Europe’s Sexy New Hot Spot: Sicily

by  Donna Heiderstadt | Jan 27, 2010
Grand Hotel Tomeo
Grand Hotel Tomeo / Photo courtesy of the property

This lush Italian island, home to lava-spewing Mount Etna (total eruptions: 209), has never truly oozed romance—until now. A trio of recently opened and currently under renovation hotels is making Sicily a magnet for couples seeking a sexy escape. Sicily’s 9,926 square miles of cities, mountains, and beaches overflow with fabulous food and wine (regional specialties include eggplant caponata, stuffed rice balls called arancine, and Nero d’Avolo reds), ancient culture (don’t miss the cathedral in Siracusa with its wall that dates to the ancient Roman Temple of Minerva), nature adventure (Etna’s snow-capped slopes can be explored on foot), photo ops (especially picture-perfect Taormina set on a hillside amid lemon and orange groves) and lost-in-time Aeolian Islands (easily reached via hydrofoil from Messina).

For romantic pampering, enjoy therapeutic thalassotherapy pools and aromatic gourmet dishes at five-star Verdura Golf & Spa Resort, the latest luxury oasis by hotelier Sir Rocco Forte. Situated on the southwest coast 25 miles from the World Heritage site of Agrigento, its 203 rooms and suites, designed by Forte’s sister, Olga Polizzi, reflect a contemporary interpretation of Sicilian culture: neutral finishes (wooden four-poster beds and polished cement floors) mix with vibrant locally-inspired print fabrics and panoramic sea views from a private terrace. The cascading 60-meter pool is one of Europe’s largest and is lined with plush loungers built for two, while the scenic pebble beach stretches for more than a mile. Verdura’s four restaurants feature cuisine ripe with local ingredients—honey, almonds, tomatoes, olives, seafood—and its five bars serve up fabulous views alongside refreshing libations (rates from $580). 

Next up: Grand Hotel Timeo, an 83-room luxury property in the center of historic Taormina, and Villa Sant’Andrea, with 78 rooms set beachside on Taormina’s Bay of Mazzaro, will both re-open early this summer following renovations by new owner Orient-Express Hotels. Grand Hotel Timeo, which dates to 1873, offers access to Taormina’s historic sites as well as views of Mount Etna and the Bay of Naxos from its central terrace (each guest room also has a terrace; rates from $530). Villa Sant’ Andrea, built in 1830 and located on a private beach, has a residential ambience, complete with antique furnishings and paintings plus a manicured garden (rates from $460).

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