Villa Carlotta

Taormina, Sicily, Italy Book from Eur200

Reviewed by Ros Belford
Intimate oasis in a turn-of-the-century villa with lovely restaurant, built into Taormina's lush cypress-spiked cliffs above the Ionian sea
Taormina has been a top tourist attraction for well over a century, and its lavish charms mean that it's likely to stay that way. Some hotels might be content to rest on the town’s laurels, but Villa Carlotta - built as an aristocratic family residence - treats guests as if they're friends of friends, and attention is paid to every aspect of your stay.

You'll find exuberant but not over-fancy rooms and suites plus 4 newer apartments and a grand 3-bedroom villa a short stroll away; it's a small hotel by Taormina's standards, with a lush garden and a bijou pool terraced above the rose-coloured tiles of an ancient chapel. Interiors pay homage to both Sicilian and Florentine heritage - think fine botanic prints, classical motifs and wrought iron balconies - while placing a premium on comfort. Delectable meals are enjoyed in the rooftop restaurant and dining terrace, which has fabulous 270 degree views from Etna round to the Calabrian coast; a sumptuous daily buffet sets the gold standard for breakfasts. The town's Greek amphitheatre, bustling centre and twin coves are within walking distance, and Mt Etna is a short drive away.

Highs

  • Splendidly sited above the sea among abundant subtropical vegetation, this hotel could not be anywhere other than Taormina
  • Roof terrace with spectacular views of Mt Etna and the sea by day, and candlelit at night for a quiet aperitif or a romantic meal
  • Rooms have small balconies with sea views or terraces overlooking the garden, and all but one have bathtubs
  • Comfortable sitting room with books, games and snooze-inducing sofas
  • Witty attention to detail in the décor

Lows

  • Not cheap - but worth every euro
  • Availability is a problem in high season, so book ahead
  • Sited on the corner of a relatively busy road, though we didn't hear any traffic noise
  • The exposed catacombs in the ground floor computer lounge aren't everyone's cup of tea
  • Candles in the public spaces weren't lit at night when we visited

Best time to go

Spring and autumn are the best times to visit. If you can, avoid July and August, which can be unbearably hot and often see Taormina besieged by coach parties. Easter is big in Sicily and nearby Acireale has a parade of flower and papier-mâché floats through the town centre. Acireale also hosts a colourful parade with a silver carriage and hymns on 20 January to celebrate San Sebastiano.

Our top tips

If you're here during the summer months, take a look at the programmes for the Taormina Arte festival (throughout the summer) and Taormina Film Festival (June), which sees a series of open-air performances in the town's spectacular Greek amphitheatre.

Great for...

Beach
Family
Foodie
Honeymoon
  • = Recommended
  • = Best in region
  • = World favourite
  • Boutique Hotel
  • 23 rooms + 4 apartments + 1 villa
  • Restaurant and bar (open daily)
  • All ages welcome
  • Open all year
  • Outdoor Pool
  • Spa Treatments
  • WiFi
  • Pet Friendly
  • Disabled Access
  • Beach Nearby
  • Off-street Parking
  • Restaurants Nearby
  • Air Conditioning
  • Guest Lounge
  • Terrace
  • Garden
  • Gym
  • Concierge Service
Room:

Rooms

Hotel rooms are thoughtfully laid out, many of them with small sitting areas, giving them a pied à terre feel. Each is uniquely shaped - as the property was originally a private late-19th-century mansion - and individually designed. Soft furnishings harmonise with the artworks: perhaps a porphyry-coloured bedspread picking up the tint in a botanic print, a sharp monchrome coverlet echoing a collection of antique silhouettes, or a shell print reflecting an etching of a conch.

Bathrooms, with Pierre Cardin pedestal sinks, travertine walls, bathtubs (in all but one) and large-head showers, have floors of gold-brushed lava and are stocked with soaps, foams and shampoos by Etro. Other in-room amenities include TVs, DVD players, WiFi, slippers, bathrobes and hairdryers; Junior, Deluxe and Mini Suites have tea- and coffee-making facilities, too.

All rooms come with some form of outside space, private or shared. This takes the guise of small ‘standing’ balconies with sea views in Deluxe Rooms and some Junior Suites; other Junior Suites and the Mini Suites have terraces overlooking the garden. Junior Suites 21 and 22 and Deluxe Room 23 open directly onto the shared patio, in sight of the pool.

Junior and Mini Suites are suitable for families as they have 1 or 2 single sofabeds that are ideal for children. The Deluxe Suite is the most romantic room , it occupies 2 floors of the villa’s distinctive tower, linked by a spiral staircase and furnished with gilded trompe l’oeil furniture and an elaborately carved wooden bed. Not suitable for under 7s or guests with limited mobility.

There are also a couple of cheaper Standard and Superior rooms, but we wouldn’t recommend them because they're quite small.

Within 150 metres of the hotel are 4 apartments, newer additions to the fold. All have sofabeds in the living room and well-equipped kitchen/ettes. You could easily hole up in one of these for a month. Three are one above the other and have views over the Ionian Sea from small balconies and French windows in the living rooms. Bathrooms are sleek, contemporary and spacious with separate tubs and showers. Apartment 1, where we stayed, has a large dressing room and living room; Apartment 2 is ideal for families with 2 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms; Apartment 3 - the 'Love Nest' - on the top floor has a private sun terrace and terrific sea views. The fourth apartment, aka The Villa, sleeps 4-6 in a double and a twin bedroom, and has 2 shower bathrooms, a small garden plus a panoramic terrace with excellent views.

In 2014, after extensive renovations, Villa al Mare was opened. It’s a grand 3-bedroom villa located 900m away from the main hotel, down a flight of 100 steps (you can also drive or catch the bus down). We’re yet to see it but it looks impressive, with ensuite double rooms, a kitchen, a living area with 2 single sofabeds, and an impressive panoramic sun deck with a large Jacuzzi that overlooks the sea. Guests have access to the facilities at the hotel, as well as having a caretaker and butler on hand for 8 hours a day! Note that you will need to check in at reception at from there your will be escorted to the villa.

Features include:

  • Air conditioning
  • Bathrobes
  • Central heating
  • Cots Available
  • Dvd player
  • Extra beds
  • Hairdryer
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Phone
  • Safe box
  • Satellite tv
  • Slippers
  • Terrace
  • Terrace
  • Toiletries
  • WiFi
  • Wifi internet

Eating

Some consider Villa Carlotta's best attribute to be the roof terrace, with its wonderful panoramic views of Mt Etna and the Ionian Sea as far as Calabria. It’s a spectacular place to start the day, and is truly romantic at night when candlelit and hung with Indian star lights. Meals are served here and in the dining room just inside the roof terrace, which is decorated with huge glass jars of lemons and botanic prints of citrus fruits.

Breakfasts are superabundant, with several different homemade cakes and tarts, local cheeses, hams and salami, fruit, yoghurt, juices and brunch-like Sicilian dishes such as frittata, caponata and salads spread over different tables.

For lunch and dinner there’s a Sicilian-focused menu of pasta dishes, risottos, meat, fish, salads and sandwiches - special requests are catered for. The chef takes Sicilian classics and adds his own stamp. There's a dedicated pastry chef, and cooking demonstrations are available on request. At 6pm every day free canapés are served in the dining room.

You can also get drinks in the small shady garden bar, which has loungers and furniture of coiled rope.

The Apartments and Villa al Mare have kitchen/ettes equipped for long stays: expect a hob, oven, dishwasher, double sink, pots and pans, cutlery & crockery, coffee machine, toaster, microwave, blender, iron and board plus cleaning materials and washer/dryer machine. Fridge-freezers are stocked with milk and water for your arrival. Note that those in Villa al Mare do not get breakfast included.

Taormina’s many restaurants are a short stroll away - staff can advise.

Features include:

  • Bar
  • Children meals
  • Minibar/fridge
  • Restaurant
  • Restaurants nearby
  • Room service
Eating:
Activity:

Activities

  • Wander the historic, flower-filled streets of central Taormina, a stroll away, and browse the many boutiques
  • Visit Taormina’s beautifully sited Greek amphitheatre, perched on a cliff with views across the bay to Mt Etna
  • Spend the day on the beach at Mazzarò or Isola Bella (the hotel runs a free shuttle service during the summer months), snorkelling in its crystal-clear waters protected by a picturesque offshore islet, and lunching in one of the fish restaurants. Villa Carlotta is just five minutes from the cable car
  • Take a bus or taxi up to the crow’s nest village of Castelmola, and sip iced almond wine as you watch the sunset
  • Further afield, explore the dramatic rock formations of the Alcantara gorge, and go rafting along its river
  • Drive to the little hill town of Castiglione di Sicilia, to visit a tiny cheese factory
  • Drive, or take a tour, up Mt Etna. Roads twist up through the national park, and there's a cable car on the southern side
  • Visit the prestigious wineries on the slopes of Etna, where there are some of the few vineyards in Europe to have survived phylloxera
  • Get off the beaten track and head up into the little-visited Nebrodi Mountains, to the north west of Taormina

Activities on site or nearby include:

  • Hiking
  • Historical sites
  • Nightlife
  • Rafting
  • Shopping / markets
  • Snorkelling
  • Swimming
  • Trekking
  • Wine tasting

Kids

Children are made very welcome, and will enjoy the pool and garden, although the atmosphere here is generally tranquil. All rooms can accommodate a baby cot, apart from The Deluxe Tower Suite where guests need to be 7 or older.

Best for:

Babies (0-1 years), Children (4-12 years)

Family friendly accommodation:

In the hotel, Deluxe Rooms have space for an extra bed, Junior Suites have 1 single sofabed and Mini Suites have up to 2 single sofa beds. The Apartments are all ideal for families with well-equipped kitchen/ettes, as each can take a baby cot and have sofa beds, especially Apartment 2 (designated for families with two bedrooms). Note although the Love Nest (Apartment 3) is really designed for romance.

Large families should opt for Villa al Mare as it has 3 ensuite double bedrooms as well as 2 single sofabeds. It's located about 900m from the main hotel, and therefore offers more privacy, as well as a fully equipped kitchen (rates are accommodation only).

Babysitting:

Available by arrangement

Baby listening:

Baby listening/monitors are available on request

Baby equipment:

  • Baby cots can be added to all rooms on request
  • High chair
  • Plastic crockery and cutlery

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

Children's meals:

Menus can be tailored for children on request - ours requested carbonara and loved it!

Kids Activities on site:

  • Pool
  • DVD library
  • Toys provided during summer holidays
  • Colouring pencils & drawing books

Kids Activities nearby:

  • Playground and public garden 3-minute walk away
  • Sandy beaches with private lidos (shuttle service provided)
  • Ruins of amphitheatre to explore

Families Should Know:

Some steepish drops and terracing in the garden, not ideal for toddlers

Distances:

  • Airport: 50 minutes
  • Doctor: 7 minutes
  • Shop: 2 minutes
Kid Friendly:

Our guests' ratings...

9/
Rooms
9/
Food
9/
Service
9/
Value
9/
Overall

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