Piazza Armerina & Taormina
We leave Agrigento and take the drive to the small town of Piazza Armerina, where one of the most amazing archaeological discoveries of the last century was made: a 4th century Roman villa, possibly owned by one of the joint Emperors, which explains its size and richness of decoration. Buried for centuries, you can still see the remains of pastel-coloured frescoes on the walls, but the mosaics, showing animals and hunting scenes, are simply the finest we have from Roman antiquity. This palatial building, complete with its baths, illustrates with great clarity the evident high standard of living of the Roman elite. We have a guided tour of the villa before continuing our drive to Taormina. Taormina is one of the most beautiful towns on the island towering 250 metres above the sweeping coastline below, where we have a choice of three hotels in three different locations, staying for four nights with dinner, bed and breakfast.
Neighbouring Taormina is Giardini Naxos, a charming typically Sicilian town with a seashore lined by seafood restaurants and fishing boats drawn up onto the beach and the beautiful family run four-star Hotel Sant’Alphio Garden, situated just a few minutes’ walk from the sea itself. This hotel, just a few minutes from the sea with views of nearby Taormina and Mount Etna. It has a host of fantastic facilities including a restaurant serving local and international cuisine, bar, outdoor pool surrounded by shady palm trees and beautiful bougainvillaea with poolside bar where you can relax and soak up the sun after a hard day’s sightseeing. The hotel also boasts a private beach just a short walk away and spa with indoor pool, Jacuzzi, sauna and gym (available at extra cost). Rooms are modern, air-conditioned and equipped with private facilities, mini-bar, safe and all have a terrace or balcony affording views over the surrounding area. All in all this is an extremely comfortable and stylish hotel.
In Taormina itself, you can choose the four-star Hotel Excelsior Palace, a classic building, over a hundred years old, which during its long history has welcomed guests as diverse as the King of Italy to Antonio Banderas! It is superbly situated on a promontory with panoramic views of the sea to one side and Mount Etna on the other, set in its own lush, extensive landscape gardens and yet centrally located in the old town. The restaurant focuses on local cuisine and the sophisticated bar/terrace enjoys amazing views of Etna. The large swimming pool, set in the terraced gardens on the end of the promontory, enjoys the same breathtaking views as the hotel itself and has its own bar. All rooms are air-conditioned, elegantly styled, in keeping with the rest of the hotel and very tastefully decorated.
Finally, just eight kilometres north of Taormina, built in Sicilian style and set into the coastal cliff itself, overlooking the stunning Bay of Taormina, is the luxurious, four-star Hotel Baia Taormina. It is a member of ‘Charming Hotels – Independent Luxury Hotels of the World’ one of the world’s most stylish hotel chains and has also received the following comment from one of the world’s most prestigious hotel guides, Johansens: ‘Four stars does not do it justice; every member of staff, every detail shines with courtesy and excellence. It is an honour to have you in our guide book.’ This superb hotel with its stone-faced walls, terracotta tiles and wide arches has a wonderful welcoming atmosphere. There are two swimming pools, an excellent restaurant specialising in local cuisine with a stylish and romantic ambience (there may also be the opportunity to take dinner on the terrace during your stay); a relaxing bar and lounge and a coffee shop, all set into the hillside making excellent use of the topography. The rooms themselves are extremely well-appointed, tastefully decorated and all face the sea. Should you wish to visit Taormina, there is a free shuttle bus and to avoid the walk, you can take this to the beach too, which takes approximately two minutes. In short, your comfort is assured whichever hotel you choose.
Outdoor pools are open summer months, weather permitting.