The backstory: What do 14th century Dominican friars DH Lawrence and Audrey Hepburn have in common? All stayed at San Domenico Palace, a convent turned glamorous hotel for literati and celebrities, in the Sicilian seaside town of Taormina, perched on a cliff. (In a possibly apocryphal tale, Lawrence is said to have been inspired to write “Lady Chatterley’s Lover” by his stay in Taormina and his wife’s trysts with a local.)
The legendary property recently underwent a meticulous overhaul — with interiors revamped, fragile artwork restored, and architectural features (like ancient cloister columns) rehabilitated — and reopened as a Four Seasons destination in July. Now it is about to kick off its summer season, the first full since its renovation on April 20.
Space: The luxury hotel comprises 111 rooms and suites, ranging in size from 290 to approximately 1,500 square feet, spread over two wings – one dating back to the old convent era and the other added in 1896. The new interiors were imagined by architect Valentina Pisani, who brought an eye for marrying the contemporary with the historic, drawing on marble, smoked mirrors, bronze details and a neutral palette, with occasional pops of color. However, guests may be too distracted to notice the decor: many rooms have magical views of Mount Etna or the Ionian Sea, with some offering terraces and private pools for soaking up the scenery.
Restoration : The signature restaurant, Principe Cerami, serves Sicilian classics like homemade squid ink spaghetti, while Anciovi’s poolside terrace is the place for casual seafood like sashimi from the day or the rigatoni with anchovies and cherry tomatoes. Head to Bar & Chiostro for an alfresco aperitif in the lush courtyard of the Grand Cloister.
Additional amenities: Lounge chairs by a 69-foot infinity pool, overlooking the Ionian Sea, promise the best sunny spot to do nothing at all. Also on the grounds are beautiful Italian gardens, shaded by palm trees, designed for meditative walks and even fairytale weddings.
Nearby sites: A five-minute stroll will take you to Corso Umberto, Taormina’s main thoroughfare, where you can browse the shops of the historic quarter. The hotel’s in-house team is also ready to orchestrate all sorts of whimsical experiences, from stargazing in a remote part of Mount Etna to boating along the coast of Sicily.
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