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“Lovely views, but sometimes old school is just old”

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San Domenico Palace Hotel
Ranked #11 of 88 Hotels in Taormina
Certificate of Excellence
West Islip, NY
Level Contributor
74 reviews
65 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 258 helpful votes
“Lovely views, but sometimes old school is just old”
4 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 22 May 2010

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.

  • Stayed May 2010, travelled as a couple
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Helpful?
3 Thank tarrytown54
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Rating summary
  • Location
    5 of 5 bubbles
  • Sleep Quality
    4.5 of 5 bubbles
  • Rooms
    4.5 of 5 bubbles
  • Service
    4.5 of 5 bubbles
  • Value
    4 of 5 bubbles
  • Cleanliness
    4.5 of 5 bubbles
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Mclean VA
Level Contributor
134 reviews
67 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 70 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 18 April 2010

The historic nature of the building, which began as a monastery and was transformed into a hotel in 1896, the spaciousness and elegance gives this place a marvelous atmosphere. There is a calm exterior courtyard before you get to the front entrance, as well as 2 beautiful interior courtyards. Displays of bits of ancient ruins found on the grounds and remnants of the monastery add to the history. Our room (least expensive) was small but high ceilinged and beautifully furnished. Turn down service and housekeeping were first rate. Breakfast was sumptuous. Local items were added to all the expected hot and cold dishes. We loved our walks around the gardens after breakfast. The view of Mt Etna is superb. I would highly recommend this hotel.

Stayed March 2010, travelled as a couple
Helpful?
1 Thank myjourney
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
surrey
Level Contributor
19 reviews
6 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 4 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 13 April 2010

-Absolutely first class - the staff could not have been friendlier, and in a natural way. The grounds were sensational. The breakfast out of this world. Only slight criticism would be the dinner on the first evening - we thoroughly enjoyed the experience, but not necessarily for the right reasons!

  • Stayed April 2010, travelled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
Thank bessieSurrey
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
Washington, DC
Level Contributor
83 reviews
34 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 104 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 8 March 2010

We spent one night at the Palazzo San Domenico on a rainy weekend in January and still loved the experience and wished we'd been able to stay longer. Our room was sumptuously decorated and well-appointed. Bath amenities (Aqua di Parma) were perhaps the best we've had in Italy, and even included toothbrushes. While somewhat out of place in the old-fashioned room, the wide screen TV was a welcomed touch. Our balcony had a gorgeous view of the sea and the peninsula. While their famous restaurant was closed for the season (which we knew before we went), we dined at the hotel anyway and weren't disappointed with the quality of the food or the service. Breakfast was fairly limited, likely because of the low occupancy rate, but of high quality. The public spaces, especially the oratory lounge, were welcoming and warm. We look forward to returning in warmer weather.

  • Stayed January 2010, travelled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
1 Thank bahamasviking
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
New York
Level Contributor
10 reviews
7 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 16 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 23 February 2010

Absolutely marvelous! World class property, views and service.

  • Stayed February 2010, travelled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Sleep Quality
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    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
Thank NewYorkCityBoy
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
mellieha
Level Contributor
12 reviews
10 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 13 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 31 December 2009

We arrived at the San Domenico Palace on Boxing Day 2009 for 3 nights. This was our second visit having stayed there in Autumn of 2007. Our room had splendid views of the sea and Mt Etna. Spacious interior with a giant Plasma screen. For football fans the TV package even includes the UK Premier League matches.
This is a hotel of unique proportions. English speaking staff, extremely friendly and true to its name as one of ‘The Leading Hotels of the World’ The converted old Monastery is a gem.
Restaurants in Toarmina tend to be touristy so we tried the hotel’s ‘Principe Cerami’. The service and cuisine were definitely the best in the area.
This has got to be one the last remaining truly outstanding 5 star hotels in Sicily. If you want to treat your loved one to that special occasion, then this is the place.
Winston & Karen Azzopardi (Malta)

  • Stayed December 2009, travelled as a couple
    • Value
    • Location
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
    • Service
Helpful?
1 Thank winstonazzopardi
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
London
Level Contributor
8 reviews
4 hotel reviews
common_n_hotel_reviews_1bd8 7 helpful votes
5 of 5 bubbles Reviewed 26 October 2009

This lovely historic hotel is perched on the cliff top in the pretty town of Taormina. The hotel is set around a glass walled courtyard with high ceiling corridors leading off to bedrooms, restaurants and the bar.

We were upgraded from a standard to deluxe room which had a balcony looking down to the sea. The room was traditionally furnished with dark wood and a stone floor retaining the monsatic feel of the place. Bathroom was fine with good range of toiletries. Maid service was excellent servicing rooms twice a day.

Front desk staff were polite and informative, waiters traditional and polite.

Breakfast was included and offered a good selection which could be eaten in the large dining room and on warm days on a pretty terrace with views to the sea. Had one meal in the restaurant which was good food with very traditional service (it was however expensive, as was room service). There were several good restaurants walking distance from the hotel.

The hotel gardens were delightful with seating to enjoy the views of the sea or the countryside and Etna. The pool area was a little small and bordered by a small road which meant there was some traffic noise.

Taormina is a picturesque town with lots of restaurants, shops and tourists (lots of cruise ship excursions). The Greek Theatre is worth a visit and views from the Piazza are lovely. A 2-3 day stay is more than enough to see everything.

In summary the hotel is traditional, well run, has character and lovely views - it is a hotel I will remember staying in. However if you enjoy sleek and modern this is not the hotel for you.

  • Stayed October 2009, travelled with family
    • Value
    • Location
    • Rooms
    • Cleanliness
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Helpful?
1 Thank Ellierochelle
This review is the subjective opinion of a TripAdvisor member and not of TripAdvisor LLC
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Additional Information about San Domenico Palace Hotel

Property: San Domenico Palace Hotel
Address: Piazza San Domenico 5, 98039, Taormina, Sicily, Italy
Phone Number:
Region: Italy > Sicily > Province of Messina > Taormina
Amenities:
Bar / Lounge Beverage Selection Business Centre with Internet Access Fitness Centre with Gym / Workout Room Free Breakfast Free Parking Pets Allowed ( Dog / Pet Friendly ) Restaurant Room Service Suites Swimming Pool Wheelchair access Airport Transportation
Hotel Style:
#9 Luxury Hotel in Taormina
Price Range (Based on Average Rates): ££££
Hotel Class:5 star — San Domenico Palace Hotel 5*
Number of rooms: 108
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

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