoor tables classically elegant… think starched-white linen, silverware, and ocean views piped with magenta bougainvillaea and Mediterranean sun.

Villa Belvedere sits right next to Taormina’s jewel – the Teatro Antico – a Greco-Roman amphitheatre offering an impressive programme of live music and dating all the way back to 200BC.

The historic centre of Taormina is just minutes away – accessed through mature botanical gardens, it boasts ancient passages, mediaeval arches and panoramic, cliff-top views across the Bay of Naxos.

The details:

Via Bagnoli Croci, 79 – 98039 Taormina ME Tel: +39 0942 23 791 Fax: +39 0942 62 58 30 info@villabelvedere.it www.villabelvedere.it