This glamorous clifftop hotel in Sicily with a star-studded history has been restored and revamped
The backstory: What do 14th-century Dominican friars, D.H. Lawrence and Audrey Hepburn have in common? All have stayed at San Domenico Palace, a convent turned glamorous hotel for the literati and glitterati alike, in Sicily’s cliff-perched seaside town of Taormina. (In a possibly apocryphal tale, word has it Lawrence was inspired to write “Lady Chatterley’s Lover” by his time in Taormina, and his wife’s trysts with a local.)
The storied property recently underwent a meticulous revamp — with interiors redesigned, fragile artworks restored and architectural features (like ancient cloister columns) rehabbed — and reopened as a Four Seasons destination in July. Now, it’s set to kick off its summer season, the first full one since its renovation, on April 20.
The space: The luxury hotel encompasses 111 guest rooms and suites, from 290 to about 1,500 square feet, located across two wings — one dating back to the ancient convent era, and one added in 1896. The new interiors were imagined by architect Valentina Pisani, who brought an eye for marrying the contemporary with the historic, pulling in marble, smoked mirrors, bronze details and a neutral palette, with occasional pops of colour. Guests may be too distracted to notice the decor, however: many rooms come with magical views of Mount Etna or the Ionian Sea, some offering terraces and private plunge pools to soak up the scenery.
The dining: The signature restaurant, Principe Cerami, serves up Sicilian classics like homemade spaghetti with cuttlefish ink, while the poolside terrace at Anciovi is the spot for casual seafood like catch-of-the-day sashimi, or rigatoni with anchovies and cherry tomatoes. Head to Bar & Chiostro for al fresco aperitivo in the lush courtyard of the Grand Cloister.
The extra amenities: Loungers beside a 69-foot infinity pool, peering over the Ionian Sea, promise the best sun-drenched spot to do nothing at all. Also on the grounds are beautiful Italian gardens, shaded by palm trees, designed for meditative strolling and even fairy-tale weddings.
The nearby sights: A five-minute walk will take you to Corso Umberto, the main thoroughfare in Taormina, where you can browse boutiques in the historic quarter. The hotel’s in-house team is also poised to orchestrate all manner of fanciful experiences, from gazing at the stars in a remote stretch of Mount Etna to yachting along the Sicilian coast.