Wednesday newsletters always feature a hotel or flight review.
Early October, I was supposed to travel to Namibia but that did not happen because of the ongoing pandemic (and government advice against travel outside the EU, where I am based). Instead, I planned a last-minute holiday to some of Italy’s most beautiful areas. You can read my trip reports here:
- Review: Belmond Grand Hotel Timeo, Sicily (today)
- Review: Belmond Villa Sant’Andrea, Sicily
- Review: Verdura Resort, a Rocco Forte Hotel, Sicily
- Review: Lefay Resort & Spa, Lake Garda
- Review: St Regis Hotel Venice
- Review: Forestis, Dolomites
Today (November 4, 2020): Review of Belmond Grand Hotel Timeo (Taormina, Sicily)
- Location: Google maps
- Hotel website: Belmond Grand Hotel Timeo
- Tip: get complimentary VIP perks when booking via Virtuoso
Follow in the footsteps of Audrey Hepburn and Sophia Loren and experience the glamour, romance, and luxe way of life at Belmond Grand Hotel Timeo. Located beside an ancient Greek theater, its 71 guest rooms are decorated in exquisite Italian baroque, and most boast fabulous views of the sea and Mount Etna. Stroll through town to shop for ceramics and visit local artisans, then visit the hotel’s wellness center, set within the verdant park, for a spa treatment made with local flowers and fruit essences. Dinner on the terrace overlooking majestic Mount Etna features tantalizing and Michelin-star awarded Sicilian and Mediterranean cuisine.
Belmond Grand Hotel Timeo features in my top 10 lists of the best luxury hotels in Italy, the best hotels in Sicily, and the world’s best hotel views.
Have you ever stayed at Belmond Grand Hotel Timeo? If so, what was your experience? Leave a comment.
In this review (more info and photos below my Youtube clip & slideshow):
- Pros & things I like
- Cons & things to know
- My verdict
- Tips for future guests & save money
- Best time to visit
- How to get there
PROS & THINGS I LIKE
- Belmond Grand Hotel Timeo is one the most luxurious properties on Sicily, the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, sitting right off the bottom of the Italian mainland. Rich in history and traditions, Sicily is a place where ancient art, culture and cuisine intertwine with wonderful natural beauties. Against a backdrop of azure seas, craggy coastline and active volcanoes, Sicily has seduced travelers with its dazzling diversity of landscapes and cultural treasures since the trials of Odysseus were first sung in Homer’s Odyssey. As Frederick II, King of Sicily, once said: “I don’t envy God’s paradise, because I’m well satisfied to live in Sicily”.
- The hotel is located in the spectacular hilltop village of Taormina, the jewel in the crown of Sicily’s east coast. Toarmina offers its visitors breathtaking, dramatic and memorable views over Europe’s most active volcano (Mount Etna) and almost one hundred miles of Mediterranean sea. In the 1800s, after Johann Wolfgang von Goethe praised its beauty in his book Italian Journey, Taormina became a mandatory stop on the Grand Tour – the long journey made in continental Europe by the young European aristocracy of the time to enrich their own culture. Since then many celebrities visited Taormina, and D.H. Lawrence, Truman Capote, Oscar Wilde and Richard Wagner all spent happy moments here. Today, Taormia is the tourist capital of Sicily.
- At the heart of Taormina’s mystique lies Belmond Grand Hotel Timeo, an elegant, classical villa built into Sicily’s craggy coastal cliffs right, affording stupendous views (of Mount Etna and the endless coastline) that rank among the most striking panoramic vistas on earth. They’re the same breathtaking panoramas Goethe enjoyed from the neighboring Greek Theater. It is a rare thing for a writer to admit being lost for words, but he readily accepted the overwhelming impact of the sight: “Thank goodness everything we saw today has been sufficiently described already… [We] could not tear ourselves away until after sunset. To watch this landscape, so remarkable in every aspect, slowly sinking into darkness, was an incredibly beautiful sight.”
- The hotel’s history dates back to 1863 when a Prussian baron first put Belmond Grand Hotel Timeo on the map with Europe’s elite. Otto Geleng had traveled to Taormina to paint, renting a room from one Don Francesco La Floresta at his home, Timeo. Geleng’s work created a stir back in Berlin and Paris and more artists followed, after which the house was developed into a smart hotel. In 1920, D.H. Lawrence set up camp on the hotel’s terrace to write Lady Chatterley’s Lover, the erotic masterpiece that shocked the world. By the 1940s and 50s, the hotel’s guest list read like a Who’s Who of Hollywood, among them Cary Grant, Elizabeth Taylor, Audrey Hepburn and Sophia Loren. In 2010, the hotel and its sister property – Villa Sant’Andrea – was sold to Belmond.
- The hotel features an elegant old-world decor, throwing guests back to the era of Oscar Wilde, and Richard Wagner. The main entrance – located only a few minutes’ walk from Corso Umberto (Taormina’s main walking street) and right next to the entrance of the magnificent third-century BC Greek amphitheater – leads to an intimate lobby and a maze of corridors, decorated with tapestries, oil paintings, chandeliers, antiques and polished parquet floors. Next to the lobby is a small, modern and light-filled bar which opens up to the hotel’s most spectacular feature, its expansive brick terrace that affords those amazing views of the Ionian Sea, Toarmina town, and the ever-puffing Mount Etna.
- Belmond Grand Hotel Timeo offers 70 suites and bedrooms split between the main building and the adjacent Villa Flora. Most come with that amazing view – over the clustered terracotta rooftops of medieval Taormina, past the coves and headlands of the rugged coastline, and across to Mount Etna’s violet slopes and puffing peak. During my visit, I was upgraded to an Exclusive Suite which was located on the rooftop of the historic Timeo building, boasting magnificent views of the Mediterranean Sea and Mount Etna from its private terrace. The suite itself was clasically styled and featured twin beds, a separate living area, and a marbe bathroom equipped with tub, shower, and two sinks. Toiletries from Acqua Di Parma were provided and daily replenished.
- The location of Belmond Grand Hotel Timeo is fabulous, as it offers the best of both worlds: the bustle of Toarmina town closeby (with plenty of shops and restaurants) and the peace and tranquillity of the spacious hotel grounds with landscaped gardens and tropical vegetation. The lush, sub-tropical park dotted with palm trees is spread over five acres, and includes a kitchen garden that supplies the hotel’s restaurant. The beautiful terraced gardens are also home to a heated, panoramic swimming pool, which is the perfect place to sit back and relax after exploring the streets of Taormina. The pool is surrounded by dozens of sun loungers and there’s also a poolside bar which is open daily in the summer for drinks, cocktails and snacks.
- If the leafy panorama stretching across and beyond the garden is not sufficient to induce peace and calm, then guests can head to the small yet stylish wellness center for a relaxing signature massage. Called Sicilian Sensations, the spa makes uses of handmade soap made with the island’s extra virgin olive oil. Treatments on offer include a lava ash exfoliation, a local pumice stone footbath and a massage with oils scented with orange flowers and almonds. There are three single treatment rooms and one couple’s treatment room, as well as a sauna, steam bath, and hair salon. Behind the pool is also a fitness center, fitted with new Technogym equipment and a variety of exercise machines to help you maintain your exercise regime.
- Belmond Grand Hotel Timeo offers two excellent restaurants and one bar:
- The property’s signature restaurant is Otto Geleng, an 8-table venue offering a culinary sensation inspired by German painter and Taormina legend, Otto Geleng. Executive Chef Roberto Toro’s Michelin-star menu is a culinary riff on classic Mediterranean fare.
- Timeo Restaurant offers a satisfying blend of Sicilian and Mediterranean cuisine, making the most of local ingredients, such as Pachino cherry tomatoes, Bronte pistachios, Salina capers, Interdonato lemons and Mozia salt.
- Before dinner, guests can enjoy an aperitivo on the famous Literary Terrace. Its view is one of the reasons why American playwright and author Truman Capote stayed at the hotel for two years. Couple that with an Etna Spritz made with local speciality drink, Amara Rossa, and the ultimate Taormina experience is complete.
- Belmond Grand Hotel Timeo is owned and managed by the world-famous Belmond Hotel Group, formerly known as Orient Express until its rebranding in 2014. Belmond is a hotel and leisure company that manages a ultraluxe collection of 49 iconic hotels, trains and river cruises in 24 countries, bringing together some of the world’s most sensational journeys and destinations. It ranks among the most exclusive hotel brands in the world. With Belmond, you can stay in timeless hotels in Venice, Amalfi and Rio de Janeiro, embrace the spirit of adventure at Machu Picchu or Angkor Wat, glide along the rails through the Swiss Alps, soar across the Andes, or explore the mystifying rivers of Myanmar.
- At sister hotel Belmond Villa Sant’Andrea, there’s always the beach. Guests can take a short complimentary shuttle trip, or thrilling funicular ride, down the hill to Mazzarò Bay at Taormina Mare to this 19th-century former private residence. The shuttle departs every 30 minutes in high season (hourly in low season), on a first-come, first-serve season and the ride takes only 10 minutes. Guests have access to several of Belmond Villa Sant’Andrea facilities, including the private pebble beach, breakfast, and complimentary boat trip to Isola Bella, the Blue Grotto, and various coves along the magnificent coastline. Parents can bring their kids to Sant’Andrea’s Smile Club, a supervised kids’ club with activities like cannoli-making.
CONS & THINGS TO KNOW
- Belmond Grand Hotel Timeo is one of Italy’s grand dame hotels, exuding an old-fashioned atmosphere, albeit complemented by 21st century amenities and Belmond’s top-notch service. Although that is exactly what most guests are coming for (in addition to the killer views), you need to stay somewhere else if a contemporary decor is an absolute must for you.
- The 70 rooms and suites are divided between the main hotel building and the nearby, less atmospheric Villa Flora (just a 50 m or 160 ft walk away). The latter houses the entry room category rooms, but IMHO, it’s worth splurging on one of the rooms in the main building, since the latter all have sea and volcano views, plus private terraces or balconies; in addition, you’ll be closer to the property’s main facilities and delightful gardens.
- The hotel’s two restaurants, including one Michelin star venue, are very popular and fully booked most evenings (which shouldn’t come as a surprise given the terrific cuisine and heart-stopping views). I recommend to make a table reservation weeks in advance, to avoid any disappoint during your stay (I was only able to snag a table because of a last-minute cancellation).
- Taormina is a popular destination for tourists. Despite the proliferation of tourist shops, the city’s picturesque alleys retain a real and authentic charm. During summer though, the small village with its 11,000 in residents, is overrun with visitors from all over the world. I recommend to visit Taormina either late spring or early autumn to avoid the worst of the crowds.
- Belmond Grand Hotel Timeo is a seasonal property and closes from November till March.
- Location: 10/10
- Design: 9/10
- Pool: 8/10
- Rooms: 8/10
- Food: 8/10
- Breakfast: 9/10
- Spa: 9/10
- Service: 9/10
- Value for money: 9/10
- Overall experience: very good 8,8/10
TIPS FOR FUTURE GUESTS & SAVE MONEY
- Save money: get complimentary VIP perks when booking via Virtuoso (e.g. upgrade, daily breakfast, early check-in, late check-out, and $100 USD food & beverage credit).
- Save money: read here my tips for getting the best deal at a luxury hotel like Belmond Grand Hotel Timeo (and/or receive many free perks).
- Room tip: book a room in the main Timeo building for the best views.
- Read my tips for preparing your trip in time.
BEST TIME TO VISIT
The best time to visit Sicily is from May to June or September to October. These late spring and early fall months are both considered shoulder seasons, and offer comfortable temperatures and mostly sunny days, ideal for temple gazing, beach lazing or hiking. If you book a July or August vacation, you’ll have to deal with lots of crowds, high prices and the hottest temperatures of the year.
HOW TO GET THERE
Belmond Grand Hotel Timeo is a 1-hour drive from Catania Airport Fontanarossa (CTA) and a 3-hour drive from Palermo Falcone-Borsellino Airport (PMO). Both airports are served by many European airlines, especially during the summer season.
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As usual, exceptional photography and video plus great written descriptions and insights. Have been following your reviews for a long time. Keep it up 🙂
Still remember the amazing lunch we had on the terrace overlooking the sea in October 1999, Etna rumbling in the distance. Your report and video transports us back to that beautiful day. Thank you for this virtual revisit!