A snapshot of Villa Carlotta ignites a host of feelings, from luxurious elegance to natural splendor to classic romance. Rustic, rough stones comprise the outer walls of the restored 19th century Sicilian aristocrat’s mansion, and its terraces and balconies gaze upon a massive, sometimes smoking (or erupting) volcano that tapers off into the deep sapphire blue of the Mediterranean. The elegant rooms reflect the glowing, airy charm of Taormina, Sicily’s cliff-side gem. What you get, in the end, is the grandeur of a prominent yet intimate establishment, glimmering with the unparalleled warmth of Sicilian hospitality and the magic of Sicilian history.
I can say with confidence that Villa Carlotta is a special place, the kind of place that makes everlasting memories. And when I return to Taormina, Sicily, I will stay there again.
Villa Carlotta is ultra easy to reach from Catania-Fontanarossa Airport. It’s within a 5 minute walk into Taormina’s central area, which, being quite small, lovely and quaint lined with luxe, is easy and pleasant to venture round on foot. Because it’s so near to a main motorway (though this is not at all noticeable), Taormina is a great base for getting to other areas of the island.
Taormina and the Surrounding Area
There is so much to do around the town and in the surrounding area that you’ll have plenty to do and see if you’d rather stay in one spot. Taormina’s beautiful Greek Roman Theatre is about 10 minutes walking distance, and Villa Carlotta provides shuttle services to nearby beaches. You can take the cable car down to Isola Bella, a unique and beautiful beach at the foot of the cliffs, or you can shuttle over to the Bay of Sirene. Alcantara Gorge, a beautiful river gorge created by melting water flowing down from Mt. Etna is only 20 minutes away by car. You can walk along the gorge or, for those looking for some action, can do river-and-mountain sport activities in the summer when the water is slightly warmer. Wine tasting is also an excellent nearby excursion, as the slopes of Mt. Etna create the most favorable terroir in all of Sicily, not to mention the views. Gambino Vineyards are about 30 minutes away by car. Back within Taormina, there are the magical public gardens within 3 minutes walking from Villa Carlotta. And, of course, there’s lots of shopping on the famous Corso Umberto, plus restaurants generally dispersed throughout the town with beautiful terraces and delicious Sicilian specialties.
It’s even lovely to just drive around – volcanic areas are often extremely lush and fertile, and Mt. Etna is no exception. Old stone villages, often with small castles or fortresses upon the peaks, pop up out of the twisting roads along the lush green forests and plants on the slopes.
Sicilian food is unique and distinctive from other Italian cuisine. More flare, more spice and more flavor, if you can believe it. You must try:
- Granite: a sorbetto-like slushy treat. BamBar is supposedly the best place for this in Taormina, and is a celebrity favorite.
- Gelatto: a smooth, Italian relative of ice cream if you will, but with more intense flavors and less milky cream (many flavors have no milk at all).
- Sicilian caponata: a sort of sweet and sour vegetable stew.
- Sicilian pizza: enough said.
- Sicilian cassata: almond, pistacchio marzipan over delicate cream and a light, white cake. The Green Dome of Deliciousness.
- Sicilian seafood: prawn and swordfish are often on the menu, but in general seafood is an integral component of the Sicilian diet, so try anything or as many things as you like, as long as you give it a go.
- Cappuccino: quite simply, the best I’ve ever had was at Villa Carlotta.
One of the features we love most about Villa Carlotta is its luxurious blanket of history, and though so many features and the decor have been updated, it really takes you back in time. It was originally built in the 19th century for Sicilian nobility. The current owners have acquired and restored it in the past few years but retained many of its original features. Antique-style lock-and-key wardrobes are in many of the rooms, and there is a section of Roman road that runs under the pool. There are also Byzantine catacombs in the ground floor lounge area, accented by gorgeous silver-plated ceramic heads, as well as catacombs along the road leading up to the villa. (Only in Italy, eh?) We were fortunate enough to meet the wife of the original owner, in whose family it had remained for years, during a casual stroll in Taormina. She said the building is indeed the original, and that the Quartucci family who now owns it has updated it tastefully and beautifully. We agree.
A Room with a View
The villa has 23 rooms and 2 villas, one villa on site and one, Villa al Mare, just by the sea. Our room was a superior double with a lovely terrace, though even standard doubles have a full sea view standing balcony.
This is a lovely touch indeed, as the views are not to be missed. From the bright morning sun glistening on the sapphire Mediterranean to the midday warmth on the green gardens and wooden-deck pool to the rich pinks and purples of sunset, Villa Carlotta affords luxurious and colorful views that are fondly embedded in our memories. In the evenings, it’s particularly beautiful to overlook the sparkling bay and the twilight-haloed Mt. Etna from the restaurant balcony.
The service is a five-star merit in its own. From greeting to goodbye, you are treated with warmth and thoroughly looked after in true Sicilian hospitality. Nathalie, your day-time hostess if you will, is careful to see to everyone’s needs and provides helpful arrangements for shuttles, activities and site-seeing. The evening hostesses Olga and Simona are equally helpful and friendly. It is clear that your happiness is an absolute priority at Villa Carlotta, and you are treated with unpretentious, utmost warmth, interest and respect. The quality of service here is very rare find indeed, though you would think it should be more common in the hospitality industry. Many establishments would do well to emulate Villa Carlotta’s standards.
Breakfast is another five-star merit in its own, and indeed is renowned throughout Taormina. It’s an affair to be remembered, and once you’ve experienced it, knowing that you’ll wake up to it again the next day is absolute magic. No matter what spreads you are accustomed to, here you will be amazed. The light, open yet intimate dining area opens out onto the outdoor balcony, so you can sip your steaming cappuccino (the best you’ve ever tasted) as you watch Mt. Etna puff and smolder. Fresh fruits, yogurt, juices, breads and outstanding pastries of so many flavors, strawberry, pistachio and chocolate included, are an excellent start. Complement these with an array of local cheeses, prosciutto, bruschetta, meats and olive oils, but be sure to leave room for the main savories, including fresh scrambled eggs, Sicilian caponata, bacon, eggplant parmesan, flakey ham and cheese pie and a vast assortment of local specialities that change daily. And of course, everything is made freshly in-house.
Perhaps this overwhelmingly positive review is already enough to have you packing your bags, but for those of you who prefer to know exactly what to expect with a more detailed explanation of the hotel’s experience, we’ve compiled just that in a series of fully answered questions below. As always, if you have questions of your own, we encourage you to ask in comments at the end or by dropping us a line.
What is check-in like?
Check in was fast, personal and efficient. The receptionists, Nathalie, Olga and Simona made us feel very welcome. We were then shown around the hotel and taken up to the terrace for prosecco and some pastries.
Were we upgraded?
Yes, we were expecting a standard double room but on arrival we were upgraded to a superior room.
Was there a valet service?
Of course, while we were checking in the the valet took our car and parked in the private parking and had our bags taken to the room.
Did the hotel staff address us by name?
We were addressed by name at every opportunity, a lovely personal touch. All the hotel staff were exceptionally cheerful and happy to help and advise. Everyone spoke fluent English.
Was there free Wifi?
Free, fast wifi is provided. Bingo!
Were the recommended local restaurants and attractions good?
They were very good at recommending the best restaurants, sights and bars in town. We just wish we had stayed longer so we could have experienced them all!
Free tea and coffee is provided to your room upon request.
What was your first impression?
The room was a delight on first impression, not least of all because we were upgraded to a Superior with a sizeable terrace. Quaint, light yet rustic decor that is indeed reminiscent of an aristocrat’s retreat home from the mid-1800s. I was definitely excited to begin the holiday.
Was there a personal welcome note?
Indeed there was not, but upon arrival reception knew who we were and greeted us by name. We witnessed the same treatment for other arrivals.
The same person served as both valet and concierge, as it’s a villa of only 23 rooms, but he was friendly, careful and speedy with both services.
How was the bed?
These were the best nights of sleep I had had in quite a while. The king size bed had a medium-firm mattress and the sheets were wonderfully soft. The top blanket is rather light, which suits both the decor and climate, as Sicily is after all a warm place.
How was storage?
The main storage in the room was a large, antique-style lock-and-key wardrobe, with plenty of hangers but I’m sure the ever-helpful reception would supply more if needed. There is also a luggage rack to keep on the side. Each side of the bed had a night table with additional storage space. Overall, there is plenty of storage space, though not many drawers for organization. We kept our un-hung clothes folded at the bottom of the wardrobe.
There were two provided, white, comfortable and clean.
The toiletries provided were Dr. Vranjes of Florence’s line for Villa Carlotta. The beautiful scent of ‘melograno e menta’, or pomegranate and mint, matched many of the fragrant oils distributed throughout the hotel, further adding to the dreamy atmosphere.
The bedsheets were soft, comfortable and of good quality. There were plenty of towels provided that were often refreshed twice daily.
Proximity to other rooms?
Rooms are spaced equally apart, just like that of a standard hotel. Rooms are well soundproofed and no noise was heard from any of our neighbours.
How was the sleep quality?
As we mentioned earlier, the bed was fabulous. There was not a noise to be heard and the drawn curtains allowed us to sleep as late as we pleased in the morning. Overall, deep, comfortable and peaceful.
Hotel and Grounds
The restaurant is located on the top floor overlooking Mt. Etna and the Bay of Naxos and is decorated in light-neutral colors with lemon accents and decor. Smaller tables line the balcony, with is covered and accented by drapes and rustic lanterns. At the far end, there is an outside seating area than can accommodate a larger dinner party, with extra sofa seating.
Breakfast, lunch and dinner are all served here. The dinner menu is not exhaustive but it has wonderful, unique specialities of the chef, David. We particularly enjoyed onion-stuffed tuna fillet, a swordfish cornucopia, a simple spaghetti pomodoro side dish, the selection of Sicilian olive oils and balsamic vinegar and the green dome of deliciousness, Villa Carlotta’s Sicilian cassata. The wine list is full of many Sicilian and local DOC wines, and the waiters are helpful and knowledgeable in selecting a wine suited to your dinner. Other beverages are of course available. What’s so excellent about the restaurant though is that if you do not see something on the menu that you would like to have, the chef and staff are happy to prepare it for you.
Newly renovated, the villa is extremely clean, styled with updated yet classic decor traditional to the area, with breezy curtains draped from the windows lining the airy, spacious corridors and stone-style tiling throughout.
The hotel grounds include a Mediterranean garden lounge area and a wooden deck pool that is raised above a section of preserved Roman road. Potted orange trees line the pool area, which has plenty of comfortable sun loungers and umbrellas. An old stone stairway leads down past more preserved catacombs to a shower area, where there are brand new, completely private and fully stocked shower rooms (toiletries, blow-dryer, towels, etc.). Between the garden and pool is an outdoor bar, so you can sip on the good stuff as you enjoy sun, pool and views.
There are two common areas inside. One on the ground floor, where you can use the computer, arrange appointments to purchase Dr. Vranjes home fragrance accents, or enjoy a cappuccino. Next to you are well-preserved and dramatically lit Roman catacombs, accented with ornate silver-coated ceramic head sculptures. Another common area is a library room on the top floor. There is a selection of books along a bookshelf in the hall to enter the room. The room is composed of windows on all sides, so you can gaze out on to the Mediterranean or at the Roman catacombs along the road below.
We hope you’ve found our coverage of Villa Carlotta’s wonderful experience useful. Of course, please contact us if we can be of any further assistance in your holiday planning for Taormina.
Hotel Villa Carlotta Contact Details
Via Luigi Pirandello,
98039 Taormina ME,
+39 0942 626058