Personal review from jodie Oake’s stay at Villa Sucale in Sicily.
The arrival – Villa Ducale, Sicily
I had long been dreaming of Sicily; the painted postcard of my mind blazed with visions of sun blasted Piazzas, pretty terraces splashed with wildflowers, hamlets sitting atop the hills, and long lingering afternoons dozing off lunch and limoncello. I knew when I first spied Taormina that my mind’s eye had been on the money.
Up a whirlwind of winding stairs overlooking the curved pastel town spilling down the cliff and the ancient Greek theatre peeking shyly through the pine trees we stumbled upon Hotel Villa Ducale. Villa Ducale is one of those luxury boutique hotels that takes genuine hospitality seriously. A husband and wife team, and a sister hotel of the prestigious Villa Carlotta, the idea was to create a place where as soon as you walked through the door you became a guest. Not just a paying guest at a hotel, but a guest as though at a friend’s home. We were ushered to the terrace and handed a glass of bubbling prosecco, shown afternoon tea where brightly painted pastries sat atop gleaming white plates like a coral garden of sugar.
The amenities – Villa Ducale, Sicily
Up in our room the easy breezy Ionian Sea was captured in every detail. From the sunshine yellow walls to the seahorse art on the wall, the pale oyster colored sheets, the mosaics in the bathroom, the lemon scented soap, and the windows streaming with late afternoon light. Stepping out onto our private patch of terrace and the view seemed to flood the sky. To the right Mount Etna brooded with her halo of smoke, sitting silently caked in her dense dark lava flows. To the left the town of Taormina, the bay with its darling Isola Bella, and the rouged rooftops baking in the Spring sunshine. To the front the big blue accented with milky patches of green and littered with iced white yachts. The horizon blurred and you couldn’t tell where the sky started and the sea stopped.
The day trip – Villa Ducale, Sicily
I was keen to conquer Mount Etna but the swirling clouds and the whispers of a ten-hour hike left me a little wounded. Villa Ducale’s director Paulo offered to arrange a morning sipping wines on the slopes of Etna before driving to the highest accessible vantage point to witness the path of destruction she has left the last time she seethed and spit. Driving through the foothills the coastline suddenly gave way to crumbling villas, olive groves, and molten black soil shimmering beneath green trees.
At Vineyard Cottanera we sipped and swirled glorious hazy roses, bright whites, and earthy pungent reds that the sommelier described as Etna in a bottle. Pushing your nose into the sparkling glass to inhale the red it was all earth, volcanic soil, birdsong, and sweetness. It reeked wonderfully of blood and fire and history and every sip changed on the palate. Up at the vantage point we walked through the crusted lava fields, murmuring at the bones of trees stripped bare, the slight whiff of Sulphur, and the patches of emerald land that had managed to escape the angry overspill from the guts of the volcano.
The dining – Villa Ducale, Sicily
Back down in Villa Ducale we spoke late into the night as we dined on the terrace. Pairing wines with plates of pure Sicilian goodness from the deft handoff Chef Lino. Fresh swordfish steaks glazed with sesame seeds, perfectly done al dente pasta with tuna eggs, and crisp canola crammed with the richest ricotta and sweet green pistachios. Breakfast was an elegant affair with an endless array of cured Italian meats, blobs of melt in the mouth mozzarella, rolls of eggplant parmigiana, milky yoghurt, black honey from the mountains, and fat pieces of blood orange that oozed red on the fingers.
Later, wandering the town we glimpsed our waiter waltzing the street with his friend, he waved and called Ciao like we were old friends. After we saw the receptionist driving down the narrow winding streets, she flashed us a smile and raised her hand in warmth. This is Villa Ducale, where as soon as you arrive you are friends from the onset. Where everything is splashed in sunshine and prosecco, and where the wonder of the panorama greets you in the morning and the lights of the bay twinkle like a lullaby helping you drift to sleep.
LuxeInACity recommends a stay at Villa Ducale. Visit www.villaducale.com to plan your stay.