Grand Hotel Timeo, A Belmond Hotel review: old-world glamour in Sicily

Discover timeless design and la dolce vita at this grande dame in Taormina on Sicily’s east coast

The hotel was the first to be built in Taormina
Grand Hotel Timeo was founded in 1873
(Image credit: Belmond )

On a cliff top in Sicily beside an ancient Greek amphitheatre, Grand Hotel Timeo, A Belmond Hotel sits overlooking the sparkling bay of Taormina. A place where the cobalt sea meets a halo of golden terracotta roofs and ruins, with Mount Etna’s haunting silhouette beyond, the immense natural beauty surrounding this property is what makes it truly magical.

Founded in 1873, the hotel was the first to be built in the area, on the recommendation of Otto Geleng – a local German landscape painter whose popular works attracted many Europeans to visit the area. As such, the building is situated in a prime vantage point with panoramic vistas over the town, ocean and active volcano. No matter which of the 70 luxurious rooms and suites you choose, you’ll have one hell of a view.

Enchanting many a film star, including Audrey Hepburn, Marcello Mastroianni and Elizabeth Taylor in their day, this Belmond hotel is a must-stay for those in the know.

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There are 70 rooms and suites at the hotel

There are 70 rooms and suites at the hotel
(Image credit: Belmond)

Why stay here?

Grand Hotel Timeo oozes glamour and is nostalgic for a bygone era, but in a way that makes you believe you might still be there. Each detail of its design is tasteful, considered and elegant. The rooms, styled in Sicilian baroque and ocean tones, feel serene yet decadent, and all suites offer private balconies and marble bathrooms. Surrounded by six acres of gardens, the hotel has a beautiful central pool framed by sandstone and an outdoor spa.

Bar Timeo overlooks the bay and is a great spot to spend long summer evenings. A hangout not just for actors, but for literary figures back in the day, the likes of D.H. Lawrence, Truman Capote and Tennessee Williams are all said to have taken inspiration from the people and conversations they heard on the terrace.

Otto Geleng is the hotel’s Michelin-starred restaurant

Otto Geleng is the hotel’s Michelin-starred restaurant
(Image credit: Belmond)

Eating and drinking

If you can get a reservation, dine at Otto Geleng, the hotel’s Michelin-starred restaurant, which is, of course, named after the artist. Bougainvillea-adorned archways lead to an intimate terrace of only 16 covers, with breathtaking views over Taormina, the Ionian Sea and Etna. As the sun sets, you’ll see the moon rise above the bay – and if you’re lucky, the red glow of magma in Etna’s crater.

Headed by Sicilian chef Roberto Toro, the cuisine celebrates the exceptional produce of the island, with four tasting menus to choose from: Otto, the sea, Sicily’s three valleys, or the vegetable garden. Creative yet simple, Toro’s food pays homage to the quality of the ingredients while providing intrigue at every turn. The wine menu focuses on Sicilian varieties, but also has other Italian and French wines to choose from. Brilliant sommeliers are on hand to help you choose the best wine to pair with your food.

We opted for the special Otto menu, which is the chef’s pick of the day. The impeccably seared scallops with cauliflower were a favourite for us, as well as an amuse-bouche of fois gras shaped like a peanut. We paired our seafood with a stunning local Ante Etna Bianco wine, which had white fruits and almonds on the nose, with a mineral, saline aftertaste.

Enjoy cocktails and spectacular views at Bar Timeo

Enjoy cocktails and spectacular views at Bar Timeo
(Image credit: Belmond)

Things to do

Once you’ve had your fill strolling Taormina’s historic streets, the concierge has many experiences up its sleeve – from open-air operatic performances in the amphitheatre next door, to boat trips to nearby islands. If you’re interested in wine, the hotel can organise for you to visit Etna and a vineyard on the slopes, Cottanera. Here you will taste local wines made from indigenous grapes – with flavour and aroma influenced by the lava flows. In true Sicilian style, you will also be spoiled with simple soul food like pasta alla norma.

When the water is as beautiful as it is around Taormina, it seems almost a crime not to swim. Grand Hotel Timeo has a sister hotel right on the shore of Mazzarò Bay – Belmond Villa Sant’Andrea – where you can visit the quiet private pebble beach for free. Regular shuttle buses run throughout the day and take you straight to the beach, where you can swim, sunbathe and order cocktails to your deckchair. For a day trip, the famed Isola Bella is the next cove over. It’s a little more busy, but certainly worth a visit.

The hotel was the first to be built in Taormina

The hotel was the first to be built in Taormina
(Image credit: Belmond)

Sofia Gymer was a guest at Grand Hotel Timeo, A Belmond Hotel. Rates for a villa flora superior room start from £570 per night on a bed and breakfast basis. The best months to visit are April through to August; belmond.com

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