Ever wonder what it would be like to step back into the middle ages? That can be arranged with a visit to Sicily, and a stay at the five star SAN DOMENICO PALACE HOTEL, because this is a hotel that authentically brings the past to life.
The San Domenico Palace is located in the city center of the well preserved medieval town of TAORMINA, a beautiful stone village that looks like it was built as a movie set. It’s the perfect destination for history buffs, sunbathers, gourmets and shoppers…basically visitors to Italy who are looking for a taste of the good life!
The hotel blends in perfectly with its historical surroundings because it started out as a private residence in 1372 but was later donated to the Dominican Monks in the 15th Century. The original cloisters are still a beautiful and relaxing place to walk or meditate, leading right to the original chapel. Partially destroyed in World War II, the chapel was restored as a meeting room, with the pulpet and many of the original frescoes intact. It remained a monastery for over three hundred years, finally being converted into a hotel in 1896. Since then, it’s hosted various nobles, political figures and celebrities. U.S. President Harry Truman was just one of its famous visitors and the room that he stayed in is a ‘sought after suite’ in the hotel.
I was lucky enough to stay in another very special room, because I stayed in the “Antico Convento” or old convent wing of the hotel. The 44 bedrooms in this wing were formerly cells where the monks resided. Each one of these enlarged and modernized rooms is adorned with antique furniture, Frette Italian linens, luxurious amenities and the most spectacular view, yet it retains the aura of it’s original inhabitants. From my room I had a panorama of a snow-covered Mount Etna, the blue waters of the Mediterranean Sea, the lush gardens below and the ancient Greek Theater. The birds chirping, the fresh ocean air and this stunning view presented a complete package of perfection. Besides the forty-four rooms in the Antico Convento wing, the San Domenico Palace also has 61 rooms in the main section or “Grand Hotel”. There are also several suites, where guests are treated to a view of the sea, some from their own private patio and Jacuzzi. As if that weren’t enough, each suite also has an adjacent living room, complete with state-of-the art electronic equipment and a spacious marble bath.
The San Domenico Palace has three gourmet restaurants. You can choose to enjoy haute cuisine at “Principe Cerami”, sit back pool side for a light lunch at “Il Giardino dei Limoni” or relax for a meal with an international flavor at “Il ristorante Antico”. While I consider myself a beginning epicurean, my favorite meal at the San Domenico Palace was the Sicilian tea that I had at the “Oratorio dei Frati”, the hotel’s lounge and bar. Instead of English scones and cucumber sandwiches, I found myself enjoying Sicilian variations that reflected this island’s lush produce and history.
One of my favorite things to do in Sicily is sit back and enjoy the sun and the best place to do that at the San Domenico Palace is poolside. Pools are a rarity in this small town and therefore a true luxury. This pool is at the edge of the hotel’s incredible gardens, with a view overlooking the sea.
But the amenities at the San Domenico don’t end here. They also have a fitness center with all the latest fitness equipment you’ll need. I however, passed on the gym and went right to the BeautyCenter, where I got an array of treatments ranging from a facial to a hot stone massage.
But the most memorable part of the hotel is the garden which I didn’t even discover until I had been there for over a day and a half discovering the rest of the hotel. The monks originally used this land as area to grow their vegetables. Today it’s an absolutely huge Mediterranean garden that’s filled with flowers and fruit trees that bloom throughout the year. From the terrace you can look out over the city or sea below or look out over some of Sicily’s other coastal cities.
The San Domenico Palace Hotel is truly a wonderful experience, that delivers on a guest’s every desire and expectation here in Sicily. And the town of Taormina is exactly what I wanted to see and experience in Italy!