Casa Talia

Modica, Sicily, Italy Book from Book from £132 per night

A clutch of lovingly restored stone cottages, with vibrant rustic-chic interiors and sweeping views over the Baroque town of Modica
Talia means "Look!" in the Sicilian dialect - and you'll have to look hard to find this gorgeous guesthouse, camouflaged inside old houses on Modica's tiered hillside. There's no reception, but wave your magnetic card in front of the stone wall and a concealed sensor will unlock a rustic door. Step into the hidden garden, filled with birdsong and dripping with fat figs and plums, white lilies and pink anemones, and - talia! The tightly packed houses and ornate churches of this stunning Unesco-listed town are spread like an amphitheatre at your feet.

Marco and Viviana, architects from Milan, spent 3 years creating their dream home, fusing natural materials (recycled roof tiles, pressed-iron beds, old oak chairs) with the subtlest of modern technology. Bedrooms, spread among the cottages, get cane ceilings above luscious mustard or cerulean walls, and traditional floor tiles beside gleaming chrome and glass wetrooms. It's their homage to 'slow living' - and a sublimely peaceful retreat among Italy's finest Baroque towns and sandy beaches.

Highs

  • A gem in the heart of Modica - itself a Sicilian gem
  • Superb attention to detail (reclaimed door handles, repointed masonry, chrome Grohe taps) - as you'd expect from a pair of designers
  • Private terraces for most rooms - sit back and watch the town turn from golden to rose-pink as the sun sets
  • Leisurely breakfasts under the fig tree, with local jams, delectable cakes and fresh fruits
  • Friendly, very helpful hosts, who can point you in the direction of historic hill towns, beautiful beaches and nature reserves (all within a 30-minute drive)

Lows

  • It's 100m from the nearest car park (signs guide the way)
  • It's a 10-minute puff up the hill from town - not ideal for the less sprightly or the very young
  • A couple of neighbouring rooms are inadequately soundproofed
  • Complaints of poor storage in some rooms, and a couple (Zenzero and Buendia) have showers hidden behind curtains rather than sitting in fully enclosed ensuites

Best time to go

Spring (April-early June) and autumn (September-October) are the most pleasant times to visit. The weather is perfect for gentle exploration, and swimming is quite feasible until early November. Sicily is extremely busy and very hot in summer (July-August); that said, Modica's hillside setting means it stays cooler and more bearable than many other towns on the island.

Our top tips

While exploring Modica, stop to taste the crunchy, spicy chocolate for which it's famous. Drawn by irresistible aromas, we stumbled upon the house of Don Puglisi just above Corso Umberto, where ‘fallen women’ concoct all manner of goodies. Nearby, Bonajuto offers fig-filled nucatoli, while Donna Elvira specialises in carati, made with carob flour, raisins and almonds.

Great for...

Eco
Family
  • Boutique Guesthouse
  • 12
  • Breakfast only (+ restaurants nearby)
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
Room:

Rooms

The rooms spill down the hillside, each with views over Modica and a separate entrance off the garden. All combine old and new: rescued wrought-iron beds topped with orthopaedic mattresses, salvaged tailors’ hangers next to flat-screen TVs, a safe hidden behind a metal oven door in the wall. Pale masonry is broken up with bright colours, beams and patterned tiles that evoke Sicily’s Arabic and Spanish past, and bathrooms come with waterfall showers (no tubs). All but the smallest rooms have private terraces.

Largest are the suites. In desert-brown Scirocco, you’ll find a carriage axle incorporated into a mirror frame and a decorative silver swan from Cairo. The spacious split-level Superior Suites, Meridiana and Talia, have sofabeds on their upper floors; the former is one of our favourite rooms, with a romantic lower-floor bedroom hewn out of the cliff face. Also carved into the rock is Buendia, which is set a little way from the others and can accommodate up to 3 extra beds within its white, cave-like walls; it has a kitchenette, too.

Since our visit, the Volo Suite has also been added - we're yet to personally view the space but a cube-like glass-walled bedroom and palatial terrace (with stunning views) set the tone.

Smaller but just as striking are the Superior Rooms. We loved the deep magenta walls in Sirah, the delicate greens in soothing Agave, and the wall-full of intricate blue and white tiling in Mediterraneo. Of the Standard Rooms, the nicest is bright and breezy Zenzero thanks to its French doors onto a small balcony. We’d avoid Cedro and Zagare, which share a terrace and lack soundproofing, and we’re yet to see stone-floored Ibla.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Central heating
  • Cots Available
  • Extra beds
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Phone
  • Safe box
  • Terrace
  • Toiletries
  • Tv
  • WiFi

Eating

Marco and Viviana prepare a beautiful breakfast of homemade jams, fresh fruit, creamy yoghurt, blood orange juice, bread and pastries (including heart-shaped chocolate bites or sugar-dusted muffins). There's a breakfast room with picture windows at the front and a cave at the back, but in summer you sit outside in the shade of the fig tree, gazing over the banked houses of Modica.

No other meals are served, but picnic hampers can be arranged and the Buendia suite has a kitchenette - not suitable for cooking, but fine for preparing snacks, with plates, glasses, a dishwasher, and a few basics such as coffee, tea, cereals, fruit and water.

For lunch and dinner, there are several restaurants within a 10-minute walk, including the stylish and soigné Torre d'Oriente on Via Posterla, or the traditional Osteria di Sapori Perduti on Corso Umberto, which has delicious antipasti and Sicilian specialities. Or you could head to nearby Ragusa, where "Italy's best young chef" (according to Gambero Rosso magazine), Ciccio Sultano, prepares Michelin-starred Sicilian delicacies in his elegant restaurant near the Duomo, whose name it bears.

Features include:

  • Breakfast
  • Children meals
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Picnic hampers on request
  • Restaurants nearby
Eating: Volo Suite
Activity:

Activities

  • Explore Modica, listed as a World Heritage site for its vernacular architecture and Baroque churches, mostly rebuilt after Sicily's 1693 earthquake. It’s divided into Modica Bassa, whose main thoroughfare (Corso Umberto) lies at your feet, and Modica Alta on the hill opposite, capped by a castle and clocktower
  • Another impressive Baroque town is Ragusa, sited on a cliff-ringed spur 15 minutes away, with a steepled duomo rising above a jumble of tiled medieval roofs
  • A 15-minute drive in the other direction takes you to Scicli, an outpost of the Spanish barons with wide piazzas and weathered palazzi
  • And it’s only 30-45 minutes to the final pair of Unesco-listed, post-1693 Baroque towns: Noto and Palazzolo Acreide. The former boasts honey-stoned avenues; the latter a Greek theatre, Roman catacombs and ancient quarries. Nearby is Buscemi, a living folk museum with working olive and grape presses
  • After all that sightseeing, take it easy on the sandy beaches lining the south coast. Nearest are Pozzallo and Sampieri (20 minutes’ drive); further west are Donnalucata and Scoglitti (30-45 minutes’ drive), both long, wide and surf-streaked
  • To the east are the bird-rich lagoons and road-free coves of the Vendicari Nature Reserve - walk to Calamosche for total seclusion
  • At the southern end of the reserve is Marzamemi, a sleepy tuna-fishing village which during summer turns into a chic resort filled with bars, restaurants and live music
  • Active types can hike along the deep limestone gorge of the Cava d’Ispica, whose cliffs are dotted with hermits’ tombs and climbers abseiling into them; take a boat tour along the Ciane river; cycle through the gorge and necropolis of Pantalica (contact Sud Estremo); and spot migrating waders around Capo Passero

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Birdwatching
  • Boat trips
  • Cycling
  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Horse-riding
  • Museums / galleries
  • Plantlife / flora
  • Sailing
  • Shopping / markets
  • Swimming
  • Windsurfing

Kids

Children of all ages are welcome. Marco and Viviana have a young child themselves, and will informally let you use their kitchen for preparing food and milk.

Best for:

Babies (0-1 years), Teens (over 12)

Family friendly accommodation:

The Scirocco Suite and Volo Suite each have 2 single sofas which can be used as beds, and split-level Meridiana and Talia have sofabeds on their upper floors. Buendia can take up to 3 additional beds, and also has a basic kitchenette that's handy for preparing kids' snacks. Baby cots can be added to all rooms, and one Superior Room (Agave) has space for an extra child's bed.

Baby equipment:

Baby cots are available on request.

Remember  baby and child equipment may be limited or need pre-booking

Children's meals:

Food and milk can be prepared in the owners' kitchen on request.

Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

Based on 9 independent reviews from i-escape guests

7/10
Room
8/10
Food
8/10
Service
7/10
Value
8/10
Overall

Magical view and exuding charm from every corner. Great style and lovely people. Somewhere I hope to return to for sure.

9/10,

Cool and stylish. Would be nice to have tea/coffee-making facilities and a fridge/minibar. There is no reception.

8/10,

We wished we could have stayed longer at Casa Talia. The view was magical, the garden was small but lush and the seats looked very comfortable. There is too much to see in the area for a four-day visit, but next time we will sit around more. Having read other reviews I was a bit apprehensive about scant service and the distance from the car park: it's true, the car park is a bit of a walk, but we quite liked being separate from our car; and it took us a little while to settle into the slightly idiosyncratic arrangements, but soon we really couldn't have been happier nor our hosts more charming. The restoration project which is producing this group of rooms is being done in a careful and stylish way. And the breakfast was exquisite. Every day was different, everything was delicious and the quantities - we were worried at first, though they did say we could have more - were perfect.

9/10,

Just Fantastic.

10/10,

The room was probably ready for it's end of season paint. Bathroom was screened rather than separate. Really nice balcony and spectacular view. Good shower. Nadal was helpful.
The osteria sap adoring was good value food. We visited the reserva vendecari worth a visit if you enjoy bird watching and a dip in the sea.

7/10,

Amazing conversion of a series of adjacent former shepherds' cottages, with a sublime view over to Modica Bassa/ Modica Alta. Arrival and check-in is definitely a different experience than the norm although once Nadir gives you the password for the network you understand and relax into the ambience and magic of Casa Talia. The view from our bed (in the tranquil Agave) was onto the magnificent Chiesa di San Giorgio: what an introduction to this special place. Breakfast under the olive and fruIt trees in the garden was perfectly plentiful and seamlessly served. Dinner down a few hundred steps at a couple of the many local eateries was equally served with pride, and the oxygenation of clambering back up the few hundred steps afterwards ensured sound sleep. We hope to be back.

10/10,

A most original place. Our own small restored stone house had a view across to the Cathedral of Modica, beautifully lit at night. Tiny terrace bordered by a huge cactus. Perfect simple breakfast in the garden with mature pomegranate, walnut, olive trees and smell of jasmine. The owner and architect Marco is a charming host. Service from Nadir is exceptional and smiling. Spent 3 nights and used as a base to get to the beach for lunch and a swim at Marina di Ragusa and to see another of the local UNESCO Baroque villages, Scicli. All by local bus. Perfect warm cloudless October days. Highly recommend the area and Casa Talia.

8/10,

The best thing about Casa Talia is the incredible view over the town of Modica. It's mesmerising. Each bedroom has its own small but private terrace, which takes in this view. Breakfast is served on a leafy terrace, again, overlooking the town. We enjoyed our stay at Casa Talia. Options are limited in Modica. It's a peaceful and stylish retreat, but I can't help but feel a little disappointed with our room. Admittedly, I did book the cheapest option at the hotel. Consequently, we stayed in one of the smallest rooms. There were a couple of things that were slightly disappointing. We would have liked a small fridge in the room so that we could have stored some cool water and a couple of beers to savour while we admired the view. The other thing that was slightly disappaointing is that the dividing wall between our room and our neighbours' was so thin that we could hear them speaking and I could even hear them snoring in the middle of the night. Don't let this put you off. Instead, our recommendation would be to book one of the larger, more expensive rooms and I'm sure you'll have a better sleeping experience. It's a unique place to stay and if you fancy a night in Modica, this must be your best choice.

7/10,

Poor check in experience when they confused us with another couple. Unbranded shampoo with Chinese script seemed out of character. ConTrade is an excellent, family run restaurant. At the top of the town La Locanda del Colonnello was also excellent. Accursio on the main street was a restaurant experience I would not want to repeat.

8/10,

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Rates for Casa Talia