Now is the time to start summer holiday planning, and the best hotels in Sicily are springing to life again for a new season. This year, thanks to the popularity of the second series of The White Lotus, which was filmed there, the Italian island is seeing a surge of interest. But it’s not just the cult TV show that has put this Mediterranean isle on the map – the luxury hotel scene is booming. Here’s where you can get a slice of la dolce vita in Sicily
Holding court in Sicily’s capital Palermo, Villa Igiea is everything you’d want from a turn-of-the-century palazzo, now one of the best hotels in Sicily. We have interior designer Olga Polizzi, in conjunction with architects Paolo Moschino and Philip Vergeylen, to thank for the beautifully reimagined decor. The building’s golden age, when it was owned by the influential Florio dynasty, is nuanced throughout the public spaces, not least in Florio restaurant where guests dine on salted baked sea bass and lemon linguine amid classical sculptures, huge urns and glittering chandeliers, and the bar, which is set in the villa’s frescoed sandstone vaults.
Upstairs, the 78 rooms and suites take a more luxury-modern slant with pared back furnishings and Carrera marble-clad bathrooms. Tiered gardens sweep down to the port and out to the Tyrrhenian Sea, with a swimming pool surrounded by smart green-and-white striped loungers for lying supine and sipping Aperol. There’s an excellent Irene Forte Spa too, of course.
Guests have been returning to this charming coastal hotel, now Belmond Villa Sant’Andrea, since the 1950s – and it’s easy to see why. The 69-room resort, originally built as a private residence, hugs the secluded Bay of Mazzarò. It’s a magical spot – and one that invites afternoons on the private pebbled beach where the cool, still waters teem with marine life, or sipping Campari sodas in the gardens, the scent of citrus blossom hanging in the air.
This place is all about understated luxe, in large part due to the courteous nothing-is-too-much-trouble service and the impeccably curated interiors. Dining on freshly caught frutti di mare and the signature trapani fish couscous at either of the two restaurants is a must. You’ll be hard pushed to want to leave though if you do, private transport takes guests to Belmond Grand Hotel Timeo in Taormina, or you can catch the cable car that’ll whisk you up to the town centre in a matter of minutes.
Nestled deep in the Sicilian countryside, between Noto and Siracusa, the rolling 25-acre Dimora delle Balze estate is the stuff of fairy tales (little wonder it’s a much sought-after wedding venue). At its heart is the 19th century masseria, now beautifully converted by owner Elena Lops into an 11-bedroom retreat. A giant wooden door leads into a honey-coloured stone courtyard, overlooked by several of the bedrooms, while the others are located in the manor house. Each room differs in size, and some have private terraces, but all are elegant, their interiors a blend of earthy tones, one-off locally-crafted pieces and cementine tiled floors.
There’s a saltwater pool in the garden (the coast, with its wild cliffs and sandy beaches is 30 minutes away), with a fitness area adjacent, as well as a lemon orchard. Meals can be taken outside on the sun-dappled terrace or along the wooden table in the dining room; much of the Sicilian-inspired menu comes courtesy of the organic garden, the farm or locally. The breakfast spread is particularly noteworthy.
It’s hard to believe that the Belmond Grand Hotel Timeo started life in 1873 as a five-room guest house. Perched high above the clifftops, with sweeping views over the terracotta rooftops of Taormina, it’s now a sprawling Belmond hotel. Here, old-world grandeur merges with a cosmopolitan vibe. Guests can equally feast on a Michelin-starred menu at Otto Geleng (so named after the German painter who made Taormina his home) or under the pergola at the laid-back pool grill.
The six acres of terraced gardens – a legacy handed down by Lady Florence Trevelyan, an Englishwoman exiled to the hilltop town at the end of the 19th century – are a sight to behold, fragrant with orange blossom, bougainvillaea and geraniums. Spacious suites and bedrooms are split between the main building and the adjacent Villa Flora but for true dolce vita, book the Presidential Suite with its two king-size bedrooms and views of Mount Etna. Make time to visit the neighbouring ancient Greek amphitheatre just behind the hotel, where you can catch an open-air concert on a balmy summer’s evening.
San Domenico Palace, a Four Seasons Hotel, was once a 14th century convent, perched on a rocky promontory on the east coast, high above Taormina Bay. It became a hotel in 1896 and for over a century welcomed illustrious guests from Oscar Wilde and King Edward VIII to Elizabeth Taylor, Audrey Hepburn and Sophia Loren. Now the hotel has entered a new era, under Four Seasons.
The hotel group has certainly made excellent use of its dramatic setting, with a clifftop infinity pool and 111 cool, neutral rooms, many with sweeping views across the Ionian Sea. Food is a big draw here, with renowned chef Massimo Mantarro serving up Michelin-starred Sicilian fare in Principe Cerami; while the open-air Anciovi is a more light-hearted affair, where they do an excellent aperitivo. One too many limoncellos? The Botanica Spa offers nature-based treatments inspired by the ancient monastic wisdom of herbs and healing.
Il San Corrado di Noto is a boutique resort in Val di Noto in Sicily’s southeast, a UNESCO site and one of the filming locations of The White Lotus. Once an 18th century summer getaway for Prince Nicolaci, these days the retreat is no less majestic across its 26 suites and eight pool villas. Set against a backdrop of olive, almond and orange trees, the architecture draws upon natural materials – exteriors are paved with Modica stone and Guatemalan marble lines one of its two pools, with everything sculpted by local stonemasons and woodworkers.
Indeed, this is a hotel which puts the environment first: water is recycled, almost half of the total utility usage is offset by solar panels, while the onsite spa only offers chemical-free skin care. The same goes for food; the menu at both restaurants – overseen by Martin Lazarov – is grown onsite or sourced nearby. The wine list is short but punchy and the cocktails excellent (the Syracusae Spritz – bitter, almonds, sparkling wine, soda and lemon – is particularly refreshing). A few kilometres down the road by free shuttle brings guests to the hotel’s Beach Club, with its private beach and shaded sun loungers, where mineral water, towels, use of a shower and free Wifi all come as standard.
Locanda Don Serafino can lay claim to being one of the island’s first ever boutique hotels, and it remains one of the best hotels in Sicily to this day, testament to both its quirk and quality. It occupies a lovingly restored mediaeval palazzo in the charming town of Ragusa, much of which has been literally carved into the town’s hillside. Rooms – some in literal caves – have barrel-vaulted ceilings and thick stone walls, with Sicilian antique furniture, soft lighting and sumptuous fabrics adding to the luxury.
Two additional rooms, completed in 2019, bring a more contemporary spin (think polished concrete, terrace pools). But it’s the Michelin-starred restaurant and its enormous wine cellar, which steal the show – Vincenzo Candiano’s tasting menu, a twist on classic Sicilian, is extraordinary. Walk it off in town, where the labyrinthine streets are lined with 19th century houses, palazzos and churches.
One of Sicily’s newest arrivals, Q92 Noto Hotel may be small, but it’s perfectly formed – and has certainly earned itself a place on the best hotels in Sicily list. The nine-room retreat – once an ancient noble palace – is on the famous Corso Vittorio Emanuele in the heart of Noto, the UNESCO-protected capital of Sicilian Baroque architecture. Soak up the timeless cityscape from one of the hotel’s richly decorated balconies; if you stay in May, you’ll also have a front view seat to the Infiorata di Noto, a colourful celebration of springtime.
Interiors throughout are warm and inviting: a blend of Mediterranean hues and rich furnishings, with nods to the hotel’s aristocratic past artfully blended with contemporary pieces. Rooms and suites have thick stone walls, high ceilings adorned with frescoes and ensuite oak-panelled bathrooms. Breakfast – a spread of fresh eggs, local cheeses, focaccia and freshly baked pastries, washed down with excellent coffee – can be taken in one of the lounges or alfresco on the terrace. Though there is no restaurant in the hotel per se, the jasmine scented garden with its mini pool is the perfect spot to bask in the evening sun with a glass of wine.
Built in 1731, the honey-hued Seven Rooms Villadorata was once the private residence of the Principe di Villadorata. It’s since been transformed by owner Cristina Summa into a hotel that may be small but is big on elegance. The seven high-ceilinged rooms have a pared-back French-Italian aesthetic – think soft muted colours, exquisite tiling, the crispest of linens and huge doors leading onto balconies, where you can eat breakfast with a side of Sicilian sunshine.
Downstairs is just as chic with a series of cool, calm reception rooms, as well as a private cobbled courtyard with two enormous palm trees and a sweet-scented jasmine tree. If you’re looking for a spell in the countryside, Seven Rooms has a country house ten minutes outside Noto, amidst olive groves and vineyards. Rooms include an eco lodge and a suite with a private pool and garden, plus there’s a gorgeous zero-entry swimming pool.
Sir Rocco Forte’s Verdura Resort, set amongst a 500-acre stretch of private coastline, still retains its crown as one of the best hotels in Sicily. The 9- and 18-hole golf courses are exceptional, often topping ‘World’s Best Golf Course’ lists, while at the white-sand beach guests can indulge in every manner of water sports. There are also tennis courts amongst the beautifully tended grounds, and a first-rate (and huge) Irene Forte spa with outdoor thalassotherapy pools, saunas, a lap pool, Technogym and 11 treatment rooms offering high-tech treatments alongside super indulgent therapies.
This is a family-friendly resort, and the 168 rooms and suites, as well as villas, come in every size and format, with interior designer Olga Polizzi incorporating natural woods and stone to pleasing effect. There are four restaurants – including the shorefront Amare and the atmospheric Zagara – though a favourite spot has to be Granita Bar, where guests sip ‘Sicilian Mojitos’ and nibble on tapas at sunset.