Review: Belmond Villa Sant’Andrea, Sicily (Italy)

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 report here:


Today (November 11, 2020): Review of Belmond Villa Sant’Andrea, Sicily

When Goethe called Taormina a “piece of paradise on earth,” he may well have been describing Belmond Villa Sant’Andrea. Along one of Italy’s most picturesque bays on a private beach with exclusive cabanas, this former villa is just a courtesy shuttle ride away from Taormina’s town center and oozes glamour and old-world charm. The five-star property features 71 elegantly furnished guest rooms and suites. Guests can take in panoramic views from the heated outdoor swimming pool, revel in complimentary morning boat cruises, relish fresh seafood at Oliviero Restaurant, and relax with a soothing massage in their room or beneath an orange tree.

Have you ever stayed at Belmond Villa Sant’Andrea? If so, what was your experience? Leave a comment.

In this review (more information and photos below my YouTube clip & slideshow):


PROS & THINGS I LIKE
  • Belmond Villa Sant’Andrea is perched on an idyllic stretch of coast in Sicily, the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, just off the toe of the Italian boot. Through the ages, the triangle-shaped island has been a crossroads of several ancient cultures, resulting in a fascinating place and a real jewel of the Mediterranean. Sicily boasts an abundant number of natural wonders (including Mount Etna, Europe’s most active volcano), archaeological UNESCO World Heritage Sites, popular beaches, idyllic islets, jaw-droppingly dramatic viewpoints, and gorgeous whitewashed towns. Furthermore, the island offers an all-year-round appeal thanks to a perfect blend of mild climate, history, good cuisine, vibrant nightlife and a warm atmosphere.
  • The luxurious property offers a tranquil beachside escape in eastern Sicily, on one of island’s most magnificent coastlines, dotted with magical caves, mystical islands and crystal clear water. Once a private villa, it is set in lush, sub-tropical gardens on a stretch of pebble beach on Sicily’s sparkling Mazzarò bay, below the hilltop town of Taormina, which is famus for its picturesque streets, Greek theater, and fabulous views of Mount Etna. The hotel runs a complimentary shuttle every 30 minutes up to its sister hotel, Belmond Grand Timeo Hotel (which I reviewed here) in the center of Taormina, making Belmond Sant’Andrea the ideal choice for anyone wanting to combine beach-time with sightseeing, shopping and dining in town.
  • The hotel is housed in a private villa that was built by an aristocratic family in 1919. Following in the footsteps of celebrated 18th- and 19th- century writers and artists, English civil engineer Robert Trewhella was also drawn to the beauty of Taormina. Engaged by the Italian government to work on the construction of Italy’s railways, he directed the building of the Circumetnea Line that skirts Mount Etna. While in Sicily, Trewhella met and married an Englishwoman and built the beachfront Villa Sant’Andrea as their summer home. In the 1950s, Robert’s son Alfred transformed the villa into a hotel for jet-setters. Orient-Express Hotels, later renamed Belmond, acquired Trewhella’s beachside idyll in 2010.
  • Because it was built as a private villa, Belmond Villa Sant’Andrea feels more like a private residence than a hotel, an ambiance which is further enhanced by the elegant, classic decor (think marble floors, antique furnishings, Baroque paintings, etc …). For most guests, the first impression of the hotel will be the small, intimate reception area, which features ceramic vases in Sicily’s traditional moorish heads with impressive flower arrangements at its center. From here, a labyrinth of corridor leads to the guest rooms and suites, as well as to the public areas two floors below the reception area. The latter comprise a lovely lounge area, bar, small boutique and stylish restaurant with indoor dining room and outdoor terrace overlooking the beach.
  • There are 71 elegant rooms and suites, decorated in a style best summed up as Sicilian luxe, the majority of which look out over the beach and pristine waters of the bay. Because of the hotel’s history and its expansion through the years, the rooms are spread over five buildings and interconnected by various corridors at different levels. During my holiday, I was upgraded to an Executive Junior Suite, which featured a large bedroom with dining table and sitting area, and an ensuite bathroom equipped with two sinks and a walk-in shower with mosaic tiled walls. The room’s highlight was a large, flower-filled balcony overlooking the bay, where one could while away the hours watching the waves lap and the boats bob.
  • Belmond Villa Sant’Andrea is set on a picturesque pebble beach dominated by a craggy headland, which it shares with a couple of other (less luxurious) hotels. The stretch of immaculately raked beach in front of the hotel is private, featuring dozens of comfortable sun-loungers for guests’ exclusive use. The hotel beach also boasts six luxurious cabanas, accommodating up to four people per cabana and stylishly furnished with plump sofas, well-stocked mini-bars, tented verandas and sun-loungers. Each cabana also has its own dedicated waiter, who is on hand to arrange anything from relaxing massages to a fresh fish lunch, prepared with passion by the hotel’s chef, Aniello Razzano.
  • The hotel has one dining venue only, Oliviero Restaurant, which offers indoor & outdoor waterfront seating and serves all meals daily, including a complimentary breakfast (until 11 am). Led by Chef Agostino d’Angelo, the venue focuses on the Mediterranean’s finest seasonal produce, with a particular emphasis on Sicilian specialities, such as Sicilian black pig ham served with scented Malvasia pricky pears. A highlight is fish plucked straight from the bay and grilled to perfection – especially when preceded by a cool aperitivo at the adjacent terrace bar. With Sicily’s striking cliffs as a backdrop, guests at Oliviero Restaurant can indulge in delicate homemade risotto, or go light with colorful salads or delicate homemade pasta at lunch time.
  • If the water of the Mediterranean Sea is too cold for a swim, then Belmond Villa Sant’Andrea’s heated swimming pool, complete with its own bar serving gelato and drinks, is an appealing alternative. Although the pool is small, the pool deck offers a sublime view of the georgous bay. The property also offers other leisure facilities including a tiny but well equipped fitness center, complete with hammam, and a spa, offering an array of treatments using products from Sothys and Les Senses de Marrakech, scented with orange flowers, amber, sandalwood and jasmine. Guests can also access the larger spa facilities at the Grand Hotel Timeo. The property also runs a supervised kids’ club with activities like cannoli-making and outdoor exploration.
  • Belmond Villa Sant’Andrea 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.

CONS & THINGS TO KNOW

  • Although the beach section in front of the property is exclusively reserved for hotel guests, including a secluded area equipped with luxurious cabanas, the beach itself is not private. The resort shares the beach with two other hotels but neither are at Belmond Villa Sant’Andrea’s level in terms of luxury. Also, keep in mind that the beach is not a sandy beach but a pebble beach, which is common in this part of the Mediterannean.
  • Similar to most Belmond hotels, Belmond Villa Sant’Andrea is an older, historic property, hence featuring an old-world class decor with expensive antiques and lovely painting. Although the place is utterly charming, some design buffs may feel is not entirely to their liking. Also, due to the characteristics of the older builing, the soundproofing of some rooms is not ideal. For example, during my visit, I stayed in a suite with a connecting door, and I could clearly hear the guests in the room next door (although they were not particularly loud), which was rather annoying.
  • The resort’s main draw is its beach (where guests will spend most of their time), but are some wellness and leisure facilities as well, albeit on a small scale: the pool is tiny and the spa is small (and has no sauna). However, it’s not really a problem, as guests can use the facilities at the resort’s sister property, Belmond Grand Hotel Timeo (which features a much larger pool and a wellness center with sauna).
  • As the resort faces east, there is no view of the sunset (although early risers can catch stunning sunrises). Also, the property is backed by a rocky outcrop and due to its orientation, it’s in the shade by later afternoon in summer (or mid-afternoon in spring and autumn).
  • Belmond villa Sant’Andrea is a seasonal property, closing between the end of October through early April. Travelers to Sicily should know that the majority of the island’s tourist hotels and restaurants are closed in the winter season.

MY VERDICT
  • Location: 8/10
  • Design: 8/10
  • Pool: 8/10
  • Rooms: 8/10
  • Food: 8/10
  • Breakfast: 9/10
  • Spa: 8/10
  • Service: 9/10
  • Value for money: 9/10
  • Overall experience: very good 8,2/10

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 Villa Sant’Andrea (and/or receive many free perks).
  • 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 Villa Sant-Andrea is a 45 min 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.


PHOTOS
DRIVEWAY
DRIVEWAY
LOBBY
LOBBY
LOBBY
LOBBY
LOBBY
LOBBY
LOBBY
LOBBY
LOBBY
LOBBY
GUEST ROOM CORRIDOR
GUEST ROOM CORRIDOR
EXECUTIVE JUNIOR SUITE
EXECUTIVE JUNIOR SUITE
EXECUTIVE JUNIOR SUITE
EXECUTIVE JUNIOR SUITE
EXECUTIVE JUNIOR SUITE (WELCOME AMENITIES)
EXECUTIVE JUNIOR SUITE (WELCOME AMENITIES)
EXECUTIVE JUNIOR SUITE
EXECUTIVE JUNIOR SUITE
EXECUTIVE JUNIOR SUITE
EXECUTIVE JUNIOR SUITE
EXECUTIVE JUNIOR SUITE
EXECUTIVE JUNIOR SUITE
EXECUTIVE JUNIOR SUITE
LOUNGE & LIBRARY
LOUNGE & LIBRARY
LOUNGE & LIBRARY
LOUNGE & LIBRARY
LOUNGE & LIBRARY
LOUNGE & LIBRARY
LOUNGE & LIBRARY
LOUNGE & LIBRARY
LOUNGE & LIBRARY
LOUNGE & LIBRARY
LOUNGE & LIBRARY
LOUNGE & LIBRARY
LOUNGE & LIBRARY
LOUNGE & LIBRARY
LOUNGE & LIBRARY
BOUTIQUE
BOUTIQUE
BOUTIQUE
GYM
GARDENS
GARDENS
GARDENS
GARDENS
GARDENS
GARDENS
GARDENS
GARDENS
GARDENS
POOL AREA
POOL AREA
POOL AREA
POOL AREA
OLIVIERO RESTAURANT (INDOOR)
OLIVIERO RESTAURANT (INDOOR)
OLIVIERO RESTAURANT (TERRACE)
OLIVIERO RESTAURANT (TERRACE)
BAR
BAR
BAR
BEACH
BEACH
BEACH
BEACH
BEACH
BEACH
BEACH
BEACH
BEACH
BEACH
BEACH
BEACH
BELMOND VILLA SANT’ANDREA AT NIGHT
BELMOND VILLA SANT’ANDREA AT NIGHT
BELMOND VILLA SANT’ANDREA AT NIGHT
BELMOND VILLA SANT’ANDREA AT NIGHT
BELMOND VILLA SANT’ANDREA AT NIGHT
BELMOND VILLA SANT’ANDREA AT NIGHT
BELMOND VILLA SANT’ANDREA AT NIGHT
BELMOND VILLA SANT’ANDREA AT NIGHT
BELMOND VILLA SANT’ANDREA AT NIGHT
BELMOND VILLA SANT’ANDREA AT NIGHT
DINNER AT OLIVIERO RESTAURANT
DINNER AT OLIVIERO RESTAURANT
DINNER AT OLIVIERO RESTAURANT
DINNER AT OLIVIERO RESTAURANT
DINNER AT OLIVIERO RESTAURANT
DINNER AT OLIVIERO RESTAURANT
DINNER AT OLIVIERO RESTAURANT
DINNER AT OLIVIERO RESTAURANT
DINNER AT OLIVIERO RESTAURANT
DINNER AT OLIVIERO RESTAURANT
BREAKFAST AT OLIVIERO RESTAURANT
BREAKFAST AT OLIVIERO RESTAURANT
BREAKFAST AT OLIVIERO RESTAURANT
BREAKFAST AT OLIVIERO RESTAURANT
BREAKFAST AT OLIVIERO RESTAURANT
IN-ROOM BREAKFAST
BREAKFAST AT OLIVIERO RESTAURANT
BREAKFAST AT OLIVIERO RESTAURANT
BREAKFAST AT OLIVIERO RESTAURANT
BREAKFAST AT OLIVIERO RESTAURANT
BREAKFAST AT OLIVIERO RESTAURANT
BREAKFAST AT OLIVIERO RESTAURANT
BREAKFAST AT OLIVIERO RESTAURANT
BREAKFAST AT OLIVIERO RESTAURANT
BREAKFAST AT OLIVIERO RESTAURANT
BREAKFAST AT OLIVIERO RESTAURANT

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