Taormina - Read our Stories and Reviews


The whole family was excited to discover a new town on Sicily’s East Coast in a part of Italy that we are already passionate about, the Mediterranean. The idyllic landscape and climate has always attracted travelers. Taormina was considered part of the ‘European Grand Tour’ that turned 19th aristocrats and explorers into wordly gentlemen - now it was our turn. This magical coastal town was first stop on this year’s Said family Grand Tour.

By staying in the luxurious but old-world setting of the San Domenico Palace Hotel this sense of the past never left us. The converted 14th century monastery with its old colonnades, church statues, courtyards and gorgeous rambling gardens, let us live and walk in the steps of the white robed monks. The hotel has a prime position on Taormina’s unique cliffside setting - with the beaches far below. Its special atmosphere of living history also makes it the perfect sanctuary when visiting a place with so many rich layers to its ancient and medieval past - with Mt Etna, the rumbling volcano of myth and legend as the oldest backdrop of all.
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It was time for our family to return for a European Summer. It was a given that after traveling so far from Australia we would take the kids back to our favourite country - Italy (who doesn’t love it?). But where to go this time?

Our eldest son, Josh was not on this trip and my other son, Noah would have been happy to go back to Capri. Zoe was happy to tag along wherever the wind took us. I had other ideas…
Travelling with Noah (16) and Zoe (8) required me to find destinations that where child friendly full of rich texture, and a casual style. Our trip would start with Taormina (Sicily), move onto Greece, Turkey and finally Croatia. All these countries were more relaxed where we could kick back, and enjoy the beaches, taverna’s and pizzeria’s. I was after something a little different. We had taken the kids to Rome, Venice, Milan, Portofino and the Amalfi coast. I discounted another one of our favourites, the chic island of Panarea, where we had been twice.

A nanny who had spent
time with our family at the Hotel de Paris in Monte Carlo had told me that anyone who loves Italy must visit her hometown of Taormina in Sicily. Over the years this had stayed at the back of my mind. It’s fun to follow recommendations and my investigations quickly revealed how much Taormina’s unique history and exquisite coastal setting overlooking a volcano had to offer.

I also had an acquaintance
that had already experienced this town. He explained that when it comes to hotel selection one has two choices: stay right down on Mazarin beach and catch the funicular cable car whenever you want to visit the upstairs neighbor, Taormina town - or vice versa.

Anyone who has come traveling with me on our website knows that I have an affinity with water and stay close to the coast for the beauty, energy and life force that the ocean gives back. But this time my head ruled. From experience I know that during the day you have the energy to go to a beach, be it by taxi, funicular or even walking. But at night, after exploring the streets and a meal, there is nothing better than being as close to your hotel as possible. In this case I would rather be up at the top in the elevated town centre.

When I pick a destination I do want to stay at the best hotel there – so I looked at the various choices and the San Dominico Palace stood out. The architecture, beauty and history of a former monastery are a huge point of difference; I knew it would be something special.

I planned this European trip
an entire year in advance as I was working with frequent flyer points. Most people say they never get their needs met on points but if you book far in advance your chances are greater. I do enough spontaneous travel so I am happy to lock and load frequent flyer - based travel in early for this reason.

But even this far in advance, I could not get 4 BRITISH AIRWAYS business class tickets from Sydney to London on the same flight in July - all that was available was 2 Business and 2 First Class. I gave the gold to my girls - my wife Sheira and daughter Zoe, while Noah and I did the gentlemanly thing and took the 2 business class seats on the same flight. BA have great Business Class flat beds so we were happy to give the ladies the uber-luxe seats which looked as comfortable as a night in a hotel.

Italy made the most geographical sense as first port of call when London is the long haul entry point to Europe (from Australia) so Taormina was the very first city of our holiday across Europe that summer. We flew BA to Rome from Heathrow’s TERMINAL 5. It is super automated, you check yourself in by sliding your passport over a scanning machine and bringing your booking up and printing your own boarding passes. We had allocated seat numbers already, which takes away “the great race” stress on the day. After some shocking airport coffee and a stale muffin I knew my gourmet prospects were about to look up. Buongiorno Italy!

The BA long-haul flights have been tried and tested by us as excellent but this 2 1/2 hour BA London - Rome flight was a one-way ticket to budget airline hell! The whole service experience was a little shabby. However on the bright side, 2 1/2 hour flights are nothing for us !

We arrived at Rome’s FIUMICINO AIRPORT to make our connection to CATANIA really hungry. Most airports have fast food for people on the run but Sheira needs good, gluten-free meals because of her food allergies. In some major airports in the world you will find a proper restaurant and luckily we had time for a sit-down meal here. We enjoyed a terrific meal of steaks, chicken, salads and potatoes, amazed that we were still in transit…

We had a 4-hour wait but I would rather sit it out in an airport than suffer the anxiety of potentially missing a flight and losing luggage (been there...) I am always early, not stressing. 

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