Siracusa: Algila Ortigia Charme Hotel
Downtown Siracusa (Ortigia) consists of mazes of ancient streets and buildings, where it's easy to feel as if you've stepped back in time. Nestled in the criss crossing of streets lays the historic Algila Ortigia Charme Hotel, a four star hotel. Its owners converted the original Baroque style building into a modern boutique hotel, which is one of the best in the city. The hotel feels distinctly European and is an authentic Sicilian destination, with its Old World feel, and remnants of antiquity seen in the architecture and fixtures. You'll feel as if you're traveling back in time just by meandering up the staircase! However, the hotel has all the amenities to ensure you feel comfortable, and you'll feel very much in the modern era as your head hits the pillow at night!
In downtown Siracusa, you'll have a hard time finding a hotel that has pools and gyms, which are more typical of larger name brand chains. Instead, the Algila Ortigia Charme stays true to its Sicilian vibe, and emphasizes location, wonderful hospitality, and delicious food. Every morning, the hotel served a continental breakfast buffet that offered pastries, fruits, cheeses and meats, and fresh yogurt. It's also located steps from the water (where there are a few swimming clubs), and in just a few minutes you'll find yourself in the heart of the city. It was helpful to park our car once and never have to move it until our departure! The old city was pedestrian friendly, and it was much less hassle leaving the car parked during our stay.
Would I Return?
If I were to return to Siracusa, I’d stay here again, but I would choose my room differently. I booked a deluxe spa, but in the future I’d choose a junior suite -- it was less money and a better room. There was an expansive terrace, and more windows and sunlight compared to the deluxe spa. However, every room in this hotel seems to have a slightly different layout and look (even rooms in the same category). Therefore, I’d recommend speaking with the hotel manager staff ahead of time if you have specific questions about the room choices, or if you're traveling with children (I vacationed here pre-mom life).
Taormina: Belmond Grand Hotel Timeo
Belmond Grand Hotel Timeo knows how to WOW from the first moment you step in! Guests enter through a beautiful garden pergola, and immediately see the vista overlooking the sea and Mt. Etna. You're not even aware of what's coming (even if you've scoured over many hotel pictures); the stunning backdrop will take your breath away when seen in person.
Wow factor #1 - The grounds:
Belmond Timeo easily earns an A+ simply for its beautiful surroundings. The hotel is built into the side of the mountain, overlooking the sea below. The expansive terrace (see above) is the place to go for drinks, a bite to eat, or just to relax. The food will cost you a pretty penny, but you won't feel shortchanged as you watch the sunset dip behind Mt. Etna.
If you explore further into the hotel property, you'll find beautiful gardens, leading to the pool carved right into the sloping hilltop. There is a small snack shop, and plenty of comfortable seating. We spent many hours relaxing, reading and playing backgammon.
Wow factor #2: The rooms
Upon checking in, we were upgraded to a junior suite because we booked with American Express Fine Hotels and Resorts. If you were to imagine the most luxurious accommodation in a hotel, this would be it! We walked into the room to find that was actually 2 floors; the first floor had its own bathroom and living area, while the second included the bedroom and another bathroom. Large windows overlook both the hotel, and city of Taormina. Not surprisingly, every amenity in the room has been taken care of (I developed a serious addiction to the shampoo). After a long day of exploring the city or beaches, you'll be happy to hit the pillow and will enjoy a great night's sleep in the large and comfortable beds.
Wow factor #3: Location- Access to history, food, and beaches
The location of this property can’t be beat. You step outside and immediately to your right is the Greek theater which became my favorite stop of the trip. As I mentioned in my blog post, make sure to arrive right when they open (9am), as that's best to avoid the crowds. It's peaceful to walk through the ancient structure taking in the captivating backdrop of Mt. Etna and the sea.
After you've spent some time here, the start of the town is just steps away from the hotel and has a number of delicious restaurants. You can read my full review of food here.
As a guest of Belmond Grand Hotel Timeo, you'll also have access to their sister hotel, Belmond Villa Sant’andrea. The hotel offers a free shuttle, and I recommend spending an afternoon down at the beach.
As you pull into the driveway, and descend down to the water, there is a distinctly Italian Riveria feel to the landscape and vibe. The water is perfect see-through-blue, and is calm enough for little ones to splash around. My husband and I spent hours jumping off a rock, along with all the other small children vacationing. Food and drink are also offered on site and the hotel has all amenities you will need. You don't want to miss out on booking a spot on the complimentary boat tour. I reserved this upon arrival, and it was one of the highlights of the trip! We toured Taormina from the sea, and were able to see structures not visible by land -- like old WW2 forts! The Captain also did not forget to "pull over" for a few impromptu dips in the Mediterranean.
Would I Return?
You'll feel like royalty staying at the Belmond Grand Hotel Timeo. I was truly blown away by the impeccable service, luxurious rooms, and panoramic views. I very much hope to return in the future, and explore even more of Taormina and other parts of Sicily.
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