Hotel Caparena and Wellness Club located on Taormina Mare in Sicily is a flawed Oasis. An oasis because it is removed from the hustle of Taormina with good self-contained facilities. Flawed because for every positive there is a slight downside but not enough to stop my wife and I going again. To be aware is to be prepared!
I would recommend Citalia as an agent to book any Italian holiday with, we felt well looked after from booking to arrival home. The private car that comes as standard with most Citalia bookings took just 45 minutes to arrive from a punctual Catania airport and our welcome upon arrival was efficient and courteous. We are both learning to speak Italian and the few words and sentences we can say went a long, long way. The Sicilian people really did appreciate our efforts and I would recommend travellers to have a go, it is a most beautiful language.
Through Citalia we had an upgrade from a standard room which was compact but sufficient. It was clean and airy with good facilities that you would expect to find in modern hotels, although no iron is provided there is a laundry/ironing service. We noticed the rooms along from ours had a larger balcony and upon asking at reception were told ours was a mid-range room. Clearly the more expensive rooms have these bigger balconies and more space inside. My recommendation would be to avoid the cheapest rooms, it looked like they were on the back of the property with no view and certainly no charm.
We managed charm in abundance as our view across the railway line was of gardens and sea and received much sunlight and warmth. The railway line is all part of the oasis and the potential flaws. We were aware of the railway line and the motorway running along the back of the property before we booked. I can honestly say that we weren't bothered by either at any point on the holiday. The windows are triple glazed so nothing can be heard and the stunning landscaping covers track and tarmac. Even the short tunnel running under the railway line feels like a magical escape towards the beach.
The private beach is clean with towels provided, lots of staff and lifeguards, some boating activities and lots of sunbeds and umbrellas. The occasional beach trader will hawk his goods at you but with no encouragement they soon move on. The beach is sandy and hot until you get within a few metres of the shore when it becomes hard underfoot with pebbles and ultimately rocks in the water, therefore water footwear is essential. The sea is clean and refreshing but you may have to share it with a most unwelcome visitor at times; jellyfish (Medusa). There are warning signs on approach to the beach and the red flag gives an indication how safe it is to swim. The jellyfish come closer in to shore depending on conditions and although we were advised that they were mostly harmless it was still a little disconcerting to see them bobbing about in number. Some people swam amongst them no doubt dealing with the stings (I received a nip or 2) but ultimately people stayed away from the water whilst our friends visited, which was often.
The pool on the other hand was a haven; safe and quiet and just 3 minutes from our room. We had a full-time friendly lifeguard who served drinks and towels, lots of sunbeds and a clean square pool that was very refreshing. There were lots of opportunities for shade and the opening hours meant there wasn't the usual European rush for beds in the morning. We spent many hours here.
The hotel is very popular with Italian people on holiday and we found them to be very friendly and relaxed. A smattering of British and American tourists made up the numbers. Being a small hotel this made for a very nice comfortable feeling. The staff went out of their way to help at all times and the guests were courteous and friendly. The reception desk was a mine of information about anything and we were frequent visitors, nothing was ever too much trouble and they seemed to enjoy teaching us new Italian words each day.
The location of Hotel Caparena is important as it is not in Taormina rather Taormina Mare which is slightly along the coast, you can get a good view on Google Earth. Walking into Taormina is not an option as the road is busy, dangerous and several miles long uphill. However the hotel has a free mini-bus services that runs regularly all through the day. You need to book tickets at the all important reception desk preferably in the morning as the bus can be quite full in the evenings and you are then just a 10 minute journey away from Taormina.
However before I get to Taormina in the opposite direction is a small resort town called Letojani which has a charm and nice restaurants all of it's own. For once ignore advice from reception that you have to go walking on the road. Instead go to the beach, walk around the break between the hotel beach and the public beach and back up the public beach, up the steps onto a car park. Follow the quiet, safer coast road down to Letojani, it will take about 10/15 minutes. Hopefully the hotel will realise that being so isolated is not to everyone's taste and make this access a little easier.
Taormina is a beautiful town that feels slightly less accomplished than most great Italian resorts and cities but it does exude great charm. There are lots of places to visit including churches, museums, cable-car to the lido, an ancient theatre which is magnificent and our favourite the gardens. Yet another Sicilian oasis of green and open space with wonderful views over the coast and lots of benches to sit and relax. We spent many hours over 2 days in these public gardens and would urge any visitor not to miss these tranquil surrounding.
Food in Taormina is plentiful and delicious with a preference towards seafood although all of the other Italian fares are here with a Sicilian twist. Our advice is to eat away from the main street, the best restaurants we found were on the twisting narrow streets on the way down towards the gardens. Shopping too is easy on the eye and can be hard on the wallet but you can't go wrong with Sicilian produce...wine. Lots of it at great prices, it was hard not to feel like a child in a sweet shop.
Sadly the food in the hotel was the antithesis to the food in Taormina. Whilst the snacks at the beach bar were lovely; these being salads and bread the food at the beach restaurant was expensive and lacked variety over a week stay. The emphasis on fish was also way too great even for a fish lover like me. Unfortunately the worst is the most important. We booked a half board package and ate at the hotel restaurant twice, we spent the other nights in Taormina. Both nights our meal lasted over 2.5 hours, the majority of time spent waiting for below average quality food. The food can only be described as an attempt at Italian fine dining; when the majority of people just want good Italian pasta, beautiful Sicilian steak and all of the ingredients that make Italian food the best in the world. Tough steaks, cold food, strange combinations, overcooked vegetables and a very starched environment would have turned this into a bit of a joke if we hadn't have paid for it. Conversely to our opinion and the couple we witnessed walk out some of our fellow holidaymakers enjoyed the food so the adage of one man's poison could never have been more true. It is also worth mentioning that the breakfast served in the same starched environment was more than adequate and had quite a pleasant buzz about it first thing in the morning.
Our late evenings were spent at the beach bar with the excellent barman where nothing was too much trouble. The surroundings were relaxing, the drinks not too expensive although everything was put on the room bill to be paid upon departure, and here seemed to be the perfect end to most days. By now you are aware of how the Hotel Caparena story goes and on one particular night the bar had been booked by an Italian family to have a private wedding party. We were relegated to what felt like a dungeon room, no windows, and very little atmosphere. Before you book check that there are no more than 1 or 2 private bookings at the beach bar as we were quite irritated by the fact that we were denied our bit of paradise one evening.
Overall we felt safe and well looked after at this Hotel and it would have been good value if we hadn't have chosen half board. There were some flaws but the charm overcame these. If we went back we would book the bigger room, only go B+B and explore a little more including the wellness facilities that we just didn't get around to. But being forewarned is being forearmed. Would we go back? Ultimately the answer is yes but there is lots of Italy and Sicily to discover before we have to make that call for real.
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- Also Known As:
- Caparena Hotel Taormina, Sicily