Taormina NOW

11 July 2024
Written by
Sara Magro

Still crazy after
all these years

“I don’t have words to express how Sicily has welcomed us: with fresh green mulberry trees, evergreen oleanders, lemon hedgerows. (…) The air is mild, warm, aromatic, the wind balmy.” 

*Extract from “Italian Journey”, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, 1787

Isola Bella Taormina

After the Grand Tour, during which European aristocracy organised long stays in Italy, came the era of the Dolce Vita—a fitting title that Federico Fellini bestowed upon Italy to capture the atmosphere and allure of high-society holidays. These two terms have become synonymous with Italian vacations, so deeply ingrained that they have ensured the country’s enduring fame.

While legend lends a golden, nostalgic sheen that satisfies, the here and now is the only real rule for those who want to truly experience a vacation rather than just dream about it. The ideal destination? Taormina, for example, where summer often extends until the end of October.

Greek Theatre, Taormina

Taormina epitomizes the transition from the Grand Tour to the Dolce Vita, with its Greek theater that has been attracting leisure seekers since the 4th century BC. Since Goethe’s time, this Sicilian city with its “mild, warm, and fragrant air” has become a gathering place for artists, writers, and intellectuals charmed by its sunny landscapes, clear seas, and liberal atmosphere. Among them was Robert Trewhella, a young English engineer who arrived in Italy around 1850 to develop the road network and was called to Sicily to build a railway at the foot of Mount Etna. He fell in love with Taormina and purchased a plot of land by the sea in the Bay of Mazzarò to build a summer house, which his son Alfred Percy completed in 1919, naming it Villa Sant’Andrea after the nearby headland. More than a century has passed, and the residence, now expanded and transformed into a luxurious Belmond (part of the LVMH group), is a five-star hotel that embodies and conveys the charm, beauty, and taste of its region. In contemporary tourism terms, this means being at the center of local social life and enriching the hotel with experiences that remain etched in memory.

Aside from the parties and VIP guests during major events such as the historic Film Festival, the Taobuk literary festival, and the Ancient Theater performances, Villa Sant’Andrea is a catalyst for the Dolce Vita, with rooms overlooking the sea or the bougainvillea garden, eggplant parmigiana under the pergola, and a private beach recently renovated where activities start at dawn with yoga and end in the evening with cocktails, DJs, parties, and cinema under the stars. Here, as at Grand Hotel Timeo, the other Belmond property in Taormina, the philosophy of hospitality goes beyond the resort to explore the surrounding territory that justifies the historic presence of luxury hotels. This has led to culturally and emotionally rich experiences that enhance the stay and leave a lasting impression. For instance, taking the original restored carriage of the Circumetnea Railway, built by Trewhella, to visit the surrounding villages—from Randazzo, where you can taste artisanal granita at Pasticceria Musumeci, to the wineries for a tasting of the excellent wines of Etna, including Carricante, Italy’s most famous mineral wine. Or you can venture to the Lakes of Ganzirri, where they raise delicious clams that you can gather, cook, and eat together at the fisherman’s house. So, when you return to the hotel and eventually home, you are certain that you have truly breathed in and captured the essence of the place.

Walking through Taormina, courtesy Belmond

Stay up to date. Sign up to our newsletter