The sweet smell of flowers, stunning views across the coast line, fresh pasta on the menu and a vintage ice cream van… what more could a pregnant lady ask for?
It wasn’t easy to choose the location for our babymoon (our last hoorah before the arrival of baby Silver) and we asked ourselves many questions before making the final decision… is the flight short, is there a hospital nearby, will I be able to eat the food… will the weather be reasonable in mid-May with that being the only time we could go? Eventually it seemed like a foregone conclusion that we would choose our favourite country… and we settled on one of my bucket list locations… at hotel that had been on my wish list for years.
Belmond Grand Hotel Timeo in Taormina in Sicily was just as beautiful as I hoped… a stunning historical property, dating back to 1873 and surrounded by perfectly pruned gardens.
Back in the beginning the hotel was a five room guest house, and owner Don Francesco La Floresta would rent out rooms in this beautiful location, particularly popular with artists. Working with his son Giuseppe, the guest house was enlarged to 12 rooms, and in 1896 on the death of Don Francesco his son inherited the hotel and expanded it to 60 rooms. It became renowned and was visited by emperors, kings and grand dukes including Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany in 1896 and King Edward the VII of England in 1906. `
It’s not hard to see why so many people fell in love with this pink palace surrounded by blooms over the years… The hotel remained in the Floresta family until 1981, for nearly a hundred years before it passed through another few families who modernised the hotel before in 2010 it was sold to the prestigious Belmond Group (then known as Orient Express).
The hotel was loved by literary greats such as Truman Capote (author of Breakfast at Tiffany’s) and Tennessee Williams. English author DH Lawrence lived there for four years and it is where he penned Lady Chatterley’s Lover… It is these famous visitors that provided the inspiration for the name of the bar, The Literary Terrace, where you can sip a mocktail whilst gazing out on views of Mount Etna and the Bay of Taormina.
You can also choose delicious local classics from the hotel’s all day dining menu – I absolutely loved the simple spaghetti and tomato sauce but there are salads, sandwiches and plenty more to enjoy. The arancini balls are a must as the much-loved nibble is said to have originated from 10th Century Sicily.
Inside the bar is utterly elegant with antiques and Sicilian carpentry… pop down at the right time and you’ll be treated to a traditional Aperitivo hour.
One of the highlights of the hotel is the pool, also fringed by florals and that magnificent view.
The Pool Restaurant serves a light lunch menu and best of all is the vintage ice cream truck! Vanilla, chocolate, strawberry or pistachio, anyone?
Timeo Restaurant is the hotel’s main location for dining and is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner – it was our favourite restaurant of the hotel too!
Which was rather fortunate as we’d chosen a half board option for our stay… breakfasts were glorious with this beautiful view and a perfect array of buffet items including fruit, cereals, local cheeses and meat… eggs, pancakes and things could be ordered from the a la carte menu.
We had lunch here once though it was a little empty as most hotel residents seem to choose the terrace for lunch.
And we had dinner here twice, by night the ambiance is gorgeous with a view of glittering lights of the bay and live music in the background.
Food is simple, Sicilian and utterly delicious! For lunch I had crispy red mullet fillets on artichokes cream, wild salad and passion fruit coulis followed by eggplant gnocchi with tomato and fresh oregano sauce while Mr S indulged in lobster risotto and a whole seabass.
One dinner saw me try the perfect parmigana…
Another time we shared a whole baked sea bass.
And the prawn pasta I had was the best I had all holiday! The hotel is also home to fine dining restaurant Otto Geleng which fits just 16 people to try a Sicilian menu created by executive Chef Roberto Toro. The name of the restaurant is inspired by a famous German painter who was the first guest to the mansion and convinced the family to open the property up as a hotel. This restaurant isn’t included on the half board plan, we had thought about trying it anyway but as there wasn’t much I could have on the menu, there wasn’t much point in eating in a restaurant in the hotel that wasn’t covered on the plan.
For our room we booked a junior suite and if you watch my Instagram stories you’ll know that we were a little disappointed with the room that we were allocated, it was very small for a junior suite and I didn’t think it was good value for money. We spoke to reception about this and they were able to move us to a much bigger room that was actually in the same category and same cost as the original room. As this a historical building, it’s well worth checking that you’re in the best room possible as all rooms are different though personally I don’t think that the first room that we were put in should be sold as a junior suite. Our room was in the main building but there are also rooms in the adjacent Villa Flora.
The room is decorated in Sicilian baroque style and the colours are beautiful calming neutral tones. We had a large seating area leading on to a spacious bedroom with a gorgeous gilded headboard and a desk and dining area. A narrow window gave us a sea view out to the bay.
While a beautiful balcony afforded us a city view. By the way you can have breakfast in your room at no extra charge.
A good-sized bathroom is furnished with Ortigia products which are produced locally using the natural ingredients and olive oil from Sicily.
The hotel also boasts a whole wellness centre with spa, sauna, steam room and gym. We only used the spa which has three single treatment rooms and a couples room, I also made use of their hair salon services. On a very rainy day we had a couples massage with Mr S opting for a traditional massage and I went for a mother-to-be massage which uses special techniques to relieve stress, alleviate back aches and reduce water retention. It’s made safe by pillows and bolsters so that you’re not lying in any positions that may be uncomfortable for you or the baby. The therapists use Italian brand Mei which is made from wild plants, olive oil-based artisanal products and it’s all totally natural.
The location of Belmond Grand Hotel Timeo couldn’t be better, it’s right by 3rd century Greek theatre – which is well worth exploring for an hour or so – what was once a location for gladiatorial games now pays host to classical and rock concerts.
Step outside the front of the hotel and you’re right in Taormina town! Taormina is an absolute gem of a town on the cliff top, the cobbles streets are lined with pretty buildings and flowers and you can simply find yourself lost down the narrow pathways and among public gardens. The shops are the perfect mix of local artisan products and food shops with higher-end designer stores and restaurants blending fine dining with local osterias.
I’ll be writing more about Taormina and places to eat in my next posts.
Another advantage to staying at Belmond Grand Hotel Timeo is full access to facilities at sister hotel, Belmond Villa Sant’Andrea. The beach front hotel is located around 10 minutes away and is very easily reached by a frequent complimentary shuttle bus.
Belmond Villa Sant’Andrea has a remarkable history of its own. Completed in 1919, the hotel is currently celebrating its centenary, starting life as a summer residence for Cornish Engineer Robert Trewhella and completed by their son Alfred. After the second world war the Percy family returned to the villa and reopened it as a hotel and by the time it was under the management of fourth generation Richard Manley it had become celebrated for the beautiful piano bar and restaurant Oliviero overlooking the bay. Sicilian celebrities flocked to the property and the Manleys also hosted actors visiting for the Taormina Film Festival, such as Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor and Peter O’Toole.
In 1971 Francis Ford Coppola had decided we wanted to stay in Sicily to film scenes for the Godfather so the hotel played host to the cast for the six weeks, including Al Pacino who was an unknown actor at the time. In 2010, Villa Sant’Andrea joined the Belmond family along with Grand Hotel Timeo and now they are treated as sister properties giving us full access to both.
There are 71 rooms in the hotel but it has the feel of an intimate private home but with all the finesse of a luxury hotel.
We could relax by the infinity pool …
Or enjoy the peacefulness of the pebble beach, there are also beach cabanas for hire. Which property you choose depends if you want to be by the sea on the cliff with the view and an easy walk to Taormina town, but personally I was glad we opted for Timeo as I just loved the beautiful terrace and gardens, it also had that certain special unexplainable vibe.
As we were on half board we could also choose to have our meals at Belmond Villa San’Andrea so with the choice of lunch or dinner in either hotel we had plenty of options. We had both lunch and dinner here but if you can only come once, I would choose lunch so that you can truly appreciate the view. Restaurant Oliviero is utterly gorgeous with views of the beach and the rugged cliffs
As simple fare was my usual this holiday I tried the minestrone soup and the aubergine parmigiana for my starters on the two occasions that we visited and has pasta alla ‘Norma’ for main course both times.
Mr S loved the beef carpaccio, steak and rack of lamb. We both absolutely loved the food at the restaurant, and it was one of our favourites of the trip.
Lots of people advised us to hire a car and take a drive around the island but honestly, I was content this time just to enjoy the facilities in the hotel and our daily walks in Taormina. Not like me, I’m usually itching to explore but this time I just wanted a bit of time together in a beautiful location. The hotel does offer a full brochure of activities including a complimentary boat trip, longer boat trips, drives and helicopter rides… but I didn’t allow myself too much FOMO as I just know I’ll come back to this beautiful place.
It’s no wonder so many people have fallen in love with this beautiful place and it has inspired so many writers and artists… Belmond Grand Hotel Timeo really was an Italian dream and the perfect babymoon!
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Belmond Grand Hotel Timeo
Via Teatro Greco 59,