Just in time as travellers around the globe start planning their first post-pandemic trip abroad, and as we approach the much-anticipated return of the high season in southern Italy, a landmark hotel is debuting a fresh new look and feel. San Domenico Palace, Taormina, A Four Seasons Hotel is now open – let’s take a look inside…
Currently operating 120 hotels and resorts, and 45 residential properties in major city centres and resort destinations in 47 countries, and with more than 50 projects under planning or development, Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, which recently announced new plans for a hotel in Puglia, Italy, consistently ranks among the world’s best hotels and most prestigious brands in reader polls, traveller reviews and industry awards. It is, therefore, no surprise that a storied hotel in southern Italy has reopened, with new interiors and now wearing the Four Seasons brand with pride – and it fits perfectly.
“The legendary San Domenico Palace was already very well known to us at Four Seasons,” notes Christian Clerc, President, Global Operations at Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts. “It is an exceptional property in every way, and we are honoured to have been chosen once again by our owner-partners Gruppo Statuto to manage such an important property, and to add to our growing collection of transformed historic hotels in Italy and around the Mediterranean.”
With spectacular views in every direction, San Domenico Palace is uniquely situated between the majesty of Mount Etna above, the deep blue waters of the Ionian Sea below, and the beautiful south-eastern coast of Sicily as far as the eye can see.
“Everything past guests have always loved about San Domenico Palace has been restored, with familiar faces and vistas at every turn,” says General Manager Lorenzo Maraviglia, who has returned to his home country following years abroad to introduce Four Seasons to Sicily for the first time.
“It’s been a meticulous evolution that honours the site’s past while elevating every aspect to a new level of personalised service, extraordinary experiences, and the opportunity to create memories to last a lifetime. We are incredibly grateful to Gruppo Statuto for their investment and proud of the fact that it’s an Italian company that undertook this massive renovation project using only local craftspeople. This is Italy at its best.”
With just 111 guestrooms and suites, the atmosphere is intimate, as though returning to a treasured friend’s seaside home each year. The most coveted room is the Royal Suite, with principal rooms all opening onto a large terrace and plunge pool with views of Mount Etna, the ancient Greek Theatre and the Ionian Sea. Terraces are lined with glass for infinity views, and in all, there are 19 rooms with private plunge pools.
Built on the site of a 14th century Dominican convent, the San Domenico Hotel first came to life in 1896 with the addition of a new building in Italian Liberty style (today’s Grand Hotel Wing) adjacent to accommodations converted from former quarters in the Ancient Convent Wing. It soon became a highlight on the Grand Tour, favoured by royalty and nobility and increasingly, a colourful cast of artists, writers and Hollywood stars. Set amid lush gardens reimagined by acclaimed Italian landscape architect Marco Bay with sweeping sea views, the Hotel pairs contemporary art with antiquities and architectural relics throughout.
Travellers will find that most of Sicily has reopened, from the designer shops and charming outdoor trattorias in the town of Taormina to artistic venues such as the steps-away ancient Greek Theatre, where a full calendar of musical performances are planned throughout summer. Beach clubs are also open, with guests of Four Seasons receiving special access to one of the most popular clubs.
The rebirth of the San Domenico Palace also heralds the return of Principe Cerami to Sicily’s thriving culinary and viticulture scene, where Executive Chef Massimo Mantarro’s menu is inspired by the very land where he grew up on the slope of Mount Etna. True to his roots but always experimenting, Chef Massimo’s genius can be savoured best in his #FSMasterdish, pasta e seppia. This clever combination of fresh ingredients marries sea and earth in marinated cuttlefish tagliatelle perched atop homemade spaghetti with cuttlefish ink afloat courgette blossom fondue. Paired with a glass of local wine selected by Head Sommelier Alessandro Malfitana, it’s Sicily on a plate.
Additional dining experiences include Rosso, where a large terrace affords panoramic views of Mount Etna and Taormina Bay as a setting to enjoy local specialties and international classics; and the poolside Anciovi, where the menu celebrates the bounty of the sea, and where creative cocktails can be enjoyed long after the sun goes down. In the garden setting of Bar & Chiostro, drinks are best paired with light fare, including the must-try pennette served in the local “Norma” style with aubergine and ricotta cheese.
Not to be missed are the exquisite creations of Chef de Patisserie Vincenzo Abagnale, who joins Four Seasons following four years with Chef Mauro Colagreco at three Michelin-starred Mirazur in France, that was ranked #1 on the list of World’s Best Restaurants in 2019.
In the captivating setting that combines hundreds of years of history with the drama of an active volcano, events at San Domenico Palace are always memorable. Now, with the expert touch of Four Seasons event planners and the catering team, it’s a fantastic choice for inspired corporate retreats, fairy-tale weddings or simply gathering family and friends for a much-needed reunion in the sun. More than 1,700 square metres (18,300 square feet) of indoor-outdoor event spaces can be tailored for gatherings from a dozen to several hundred guests.
Main image credit: Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts