Villa Igiea, Palermo
Best For A Weekend Break
Rocco Forte Hotels owns some of the best-known five-star properties in the world – think The Balmoral in Edinburgh and Verdura Resort on the Sicilian coast (more on that later). In 2021, the group opened Villa Igiea in a former palazzo overlooking the Gulf of Palermo. Built as a private home in the 19th century, Italian art-nouveau architect Ernesto Basile was commissioned to restore the property and turn it into a luxury hotel. Once considered the most famous retreat in Sicily, the hotel has been a symbol of elegance and hospitality that has seen artists, Hollywood elite and royalty pass through its doors. A long-loved seaside-meets-city sanctuary, the newly transformed property makes the most of its original tiered gardens, which sweep down to the port and out to the Tyrrhenian Sea. There are now 100 bedrooms, three Italian restaurants and bars, and a Mediterranean spa, all of which make the most of its original palatial interior.
Il San Corrado di Noto, Noto
Best For A Villa
A few kilometres from the sea, Il San Corrado di Noto is housed in what was once the elegant farmhouse of Prince Nicolaci. It comprises 26 suites and eight pool villas, two swimming pools – including an expansive 100m pool – as well as a spa featuring a hammam, Finnish sauna, frigidarium, solarium and relaxation space, fitness suite and tennis court. Showcasing elegant Sicilian living at its best, the hotel is glamorous, with contemporary Baroque charm, and bright and spacious design. Each suite is complete with an outdoor patio, while one and two-bedroom pool villas offer flexible accommodation options for couples, friends and multigenerational families. Evenings can be spent tasting Sicilian dishes at destination restaurant Principe di Belludia or all-day dining spot Osteria Casa Pasta, and in the private cellar sampling some of the island’s best wine from producers in Cantina. Guests can take part in outdoor private yoga classes or sign up for excursions to try the local wine, cheese and olives or attend a cooking class or truffle-hunting morning. If you love food, make sure you get to nearby Ragusa for a meal at either Duomo or I Banchi.
Monaci Delle Terre Nere, Mount Etna
Best For Wine Tasting
Monaci Delle Terre Nere is a boutique hotel filled with character and charm, set deep in rich natural surroundings on Mount Etna. The Relais & Chateaux property can be found on a 62-acre estate on the volcanic slopes, with views down to the Med. Comprising a historic 18th-century manor house and 24 scattered villas, suites and signature rooms surrounded by gardens and vineyards, the hotel is made for guests who want to immerse themselves in rustic Sicilian country life and offers the chance to explore Etna by hike, horse or helicopter. Each villa has been thoughtfully furnished with local artefacts, antiques and playful art by British artist Olivier Mourão. Some have private pools overlooking the sea, while others have been redesigned with large private terraces for families and groups. Many villas also have fireplaces, lava stone walls and original tile features, as well as a large glass façade so guests feel right in the middle of the natural surroundings.
Casa Lawa, Mount Etna
Best For A Foodie Experience
Thanks to its chef residencies and colourful design details, Casa Lawa has been all over Instagram feeds this summer. The kitchen always operates with a chef in residency and meals are held in a garden and orchard. Creative menus are inspired by Italian family dinners, re-created for guests. Built from lava in 1812, the property has two rooms available on a B&B basic. The Volcano Room is spacious and features old lava stones and a chestnut floor. The Lava Room has a high-beamed ceiling with its own private entrance and comes with a personal living room area with a 70s modular Nuvolone sofa. Breakfast is served with a backdrop of sea views, and guest add-ons include dinners on the beach for two, ricotta-making masterclasses and private yoga classes.
Palazzo Previtera, Mount Etna
Best For A Slice Of History
Palazzo Previtera is a museum with rooms that officially opened on the slopes of Mount Etna earlier this summer. After ten years of painstaking restoration by descendants of the family that built the house in 1649, the luxury guest house has a 12-room museum and library, preserving over 500 years of Sicilian history, and a contemporary art gallery with a programme of internationally acclaimed artists in residence. In the palazzo, there are three bedrooms – one of which is a suite sleeping up to four. In the one-acre gardens, there are two cottages, sleeping two and six. Guests are personally greeted by the family and breakfast can be taken in the house or in the restored garden, which was built in 1908 on the site of a lava cave. Dinner can be provided on special request and ingredients at both breakfast and dinner are sourced from the edible garden including pomegranates, avocados, peaches and apricots. Alternatively, guests can walk into the town, where there is a choice of good restaurants just a five-minute walk away, including Michelin-starred Shalai.
Grand Hotel Timeo, A Belmond Hotel, Taormina
Best For A-List Luxe
When this property opened its doors in 1873, it was Taormina's very first hotel and quickly became famous. With views of nearby Mount Etna and adjoining the town’s ancient Greek theatre, the hotel is close to Mazzaro Bay and some of the island’s the most beautiful beaches. It has attracted illustrious artists and writers such as Klimt, Klee, Wagner, Tennessee Williams and DH Lawrence over the years, as well as A-listers like Cary Grant, Elizabeth Taylor and Audrey Hepburn. At Michelin-starred Otto Geleng, chef Roberto Toro leads guests through a refined, evocative culinary journey, capturing the traditional flavours, scents and tastes of his island using local produce. On the hillside, the restaurant is an intimate 16-cover terrace, with views of Etna and the Ionian Sea. Until the end of October, there is an exclusive Dior Spa cabin concept.
Mazzaro Sea Palace, Taormina
Best For A Beach Break
On one of the prettiest bays in Sicily with its own private beach club, this 70-room resort is a luxurious hideaway within easy reach of buzzy Taormina. The 70 rooms and suites all offer a view of the Mediterranean Sea and have been designed in a mix of marine-inspired colours, red shades of Sicilian marble, and gold sandy tones. For the upmost luxury, the exclusive Pool Suites offer heated swimming pools and whirlpools on their private terraces. The backdrop of the Mediterranean Sea only enhances the experience at Armònia Restaurant and Almarè Bar. A scenic pool, solarium and Hyd’Or spa offer a wellness programme that utilises natural ingredients like Sicilian mud and locally grown citrus. Private boat trips can be arranged to Isola Bella and the surrounding Natural Marine Reserve.
Atlantis Bay, Taormina
Best For Film Fans
The five-star Atlantis Bay is the only hotel in Mermaids Bay in Taormina. The property has a distinctive architectural style that is reminiscent of an ancient fishing village, and all 76 rooms and suites have large terraces and spectacular sea views. The hotel’s waterfront platform, where the swimming pool, Kori Bar, Beach Bar and Nui Restaurant can be found, overlooks the majestic cliff of Mermaids Bay and the Med. Away from the hotel, the team can arrange for guests to trek with alpacas up Etna, enjoy body rafting, discover the Alcantara gorges or hop in an antique Fiat 500 to explore places featured in The Godfather.
Hotel Principe Di Salina, Salina
Best For A Boutique Break
On the island of Salina, Hotel Principe Di Salina offers amazing views of a few Aeolian islands, including Panarea and the active volcano Stromboli. With only 12 bedrooms (all beautifully decorated with rustic touches), this boutique hotel offers a luxurious stay – a private terrace for each suite, an infinity pool and a geo-thermal spa. The in-house restaurant offers healthy snacks such as poolside fresh juices through to Italian-style family feasts in the evenings. We really like the look of the infinity pool – which overlooks the sea – and the sound of the cooking classes with Silvana.
Vmaison Boutique Hotel, Messina
Best For A City Break
Here, location is everything: Vmaison is close to Messina’s main shopping street, its harbour and famous cathedral. Like sister properties in Milan and Turin, the boutique hotel offers a design-led stay in the city centre, complete with a restaurant and terrace for guests to relax. Each of the bedrooms and suites mix colours, fabrics and shapes (think patterned headboards and tiled bathrooms), so each room is unique. Like what you see? Many of the items in the bedrooms are available to buy and take home as the ultimate souvenir. We also like the sound of starting the day with an espresso on the rooftop terrace.
Verdura Resort, Sciacca
Best For Families
Verdura Resort can be found in a valley on the south coast of Sicily, surrounded by orange, lemon and olive groves. It’s an idyllic setting for guests to do a few laps in the infinity pool, take leisurely walks along the beach, play a round of golf on the 18-hole championship course, or retreat to the spa. At night, take a seat at Granita Bar in time for sunset and enjoy cocktails made using ingredients grown in the gardens, then visit one of the four on-site restaurants for southern Italian cooking. As well as 2km of private beach, the resort offers an excellent kids club, plus 20 stylish villas and 203 bedrooms, which fuse luxurious, modern design touches with architecture in keeping with Sicilian culture and history. The Irene Forte Spa is one of Europe’s most advanced luxury wellbeing centres, with a distinctive Sicilian flair. Housed in pavilions grouped around an open-air courtyard, it has 11 treatment rooms, a 20m indoor swimming pool, a double-height steam room, Finnish and infrared saunas, a state-of-the-art gym, fitness studio, spacious relaxation areas and a hair and beauty salon.