Excitement in Sicily this past spring was over the reopening of the Grand Hotel Timeo under the Orient-Express banner. The hotel has been upgraded, restored and refreshed and, after three years of work, is worthy of the Italian company it keeps: Orient-Express’ Cipriani in Venice, Villa San Michele near Florence, Hotel Splendido in Portofino and Hotel Caruso in Ravello.
|Hotel Timeo is set high in the rocky hills on the east coast of Sicily and looks out onto Mt. Etna.|
The hotel’s city center location is a five-acre serene isle rising above the summer sea of tourists, although shopping, dining and wandering await just steps outside the massive front gates. Two thousand feet below the terrace, the Bay of Naxos stretches toward snowcapped and smoking Mt. Etna. Ulysses never had a better view.
In 2011, the Timeo will remain open from March 25 until the end of October. With Taormina becoming even more popular for holiday ski and spa vacations, the hotel’s Serena Malleo ([email protected]) says the Timeo may adjust its seasons in the future according to demand. Reservations are handled by the Orient-Express office in Portofino (011-39-0942-23801). For special reservations and requests, contact Orient-Express’ Reservations Director Michela Nicosia ([email protected]) or Reservations Manager Federica Vitali ([email protected]).
The hotel’s original count of 82 rooms has been reduced to 72, allowing for more space within the rooms, particularly the suites. The Presidential Suite (No. 302) is decorated in restful limes and beiges, which frame the spectacular views. Antiques, many of them Italian intarsio (inlaid woods), are mixed with big cushy beds and comfy sofas. The art throughout the suite (and the hotel) is interesting and evocative.
The Presidential Suite has a living room and dining room, as well as two bedrooms and two white marbled baths. French doors lead to the 2,000-square-foot terrace, which looks out to Mt. Etna, the bay and mountains dotted with ancient villages. There is a draped gazebo for a shady repose (dolce far niente—the sweetness of doing nothing—is what Italians call it) or dining, and a heated Jacuzzi. The hotel is the perfect site for a destination wedding—a honeymoon in this suite is sure to keep the bride and groom together forever!
We loved the Old World ambiance of Junior Suite No. 314 in the main building (there are also double rooms and suites in the Villa Flora, 150 feet across the garden); it’s a haven of light blue, white and beige, colors that perfectly match the views of Etna and the bay from the three sets of glass doors that lead to the balcony. The windowed bath includes both a Jacuzzi and a double shower.
Double Deluxe No. 116 in the main building is smaller than a Junior Suite, but even here the view remains the centerpiece of the Timeo experience. There is a beautiful terrace with two lounge chairs and a table for two overlooking the gardens and the sea, bringing the feeling of a small suite to the room. The white marble bathroom is fitted with a large shower.
Within the gardens of the Timeo, the Wellness Centre offers a myriad of treatments under the direction of Veronica Spedini ([email protected]). In addition to traditional spa services for men and women, there is aromatherapy and foot-and-leg massages for mothers-to-be, as well as special treatments for children and teens.
One can easily remain inside the gates of Grand Hotel Timeo for an entire vacation, lolling on the terraces, soaking up the neroli-scented air in the spa, dining at Il Dito e La Luna ristorante, or contemplating your next novel on the Literary Terrace, as D.H. Lawrence did when he wrote Lady Chatterley’s Lover in the 1920s here. But one must really venture out a bit to appreciate that Sicily is a microcosm of Western civilization, and Taormina is the hotbed of the good life.
Where to begin? The 2,300-year-old Greek Theatre next door to the hotel is one of the most beautiful ancient sites in the world. It has an amphitheatre with a view so astounding it’s amazing anyone paid any attention to the actors on the stage. Shop for coral jewelry and cameos on the winding streets of the city, stopping for a cappuccino to fuel your wanderings. Ask Concierge Carlo Salini ([email protected]) to arrange a tour of Mt. Etna, which is also a skiing spot in winter. (Be sure to wear a coat and closed shoes even in summer.) Our Favorite: Salini can organize “The Godfather Tour” to several villages used in scenes from the classic movie.
Just three miles away, Hotel Timeo’s sister, the boutique Hotel Villa Sant’Andrea, gives guests of both hotels access to Sicily’s beaches and sea. Concierge Salini can arrange a mini-cruise in a private boat to the Isola Bella and hidden beaches along the coast; there are also wineries and historical sites to visit, including Siracusa and the Valley of the Temples in Agrigento.