Italy has long captivated the hearts and hunger of travellers, and now Sicily is coming into its own. With 3,000 years of rule by the Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantines, Arabs and Normans – Sicily is a melting pot of cultures, and a rich, vast living museum. The Mediterranean climate makes for a bounty of delectable dishes and home to more grape varieties than any other region in Italy. Here one can enjoy sweet and dry Marsala and wines of enhanced complexity and richness thanks to the volcanic mineral content. The wellness industry is gaining momentum and some excellent spas are emerging. Catania is the stepping-off point for exploring the east coast and travel by car is essential to discover the treasures of Sicily, from its mountains to aquamarine shores.
Situated on craggy cliffs of the island’s east coast, Taormina seduced Goethe more than 200 years ago and continues to enchant visitors today. One of Sicily’s most popular destinations, the little town of Taormina charms with its gardens, ancient ruins and breathtaking views of Etna.
Belmond Villa Sant’Andrea
At the base of the Taormina cliffs, the Belmond Villa Sant’Andrea was originally built as a private residence that has expanded over the past century to welcome guests to its sun-drenched location on the Bay of Mazzarò. With 64 rooms and suites, many with sea views and balconies, the villa has a luxurious yet relaxed elegance with cream marble and accents of traditional Sicilian art and ceramics throughout. Descending through lush tropical gardens, a private sandy beach with loungers, private cabanas, beach bar and warm aquamarine waters await. To see the property and surrounding bays from the water, guests can enjoy a complimentary boat excursion during the summer months.
Stay fit and pampered with a fitness centre, Turkish steam bath and Wellness Centre that will help prepare for the sun with treatments using Sicilian ingredients like Lipari pumice and prickly pear. The Energising Intensive Treatment with Siberian ginseng is hydrating and heavenly in the hands of top-notch therapists.
Tip: in the evening, head up by cable car to relax on the best terrace in Taormina at the Belmond’s sister property, the beautiful Grand Hotel Timeo. Matching the burnt orange hues of the setting sun, let head barman Alfio mix his ‘chierichetto’ cocktail before moving to the terrace restaurant for delectable Sicilian dishes – with Etna framed by the eastern coastline as your backdrop.
To stay in Taormina is to be swept into the heart and imagination of travellers who for centuries have come to savour la dolce vita. Minutes from Porto Messina are the shops of Corso Umberto l and a spectacular ancient Greco-Roman amphitheatre where a Sicilian villa has been transformed into a luxury boutique hotel.
Named after English architect Charles Robert Ashbee who designed the villa in 1908, The Ashbee celebrates its English heritage in Sicily with interiors that elegantly marry traditions from both worlds. Each of the 25 rooms and suites in the three adjacent villas celebrate distinctive and hand-selected design elements and luxurious fabrics. The spa suite offers comfort and luxury with a cosy living room, a hammam and chromotherapy Jacuzzi tub.
The main villa, terraced garden and infinity pool face the eastern coastline and the Calabrian mainland inviting hours of relaxation. The terrace bar is the perfect spot to lounge in the evening with a cocktail before dinner in the intimate and elegant Restaurant St. George. Foodies will be charmed by the thoughtful and inspired twist given to classical Sicilian and Mediterranean dishes, which the sommelier will pair with the finest of Sicilian wines.
Therasia Resort Sea & Spa
Step off the mainland at Milazzo and island hop through the beautiful Aeolian archipelago whose unique geology, topography and history have earned them a place on UNESCO’s World Heritage list. Comprising eight islands, Lipari is the largest and most lively, with many quaint restaurants and boat tours to surrounding islands – including a spectacular night tour to the active volcanic island of Stromboli.
The neighbouring island of Vulcano is popular for the healing sulphurous mud pools that are said to help skin and rheumatic conditions – if you can brave the aroma. From the cliff of Vulcanello the sea breeze and exceptional island views from Therasia Resort sets the mood for utter relaxation. The 94-room resort offers rooms with terrace or balcony, three restaurants and three outdoor seawater pools with the same extraordinary vista. The white adobe exterior, light blue palette and ocean-inspired decor bring the best of seaside living indoors.
The Wellness Centre has four treatment rooms and a child-free pool and sauna area that is small but cleverly designed. The dim steam and dry sauna area leads to a naturally lit pool area with loungers, a refreshment station and a pool with various water jet stations targeting the legs and back. Within the pool is a cold-water Kneipp walk that descends into a pathway within the heated pool. The spa menu focuses on scrubs using sea salt, volcanic grains and their own line of products.