“The best of Britain and Sicily combine at this spoiling hotel, set in a grand villa with stunning sea views”
The rooms, spread across the main villa and former servant wings, are sumptuous and spacious. Some have pretty, shimmering wallpaper, others a heavy flock which we found a little oppressive, but the same calming colour scheme of chocolate, cream and magenta runs throughout. All combine classic elegance with modern touches: back-lit HD TVs sit above antique walnut tables, white panelling opens to reveal large wardrobes, and dressers hide well-stocked minibars. You also get a hairdryer, WiFi, slippers, Amber-scented Ortigia toiletries and, in most rooms, a terrace with outdoor sofas.
Standard Superior Rooms and slightly pricier Deluxe Rooms are broadly similar; the only real difference is that you're guaranteed outside space in the latter but not always in the former. We stayed in a Superior, with a comfy queensize bed and French doors opening onto a wonderful private patio shaded by orange trees. Our sleek marble bathroom had a small tub - not long enough to lounge in, but fine for a quick dip - with cascade taps and a monsoon shower. One Superior Room also has a Jacuzzi tub - worth nabbing if it’s available.
If you really want to splash out, choose one of the 9 suites, which all have their own USP. The Suite del Pittore, for instance, is split over 2 levels with a glass-screened mezzanine, and the Hellier Suite has 2 bathrooms and a large terrace. The Montgomery Suite has bay windows with sweeping views, and the Spa Suite has a stone fireplace, a Jacuzzi tub and a steam bath. There’s also a Family Suite, set in a self-contained cottage in the grounds, which can accommodate up to 6 in 2 bedrooms (1 double and 1 double/twin) and a lounge with a sofabed. It too has a Jacuzzi tub, plus its own garden. Top of the pile is the vast Ashbee Suite, which has 2 bathrooms, a panelled salon and a terrace looking out over the pool to the sea.
Breakfast here is a real treat. You can eat in the striking St George restaurant with its striped wallpaper and red glass chandeliers, or on the terrace outside. The spread reflects the hotel’s British/Sicilian theme: a vast buffet of local fruit, delicious cakes, yoghurt, cereals, cheeses and cold cuts, plus à la carte cooked options such as eggs and crispy bacon or toast with little ramekins of baked beans. Hot drinks are served in silver pots at your table and - unusually for Sicily - you can order cafetières of filter coffee as well as the normal espressos and cappuccinos.
During the day, drinks and light lunches are available by the pool, from the lounge-bar or via room service (note there’s a tray charge for the latter). We loved the cocktails (peach and strawberry Bellinis, mojitos with mint from the garden), the juicy Caprese salad, and the baskets of rosemary focaccia. And come evening, the terrace provides an idyllic spot for a sunset glass of Prosecco, served with delicious canapés and paprika-dusted almonds.
The hotel has begun offering dinner since our visit. It's not cheap, but if the other meals are anything to go by then the food is sure to impress. The menu again mixes local and British influences: starters might include braised octopus with wild rocket pesto or leek cannelloni with a Nero d’Avola wine reduction, while mains could be seared steak tartare or vegetable terrine with pecorino fondue. We particularly like the sound of the dark chocolate soufflé with orange-scented cream for dessert.
There’s no shortage of eateries nearby, either. Just across the road from the hotel is Al Melograno, where we feasted on delicate courgette flowers stuffed with ricotta and pasta with fresh sardines (a Sicilian speciality) in a candlelit garden. And strung out along the pedestrianised lanes in the town centre are a multitude of pizzerias, trattorias and bars, many with terraces overlooking the bay.
Children of all ages are welcome at The Ashbee, though the refined, romantic ambiance means you might feel self-conscious with noisy tots in tow. Baby cots (free) and extra beds (charged for) are available, and babysitting can be arranged on request.
Babies (0-1 years)
Superior and Deluxe Rooms have space for a baby cot, and the suites have a single sofabed. The Family Suite can sleep up to 6 in 2 bedrooms (1 double and 1 double or twin) and a lounge with a sofabed.
Available by arrangement.
There’s no set children’s menu, but the breakfast spread includes favourites such as Coco Pops and baked beans, and burgers are available for lunch.
There are stone steps in the garden and steep drops from the pool area (unfenced), so keep a close eye on roving toddlers.