The monks got to Taormina early, so they built their monastery on a cliff with super views across the Med and the east coast of Sicily. But after 500 years or so the monk gig got tired (I think it was the celibacy!), so the monastery was converted into a hotel in the 19th century. Today the San Domenico Palace Hotel is a lovely and sophisticated property, but it's old school, and sometimes old school just gets old. Case in point: at one time linen sheets were all the rage, but somewhere along the way this place didn't get the memo to shift over to Egyptian cotton (Pratesi being my fave!). Also sometimes old school attracts old farts and they are thick on the ground here--maybe I visited in the wrong season.
This stuff made me smile:
(1) The views. Kudos to the monk in charge of site selection!! We are on top of a mountain looking out over the Med. When the sun is shining, the view doesn't get much better.
(2) The Bar. Set in an atmospheric monk dining hall with history flowing out of every pore. Professional staff in starched white jackets who understood the phrase "Very dry Tanquerey martini straight up" without asking me to repeat myself. The selection of rum from Guyana is extensive and deserves your attention -- who would've known. But while this bar is worthy of Daniel Craig in his nicest tux ;), a bunch of oldsters in cheap polyester turned up each night to nurse drinks and, lacking any semblance of conversation of their own, eavesdrop on mine. My advice to the Hotel: run early bird specials from 5 to 6 pm and then send them all to bed!
(3) The hotel features Principe Cerami, a Michelin starred restaurant that should not be missed. Lots of local seafood and veggies cooked in innovative ways featuring Sicilian flavours. The gently cooked langoustines with a lemon juice spritz were a highlight, and I think the lemon juice makes them kosher. All recommendations of local wines were on the money, rich with tar from the volcanic soils around Mount Etna. Leave room for the Sicilian cheeses on the cheese trolley!
(4) For the most part the staff was well trained, professional, and hardworking. For example they will set up a table for lunch pretty much anywhere that you ask. The concierge's local restaurant suggestions and travel directions were flawless. Additional towels were delivered to my room within three minutes of my phone call requesting them. However, there were times when service fell short of the mark. One night the bar was badly understaffed, and I had to wait too long for my drink.
(5) The coffee (cappuccino, espresso, etc.) was yummy and effective. OMG, the only way to start your day here.
(6) The gardens. Colorful and fragrant with lots of quiet spots to enjoy a book or an un-monk-like snuggle .
These things annoyed me:
(1) The guest rooms are poorly sound-proofed. (Couple in the Room Next Door: I really enjoyed listening to your fights about money every night. Seriously though, if four grand is an issue for you, stay somewhere else!)
(2) The guest rooms, while well furnished and generally comfortable, lack cheer, light and elegance. Many furnishings are worn. The historic prints of maps in dark wood frames on the wall do little to brighten things up. The light fixtures are either cheap or look medieval. I realize you people want to preserve the Hotel's sense of history, but it's time to freshen up the room décor.
(3) The bathrooms, while clean, are old fashioned and merely adequate. However when you are working with a building that used to be a monastery, there is only so much you can do.
(4) The pool is small and tends to be surrounded by Europeans who need to work on their appearance and manners. My advice: spring for a room with a private terrace and keep to yourself. Memo to German men with bushel sized beer guts: stop wearing Speedo. Memo to French ladies aged 75 and up: I can't stop you wearing shiny gold bikinis but please do so in the privacy of your own homes.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- A LUXURY 5-STAR HOTEL ON THE EAST COAST OF SICILY The San Domenico Palace Hotel sits in a truly magnificent setting that has attracted people from ancient times. A luxury 5-star hotel in an ancient Dominican monastery, it has views over Mount Etna and Taormina Bay on the east coast of Sicily not far from Messina. Countless famous writers, artists and composers, came here to savour this unique spot at the very tip of Italy. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Palazzo San Domenico Taormina
- Palazzo San Domenico Hotel Taormina
- San Domenico Palace Hotel Taormina, Sicily