Villa Athena, Agrigento, Sicily

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HOTEL VILLA ATHENA (here) offers panoramic views of the Valley of the Temples, olive trees and the large pool.

HOTEL VILLA ATHENA offers panoramic views of the Valley of the Temples, olive trees and the large pool. 

Sicily has become a favorite of the high-tech set as well as luxury travelers and cruisers from around the world. In 2015, Google held its annual camp meeting in Agrigento at the Valley of the Temples, taking over the entire UNESCO World Heritage Site for cocktails, dinner and entertainment. This wasn’t the first time the company had invited tech giants and celebrities to this multi-cultural island in the middle of the Mediterranean.

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The Villa Suite has a king-size bed, a separate living area with a spacious lounge, and a terrace with views of the entire archaeological area.

The Villa Suite has a king-size bed, a separate living area with a spacious lounge, and a terrace with views of the entire archaeological area.

Helicopters flew overhead ferrying guests to the party and the situation called for privacy. We found it at the gorgeous Hotel Villa Athena, a member of Small Luxury Hotels of the World, in Agrigento.

From the terrace of the Villa, the view of the massive Greek temple across the ridgeline is extraordinary. The ancient Doric columns are golden in the sun and luminous in the evening light. The hotel is actually within the Archaeological Park of the Valley of the Temples and stands only 650 feet from the 5th century BC Temple of Concordia.

Since the Valley of the Temples is a must-visit spot in Sicily, it stands to reason that Villa Athena, the five-star hotel with its own private access to the park, is the only place to stay. Even the name is evocative: It was christened “Athena” by owner Stefano D’Alessandro’s father, who found an ancient coin bearing the face of the goddess on the property.

The intimate and private 300-year-old villa is surrounded by gardens and groves of olive and lemon trees. The walls and furniture are icy white, bringing a cool ambiance on a hot summer’s day and setting off the bright colors of the hand-painted Sicilian floor tiles. There are 27 rooms, including four suites.

The Villa Suite, No. 205, is in a corner of the villa, with wide windows and a huge private terrace offering an expansive panorama of the Valley of the Temples, olive trees and glimpses of the large hotel pool. There is a king bedroom as well as a living room, both with views of the Temple of Concordia and beyond.

The décor, as elsewhere within the property, is all white, with those stunning tiled floors and vintage paintings providing the color. There is a walk-in shower in the modern bath and a sunken hydro-massage pool in the living room. Who says romance is gone?

Room No. 107, on the ground floor in the front, has a terrace overlooking the temples. The spacious bath features a tub-and-shower combination. This room can be connected with Room No. 106 for a larger group or a family traveling together. Note: Guests wishing a bath tub at Hotel Villa Athena can request for a room fitted with a tub.

Another possibility is Superior Room No. 305, with a panoramic view, and the handsomely decorated adjacent room, No. 304, which has a window, but no temple view.

The Villa Athena SPA was opened in the summer of 2015 and is managed by Dany Cacciatore ([email protected]). A very old wine-and-olive oil storage building on the property, complete with ancient Greek cistern, was restored to house the spa, which has two treatment centers; there are another two in the pool area. The spa offers face and body treatments for both men and women, as well as a variety of massage therapies. The white décor here is again set off by colorful Sicilian tiles.

The restaurant and bar, Terrazza degli Dei, offers Italian and Sicilian cuisine at lunch and dinner, with some excellent fish choices, including local pesce spada (swordfish) and calamari. The desserts are beautifully presented, especially the cassata, a Sicilian specialty. The views, of course, are as spectacular as everywhere else on the property. There is also a sumptuous breakfast buffet.

Note: Some guests will be happy to find that lunch is available until 6 p.m.

The hotel is an ideal place for a small destination wedding, with various terraces and garden areas to choose from. There is ample space for parking and the hotel is easy to find for international visitors who opt to drive themselves.

Guests staying longer after nuptial events or tours of the Valley of the Temples will find many places to visit in the area around Agrigento. Our favorite is the astonishing Scala dei Turchi (Stair of the Turks), a brilliant white staircase cliff, high above the coast of Realmonte, near Porto Empedocle, 20 minutes away from Agrigento. The Scala rises between two sandy beaches and is a favorite spot for sunbathers, as well as hikers. It is a candidate for inclusion in the UNESCO World Heritage Site list. The site was named after the Moorish pirates, who ravaged southern Sicily centuries back, because the local people called all pirates “Turks.”

For more information, e-mail the hotel at [email protected]; or call at 011-390-922-596-288, fax at 011-390-922-402-180; or get in touch through Skype (hotel villaathenaagrigento). The hotel is located at Via Passeggiata Archeologica 33, 92100 Agrigento, Sicily. Salvatore Ferraguto is the contact at the front desk.

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