From undiscovered beaches to Mount Etna and rural villages, the island offers something for everyone and Lulu has personally selected the best boutique hotels in Sicily. Stylish, charming and with second-to-none service they all have the Chic Retreats seal of approval. With temperatures still warm even in November, the beautiful island of Sicily is a great getaway choice for the majority of the year.
Perhaps one of the best-known destinations in Sicily is the pretty town of Taormina, which is an excellent base from which to visit sights including Mount Etna, the nearby town of Giardini-Naxos and Catania market, in the island’s second largest town. Stay at Hotel Villa Carlotta or it’s smaller, super romantic sister property Hotel Villa Ducale (the former has 26 rooms, the latter only 17). Hotel Villa Carlotta also has 3 apartments next door if you want a bit more privacy. Most importantly the hotels offer you a complimentary shuttle service to the nearby private beach (where you pay a small fee to spend the day) and access to a health club a short distance away.
One of Taormina’s main sights is the Teatro Greco, the horseshoe-shaped ruins of a Roman theatre (it was founded by the Greeks but later rebuilt by the Romans) which is used for summer arts and film festivals. The views over the countryside are magnificent but visit early or late to avoid the crowds. Other must-dos include strolling along the main avenue, Corso Umberto 1 to browse the designer boutiques and taking the lift down from the town to pebbly Mazzaro beach, then crossing a thin strip of sand to the explore the rocky islet of Isola Bella. End the day with dinner at Al Duomo where you can sit outside on the terrace and tuck into dishes such as fried squid with anchovies or braised lamb.
You can’t visit Sicily and not visit Mount Etna, besides which it’s the highest active volcano in Western Europe and can be found on the east coast of Sicily, between the cities of Messina and Catania.
Monaci delle Terre Nere is a stunning contemporary boutique hotel nestled on a fully Eco-Bio Certified estate on the verdant slopes of Mount Etna. Designed and created by owner Guido Coffa this 19th-century house has been meticulously transformed into a refuge of design and style. The traditional Sicilian architecture is the ideal canvas for the contemporary art displayed throughout this pocket gem. Take the bakery course to learn the secrets of the hotel’s homemade pasta, gnocchi and bread, prepared using Sicilian wheat and wild herbs from the estate. Wine-lovers have the unique opportunity to visit the estate’s vineyards and winemaking facility, followed by a wine-tasting session led by a professional sommelier.
Whilst in Sicily, you’d be mad not to visit the Aeioli Islands, a volcanic archipelago just north of Sicily in the Tyrrhenian Sea. On your way to the ferry, spend a night at the charming Lemon House an immaculate, luxury four-room bed and breakfast in the hills of Rina, near Messina. From Messina you can hop on a ferry and head to one of the islands, Lipari, Stromboli, Panarea, Salina, Filicudi, Alicudi, Vulcano and Basiluzzo.
Liberty Lines Fast Ferries operates up to 35 times each week with journey times starting from around 1 hour 25 minutes. On the sleepy island of Salina, you’ll find Hotel Signum, a simple, yet beautiful hotel whose stunning spa makes it an excellent retreat for those looking for wellness and relaxation.
Palermo is a city of contrasts and will probably feature as a stop-off on most itineraries. You’ll find designer shops and bustling markets alongside crumbling buildings – but the unique mix is part of the Sicilian capital’s appeal. Shop on Via della Liberta and Via Errico Parisi, and eat ‘ravioli Norma’ with tomato and parmesan cheese flakes at Gagini restaurant. Santandrea restaurant, in Piazza Santandrea, is another popular trattoria serving up pasta and fresh seafood. Within an hours drive from Palermo you’ll find Masseria Susafa, a restored 18th-century farmhouse sheltered beneath wide, blue skies, nestled amongst rolling fields. This boutique hotel in Sicily is an idyllic retreat that will immerse you in the beautiful natural landscape of Sicily.
Syracuse and Ragusa
If you want history, there’s plenty to be found in the southeastern city of Syracuse. The archaeological site is home to well-preserved Greek and Roman remains including a 5th-century BC theatre (it’s still used as the venue for an annual Greek festival) and a Roman amphitheatre. Besides that, the nearby Archaeological Museum, which houses a collection of exhibits from all over the Syracuse area, is also worth a visit as is the tiny island of Ortigia, packed with ruins and remains and connected by three bridges (the highlight is the fountain of Arethusa).
If you intend to spend longer than a day in Syracuse, one of our boutique hotels in Sicily, Borgo Alveria in Noto Antica, is ideally located and comes with its own slice of history too. It’s a restored farmhouse built on the site of an ancient monastery surrounded by gardens, orchards and 19 hectares of land. From here, you can also drive down the coast to the famous Baroque towns of Scicli and Modica and the Cava Grande Natural Reserve, which has many small waterfalls and natural reservoirs for swimming. The towns of Noto and Ragusa are also known for their churches and palaces in the Baroque style: at the latter, be sure to book a table at Duomo, a 2 Michelin star restaurant in the old town where chef Ciccio Sultano puts a modern twist on regional seafood dishes and offers four different tasting menus. Many say it’s the best restaurant on the island.
Though there’s stiff competition from Locanda Don Stefano at Locanda don Serafino a stunning boutique hotel in Sicily. Located in the Ibla, the ancient heart of the UNESCO-listed town of Ragusa in southern Italy, Locanda Don Serafino is a unique boutique hotel with atmospheric rooms and an acclaimed restaurant. Managed by Ragusan legends, Antonio and Giuseppe La Rosa, the hotel features bedrooms in ancient caves hewn out of the rock face making for an extremely evocative stay.
Locanda Don Stefano is one of the finest restaurants in Sicily, with two Michelin stars. Chef Vincenzo Candiano serves a seasonal menu of contemporary takes on classic Sicilian dishes, and for a particularly indulgent experience, we recommend the degustation menu.
A couple of hours west why not consider staying at Azienda Agricola Mandranova, which is located on a family farm and surrounded by olive groves in southern Palma di Montechiaro. It’s owned by Silvia and Giuseppe who will give you a tour of the olive grove and take you dolphin spotting on boat trips along the coast. Silvia’s cookery classes, where you can learn to make Sicilian pasta dishes with ingredients picked fresh from the garden, are a must. This is a family-run Azienda so don’t expect a full team of staff.