Stayed at the Bristol Park with a group of friends, as two other friends were getting married in Taormina. We all enjoyed this hotel, which is a real character property in a great location with lovely views. The rest of the crowd preferred the Bristol Park to the places they were staying (the nearby Bel Soggiorno and Ariston hotels).
The decor in the public areas is dramatic, opulent, eccentric with antique furniture, huge paintings, sculptures etc. I can see why it wouldn't appeal to everyone, but I liked it!
Room (101) was OK, with more vintage furniture, a modern bathroom and a large balcony with a side view of Etna. Also a useful minibar (clear it out and fill with your own much cheaper supplies from nearby shops). The rear facing rooms are called "garden view" in the Thomson brochure, but that is a bit optimistic. The front is lovely with great views to the town, sea and Etna. There is a nice pool area at the front, which was never that busy and was well looked after by the staff. Be aware the pool is up to 3.4m deep, although this was clearly signed.
I thought the hotel staff were all professional and smartly turned out. Cleaning service good, and reception helpful. The breakfast was fine, buffet style and the same each day. (Although the fruit juice was odd, as other reviewers have noted).
Some of the criticism is justified: the aircon was decidedly variable, the TV reception was poor and the bar prices were steep. However I think the hotel's pluses definitely outweighed the negatives.
Taormina is a gorgeous and historic town, perched on clifftops above the sea. The main drag (Corso Umberto I) is about 10 min walk from the hotel and runs between two gateways in the old city walls (the Porta Messina and the Porta Catania) passing through the three main squares. The place attracts an upscale crowd of all ages, a lot of Italians, quite a few Brits and various other Europeans. English very much the second language of the town, on most menus and a lot of signs. As other reviewers have noted, the price tags reflect the upmarket feel. Lots of good restaurants, partcularly if you like seafood.
Try the Sicilian wines. Reds such as Nero d'Avola are good, whites are more variable, some good, some bland. As anywhere you'll pay a premium for eating and drinking in the main squares, check the prices first as some bars are pricey. Check out the alleys and side streets, there are plenty of nice places to eat and drink tucked away. I'd recommend the Nero d'Avola wine bar/restaurant which is down an alley beside the Porta Catania. One nice thing is when ordering drinks in most places you get some nibbles included, ranging from a bowl of nuts to a generous spread of bread, olives etc.
The place feels very chilled, perfectly safe late at night and refreshingly yob-free.
If you are feeling energetic climb the small hill (with the big crucifix on top) for great views of Taormina and nearby Castelmora, which is perched on an even higher outcrop. Look for the signpost "Varo" on the main street. The path up has scuptures of the 12 stations of the cross at intervals. The amphitheatre (teatro greco) is well worth a visit too (EUR 8 entry).
Mount Etna is also a must see. (Book locally, a good bit less than Thomson were looking for). Will cost about EUR 75 from various agencies in town. Don't bother with cheaper option, which only goes part of the way up. It's an interesting day out, and far higher than any UK mountains at over 10000 ft. Dress for high altitude, and mildly rough terrain (trainers fine). If you don't have anything suitable you can rent jacket and boots at the cable car station for a modest fee. There's nothing too strenuous involved, but you do notice the effect of the high altitude and you may splutter on the sulfurous fumes too!
All in all I really enjoyed my week in Taormina, my first visit to Sicily. I'll be back!
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- Also Known As:
- Bristol Park Taormina
- Hotel Bristol Park
- Taormina Park Hotel Sicily