• Thursday, August 17, 2017

Travel to Sicily

Think Sicily – Home Away From Home
April 9, 2014
By , Founder and Editor-in-chief

Even the most lavish traveler will occasionally conclude that there’s no place like home. You miss your bed. Your health-conscious groceries. Your mom. (Hey – it could happen.) Yes, sometimes a hotel just won’t cut it. The crazy thing? A villa pretty much always will. Enter Think Sicily, whose roster of unbelievably luxe villas scattered across Italy’s largest island will promptly and permanently squash any homesick tendency you could ever have. Because, really, if you’re not comfortable in a 16th century gut-renovated palazzo with a private pool overlooking Mount Etna, plus a full staff, a private chef and room enough for 24… well, you might be impossible to please.

Why now: The arrival of the Belmond (formerly Orient-Express), with not one, but two properties, has put the relatively undiscovered Sicily on the luxury hotel destination map. For those who are traveling with entourage (they fit quite nicely on a boat in the Aeolian Islands), the land portion of your trip is maximized by a stay in a noble’s exquisitely restored home. Sicily is like a country unto itself, with a unique culture, history, architecture and specialty dishes. The essence of Sicily isn’t luxury; it’s about enjoying the simple life.

Good for: Family reunions and groups of friends looking to spend days exploring the countryside, sampling olive oils, dining on purely simple Italian cuisine and chilling out in an elegantly lavish home over long dinners and many bottles of wine. 

The highlights:

  • Aperitivo hour on your first day at the villa, which primes you for what is just the beginning of exquisite service, good wine and intensely flavored dishes indicative of Sicily. 
  • Taking an excursion to Mount Etna, where in one hot summer day, you can experience four seasons, complete with a snowstorm at the top of the mountain. Skip the hike, which is relatively uneventful, and opt for the vehicle tour to reach the top. Even better, hire a driver for a private tour, to explore areas of the volcano that are otherwise inaccessible. On the way home, your driver can add to the itinerary with stops at local villages and the best vineyards in the area. 
  • Spending a day poolside with a cocktail in hand, especially for those lucky enough to rent the Don Arcangelo.
  • Exploring Taormina for an afternoon, including a stop at the Teatro Greco, shopping the local artisans, lunch at the Belmond’s Da Sant’Andrea and ending the day with cocktails on the terrace of the Grand Hotel Timeo, overlooking Mount Etna.  Enjoying evenings in your villa being catered to by an attentive staff, where luxurious dinners are an all-evening affair and the gardens of your home inspire late evenings with bottles of Sicilian wine.

Suggested stay: 5–7 days, where your villa is home base to explore Sicily.

What to know: The touristy Amalfi Coast this is not; Sicily is relatively untraveled and low-key in luxury. Set your expectations to experience the simple and authentic Italy.

The process is easy: Take your pick of villas, and Think Sicily will take care of the rest. Huw and Rossella Beaugié, the team behind Think Sicily, have been sourcing the most luxurious and best service in Sicily since 2002. They have it down to a science – literally. Rossella is Sicilian, born and bred, and by trade is a cell biologist with a PhD. You know, the typical background of someone who runs a villa portfolio. Her husband Huw is a former automotive engineer. So let’s just say that they have you covered on the logistics and high standards you’d expect as a working jet setter. It’s simple yet effective, and now that we think about it, that’s a pretty good slogan for the island itself. Sicily embodies that old-school Italian experience minus the oligarchs and pretense, meaning that you can do it on your own terms. Maybe that’s strolling Taormina, checking out bustling Catania or catching a performance at Teatro Greco. Regardless, you can always come back to a bottle of nero d’avola and a steaming plate of pasta alla norma, compliments of your personal in-house chef. Just like home.

(Photos courtesy of Think Sicily)