Dreaming about a little getaway by the sea? I am. And so I asked award-winning travel and holiday specialist Original Travel to pick April’s holiday hot spot. This time, it’s sunny Sicily…
‘Great destination, pity about the hotels’ would have been an apt way to describe Sicily, the Mediterranean’s largest island, until recently. But things are changing fast. Rocco Forte – always a man with an eye to a sophisticated destination – opened a swanky hotel here a couple of years ago, and now two of Taormina’s grand old dame hotels are about to emerge from beneath the dust sheets. The Grand Hotel Timeo might be in the running for a ‘best located hotel in Europe’ award, nestled as it is beside the beautifully preserved near 2000-year old Greek amphitheatre and with epic views out across the brooding presence of Mount Etna.
The problem was that this unparalleled location was such an easy sell that the previous management took their eye off the ball, and the hotel became stale, tired and a shadow of its former glamorous self. Riding to the rescue, however, has come Orient-Express, who bought both the Timeo and sister property Villa Sant’Andrea on the seashore below, equally in need of some love and attention. Both properties are about to emerge, phoenix-like from phase two of renovations, and they are sure to represent two of the most exciting hotel openings in Europe this year. The Grand Hotel Timeo opens its doors on the 24th March, and the Sant’Andrea on the 15th April.
Aside from the hotels, what’s the deal? Well, there are more Greek ruins than you can shake an ionic column at beautiful beaches and incredibly charismatic towns – the island was part of the Greek Empire before the Romans were out of nappies! And then there’s Mount Etna, a distinctly undormant volcano smoking away and worth a visit to see the moonlike landscape and take a trip up near the sulphurous-smelling summit by cable car, 4×4 or on foot. A typically unusual thing to do on a pretty unusual and certainly beautiful island…
Villa Sant’Andrea, Sicily (above)
Mount Etna (below)
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